Cup Racing Teammate Yeley Makes It A Big-Name One-Two
Two-time NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart added another Golden Driller trophy to his burgeoning collection of winner's hardware as he raced to victory lane in Saturday night's 50-lap O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals championship feature event at Tulsa Expo Raceway.
With the streets of Tulsa covered by several inches of ice and the entire state of Oklahoma under a declared state of emergency due to icy weather, a surreal setting including nearly 15,000 spectators braved the elements to pack the Tulsa Expo Center and witness the NASCAR star best a record field of 267 entries.
of a coming out party for a new sponsor you could have than to win the biggest Midget race of the year. To have the weekend that we had for Chevrolet like that, that's what I'm excited about.
"If you came to our shop three weeks ago, we had one car built out of the five that we brought here," Stewart continued. "In a three week period, Steve Smith worked really hard getting five motors ready and to get those four other cars ready and to come here and do what we did I'm really proud of our whole organization and Jay Drake for coming on board and being a Team Manager."
While Stewart gridded the field fifth in the Tony Stewart Motorsports Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops No. 20 Spike Chassis, it was Friday night's Oklahoma Dodge Dealers Qualifying event feature winner Dave Darland leading the field to the green flag with Thursday's Bass Pro Shops Qualifying event winner Shane Cottle alongside.
And Indiana's Stewart wasn't the only NASCAR rep on the podium at the end of the Oklahoma Dodge Dealers Championship Saturday slate of 21 feature events, as Arizona native J.J. Yeley, who ranked fifth in NASCAR Busch Series 2006 points claimed the runner-up position followed by tenth-ranked ARCA Re/Max Series driver Justin Allgaier of Illinois in third.
After setting the pace the opening nine rounds, Indiana wingless sprint car ace Shane Cottle settled for fourth, with Tulsa-area teen Micro grad Donnie Ray Crawford making the most of his Midget racing debut by rounding out the top five and ranking as the top Chili Bowl rookie.
Capturing his first Golden Driller in 2002, Stewart joined Sammy Swindell, Cory Kruseman and Dan Boorse as the only four multi-time winners of the Chili Bowl Nationals just a year after his 2006 effort was cut short by a wild Qualifying Night flip.
"Obviously, it was probably a little less dramatic on the track (than the 2002 win) but it was probably three times more dramatic off the track," Stewart explained afterward. "To run one of my own cars and get my first win in one my own cars and most of all get our first win for Chevrolet in our first race since we switched sponsorships, I don't know how much better
Cottle gunned into the lead at the drop of Roger Slack's green flag with Darland and Wednesday's Creek Nation Casino Qualifying night winner Davey Ray in two. The deck was shuffled in the opening rounds though, as Stewart quickly advanced to second by the fifth round when the first caution flew for a turn four tangle involving Wayne Johnson and Casey Shuman.
Also advancing in the opening rounds was Yeley, who moved from seventh to third in front of Darland, sixth-starter Allgaier and Ray.
Stewart pressured Cottle on the restart as Yeley and Darland swapped the third spot a pair of times. Stewart moved to the inside of Cottle's Pace Bros. Racing Chevy-powered Pace Self Storage No. 44c Beast entering turn
one on the tenth round and after a half-lap of wheel-to-wheel racing, Stewart edged into the lead.
It was a lead that Stewart would never relinquish, as he weathered several cautions and ultimately stretched his lead to a half straightaway advantage over the final rounds to snare the Golden Driller.
While Stewart was never seriously challenged once in front, the action taking place right behind him was intense. Darland held second much of the way, as Cottle and a rim-riding Yeley battled side-by-side for third all the while.
Yeley ultimately secured third at the midway point and then following a lap 30 caution, disposed of Darland for second with sights set on Stewart. Darland fell to Cottle a lap later with Yeley and Cottle resuming their battle.
Darland's fortune would soon sour even more, as he and Crawford got hooked together on the backstretch while battling for position. The pair was broken apart by Darland's Wilke-Pak Racing teammate Jerry Coons, Jr., entering turn three. Darland and Coons were left tangled in the corner, precipitating a caution as Crawford escaped unscathed.
After the race's final caution after 35 laps for Wayne Johnson's turn two tumble, Yeley edged ahead of Cottle for second and ducked to the low side, holding the position to the line aboard Andy Bondio's Barnes-powered Kenny's Components No. 47x entry.
Tony Stewart added a second Golden Driller to his trophy collection by winning Saturday night's 50-lap O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals championship finale at Tulsa Expo Raceway.
Stewart (#20) makes what proves to be the race-winning move around Shane Cottle (44) in the finale of the Oklahoma Dodge Dealers Championship Saturday feature events at Tulsa Expo Raceway's 21st Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.
The top three finishers in the 21st Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Nationals at Tulsa Expo Raceway, including winner Tony Stewart (center), runner-up J.J. Yeley (right) and Justin Allgaier (left) are joined by Chili Bowl co-promoters Lanny Edwards (second from left) and Emmett Hahn (second from right).
Running the cushion until the final rounds, Yeley explained that, "We just didn't have enough stagger to run the bottom. I knew right from the get-go…I had to do something different . It was really starting to come to me a little bit and the little patch of moisture that was off of turn two went away and I knew that if I didn't get down to the bottom I was gonna get freight-trained."
With a podium finish within reach, Allgaier muscled his way past Cottle for third on the 43rd lap and snared the show position aboard Ebby Bergfield's Esslinger-powered Ethanol/Auto Xpres No. 86 Spike.
Cottle settled for fourth, with third-generation racer Crawford making his mark by rounding out the top five aboard the Keith Kunz Motorsports Fontana-powered John Christner Trucking No. 71k Bullet.
While the top five diced for position, several drivers were on the move from deep in the field including Joe Boyles, 16-year-old Chris Windom and Tim McCreadie, who tagged the field via a defending Chili Bowl champion provisional.
Starting 21st, Boyles sliced his way through the field by moving up to seventh by the 13th lap. Boyles would climb just one more spot to eventually finish in sixth.
After a last-corner pass for the sixth and final transfer spot in the First "B" Main to garner the 23rd starting slot, Windom climbed all the way to seventh by the time the checkered flag flew.
Tagging the 25-car championship feature field, McCreadie appeared to have a legitimate shot at becoming the first back-to-back winner in Chili Bowl history as he had climbed to eighth by the midway point. But when he went to the top side of turns one and two on the 29th lap, the New Yorker grazed the wall and lost three positions before ultimately clawing his way back up to eighth.
Mat Neely started ninth and finished ninth, with 2005 Chili Bowl champion Tracy Hines advancing from 16th to complete the top ten.
Crawford fared the best of the three rookies making the cut for the championship feature event, with Tuesday night's Warren CAT Pre-Qualifier winner Gary "Bubba'" Altig ending his Cinderella run in 14th and World of Outlaws Sprint Car shoe Jason Martin claiming 17th.
In addition to the three rookies, other drivers racing their way into a first career Chili Bowl championship finale included Neely, youngster Jonathan Hendrick (19th), Ryan Durst (24th) and Tyler Brown, who was credited with 25th after his engine let go while lining up for the finale.
Oklahoma Dodge Dealers Championship Saturday action kicked off in the afternoon with Billy Mentgen and Todd McVay victorious in Twin "K" Main action. Moments later, Mentgen's teammate, Todd Plemons, aced the First "J" Main with Cameron Beard then wiring the field in the second "J".
It was a racing Miller sisters sweep of "I" Main competition with Michele Miller victorious in the First "I" and then Tracy Miller duplicating the feat in the Second "I". The Miller sisters became just the third and fourth female racers in Chili Bowl history to win Saturday feature events.
Charles Davis, Jr. and Chad Wheeler split "H" Main honors, with John Sarale and Chad Deselle winning the "G" Mains.
Darren Hagen began a climb through four features by winning the First "F" Main. He followed that up with a fourth-place run in the First "E" Main topped by Dean Alexander and a third-place showing in "D" Main one claimed by Nick Knepper before running out of steam in the First "C" Main.
ARDC Midget champion Andy Martin began his own alphabet drive in "F" Main action that ultimately ended in the "B" Mains. Martin finished fourth in the second "F" Main, which was won by P.J. Jones. He then climbed to third in the second "E" Main behind winner Brad Loyet and Cole Whitt before charging to runner-up honors behind second "D" Main winner Dustin Morgan.
After Josh Ford won the first "C" Main, Martin survived a turn one fracas with four-time Chili Bowl champion Sammy Swindell that electrified the crowd by racing back to a fifth-place transfer position in a race that featured Brady Bacon's dramatic last-lap pass of Aaron Fiscus to take victory honors.
Jason Martin wired the field in the First "B" Main, while Wayne Johnson made his second Chili Bowl finale in as many attempts by topping the Second "B" Main.
Slated to start the day in the First "F" Main, NASCAR Nextel Cup sensation Kasey Kahne scratched from the card.
O'Reilly Chili Bowl Nationals Championship Feature Event (50 Laps)
Car # Name, Hometown (starting position)
1. #20 Tony Stewart, Columbus, Ind. (5)
2. #47X J.J. Yeley, Phoenix, Ariz. (7)
3. #86 Justin Allgaier, Springfield, Ill. (6)
4. #44C Shane Cottle, Kokomo, Ind. (2)
5. #71K Donnie Ray Crawford, Broken Arrow (10)
6. #7B Joe Boyles, Greenwood, Mo. (21)
7. #17 Chris Windom, Canton, Ill. (23)
8. #1A Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y. (25)
9. #35 Mat Neely, Robinson, Ill. (9)
10. #21 Tracy Hines, Greenfield, Ind. (16)
11. #25 Steve Buckwalter, Royersford, Pa. (22)
12. #33X Davey Ray, Love’s Park, Ill. (3)
13. #52S Casey Shuman, Indianapolis, Ind. (8)
14. #67A Bubba Altig, Mechanicsburg, Ill. (11)
15. #21A Jon Stanbrough, Brownsburg, Ind. (18)
16. #5 Dave Darland, Lincoln, Ind. (1)
17. #36 Jason Martin, Liberal, Kan. (13)
18. #70 Garrett Hansen, Manhattan Beach, Calif. (19)
19. #68 Jonathan Hendrick, Fortville, Ind. (17)
20. #F5 Wayne Johnson, Oklahoma City, Okla. (14)
21. #11 Jerry Coons Jr., Tucson, Ariz. (20)
22. #71J Jason Leffler, Long Beach, Calif. (12)
23. #71X Brad Kuhn, Avon, Ind. (4)
24. #91X Ryan Durst, Lincoln, Neb. (15)
25. #37B Tyler Brown, Norco, Calif. (24)
Stewart celebrates his victory in Saturday night's 21st Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals finale.