Larry Wight put smiles on the faces of a lot of people, including his own, during the 31st Annual Chili Bowl National last week. In just his second Chili Bowl attempt, the Big-Block Modified driver from the state of New York locked himself into Saturday’s A-Main on the first night of competition in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Not only did the second-place finish last Tuesday night give the Heffner/Gypsum Racing team a lot of confidence in their machine and allow them to help fellow New Yorker Coleman Gulick, it also allowed Wight and company to enjoy the Chili Bowl just a bit more.
“Took all the worries away. We could keep the focus on helping out Coleman, trying to get him locked in. It let us enjoy the Chili Bowl itself,” Wight told Speed51.com. “We touched based with Tim McCreadie and we talked to Christopher Bell quite a bit. Zach Daum, I’m good friends with him, he’s helped me out with some setup info and getting bits on how to drive those cars.”
Wight was thrilled to be a part of such an elite and diverse field in the 55-Lap A-Main Saturday which featured drivers from different backgrounds all over the country, with he himself flying the flag for Northeast Big-Block Modifieds.
“There’s everyone from the Midget class that runs normally all the way up to NASCAR with a mix of everything in between,” Wight stated. “The race doesn’t pay anything, but the prestige to race with those guys and show the world on a level playing field.”
While Wight was happy with finishing with the car in one piece in the 13th position, things were not as smooth as they could have been with the car getting a little hot under the collar.
“We felt we were a lap or two behind from getting to the top in time,” Wight explained. “By the time we got up there we lost some spots and ended having some issues where the motor was running warm. Instead of running it as hard as I could I kind of laid back a little bit to make sure we could finish the race.”
The response from back home has been sizeable both before and after the race, not just from family and fans, but also his competitors he normally clashes with on the Super DIRTcar Series.
“I was getting text messages from Stewart Friesen, he’s congratulating me and I was congratulating him back for the Truck ride. Billy Decker gave me a call,” Wight explained. “All of those guys were pulling for me and it’s nice to know that we might be at each other’s throats on the track trying to get every position we can, but when it comes to something like this, everyone gets behind whoever’s out there.”
Wight and the Heffner team are already in for the 2018 edition of the Chili Bowl and plan to run even more in 2017 around Wight’s Modified schedule so he can drive the Midget to its fullest potential when they return to Tulsa in one year’s time.
“We’re looking at trying to run the Midget more this summer with the Heffner Racing team to try and get some seat time before we go back,” Wight said. “We’re looking at Susquehanna Speedway (PA) and Big Diamond (PA), some of the smaller tracks we like to focus on, since it’s similar to the Chili Bowl.”
In the meantime, Wight’s attention turns back to the Gypsum No.99 Big-Block, which is already pointed south for the Super DIRTcar portion of the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Raceway Park in Florida February 22-25.
“We’ve got one car that’s ready to go. Our primary car is a new Bicknell to start the year out with, we’re just waiting for a motor. We’ll put it in, finish the car up and be ready to go,” the driver of the No. 99 Big-Block Modified said. “We love going to Volusia, it’s just a matter if the weather is warm or cold, but it’ll be good to get in the Modified and get in the swing of things early.”
-Story by Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Gypsum Racing/Colin Casserley