Tulsa, OK —Tyler Thomas of Collinsville, Okla., enters his fourth Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals with an equipment package he’s confident that can propel him through Wednesday’s preliminary round into Saturday’s championship feature on the one-fifth mile track at the Tulsa Expo Center.
The 19-year-old Thomas and his crew chief and father Brian switched to the Spike chassis and Advanced Racing Suspensions following last year’s Chili Bowl. The family-owned team has continued working with an engine from Esslinger Engineering.
“I’m really excited about our prospects in the Chili Bowl,” Tyler Thomas said. “We’ve got a season under our belts with the Spike and our shocks and Esslinger provides us a very competitive engine. Our equipment is a lot better than what we had at the Chili Bowl and we were so close to making the Saturday feature a year ago.”
Thomas won his heat, was second in qualifying race and ninth in the preliminary feature in 2015. He started 12th in the B main on Saturday and was running sixth, the final transfer spot to the feature, at the halfway point.
“The track was drying out low and I decided to change my line and go to the top,” he explained. “I hit the cushion in the wrong spot, the car biked onto two wheels and I slammed down. It stalled the motor and I had a flat tire and had to pull off. I made one mistake and it cost me.”
Thomas has progressively raced more competitively in his three previous Chili Bowls. He was in the C main in 2013 and finished eighth in the B main in 2014. His official finish in 2015 was 14th, but it was a stronger run than 2014 before dropping out.
“We’ve had a really good trend being better each year and it’s a good record to have,” Thomas said. “We’ve never been that stellar on the preliminary night, always a midpack car, and we’ve always lacked a little bit. With the package we have now, I feel very strong about the car and how it should work.
“Our first goal is perform well in the preliminary night and the next step is trying to get good finish on Saturday. It’s definitely the toughest race of the year, but I think we can definitely be in position to win. We have to get into the right position and have some luck go our way. I think we have the car to get it done.”
Thomas ranks the Chili Bowl as the race he would like most to win.
“It’s definitely the race I’d choose to win over any other race,” he said. “It’s my hometown race and it’s the Chili Bowl. Even a preliminary feature win would be huge.”
Thomas’ team will also run rookie Chris Andrews of Sandusky, Ohio, in the Chili Bowl. He’s in the Tuesday preliminary. Andrews regularly drives a 410 winged sprint car.
“He’s never run a midget before, but anybody who has run a 410 sprint car can handle a midget,” Thomas said.
The Chili Bowl has over 300 entries and they include a who’s who of short track dirt racers from multiple series. Defending Chili Bowl champion Rico Abreu, former champion Sammy Swindell, former USAC Triple Crown and current NASCAR driver J.J. Yeley and POWRi champion Darren Hagen are among those drivers Thomas will race against Wednesday.
- Tyler Thomas Press Release. Photo Credit: Tyler Thomas Facebook