TDP roamed the pits on move-in day at The Tulsa Expo Center and talked to drivers and experts. They gave us their opinions on who they thought would win this year’s Chili Bowl and who they thought might surprise people. The only rule we had was that drivers were not allowed to pick their own teammates. Here’s what the drivers and industry experts had to say:
If I have to pick someone to win and it can’t be someone from my team I’m going to pick Donny Schatz because he’s a bad ass.
I think Brady Bacon is going to surprise people. Brady and his team got their cars really good towards the end of the year and were very tough to compete against.
Competition Suspension Inc
My dark horse to win is Thomas Meseraull in Rusty Kunz’s car. He’s obviously in a good car as Rusty won this race a couple of years ago with Bryan. Meseraull is kind of underrated and he’s a gasser. If he can put 55 good laps together he’s got a car to do it.
I think the favorite probably has to be Christopher Bell or Kyle Larson. I think maybe Bell because he ran The Shoot Out here last week so he’s got some laps on the track. He’s due and he’s been fast here the last two years.
I think I would pick Kyle Larson to win. He’s an unbelievable talent and he has a chance to win in anything he drives regardless of what kind of car it is or where it is. He’s been up there and close a couple of times so I think he should be at the top of everyone’s list.
I think Tyler Courtney might be the surprise of this year’s Chili Bowl. Tim Clauson and everyone over there on that team is pretty good. He may be driving for a new team but there is a lot of experience there and he might be someone to surprise people and put it together for the first time.
I actually have 2 guys I think that could win outside of our team. One is T-Mez and the other is Daryn Pittman. T-Mez is a gasser and he’s in the best ride he’s ever had. Pittman because he was good enough to win 2 years ago and he’s always good here.
I think Logan Seavey will surprise people. He’s really talented but I don’t think too many people have really ever heard of him.
I’ve gotta go with Rico Abreu to win this year. It’s just hard to rule Rico out. He’s always fast here and everywhere he goes. He’s always up on the wheel and on the hammer. I don’t believe people when they say it’s all about luck here. The same guys are in the main event every year and Rico’s up front every year so I think he’s the guy who’s going to win.
I think Sunshine (Tyler Courtney) will surprise people this year. I think Tyler has a lot of confidence right now and he’s got Tim Clauson turning wrenches for him. He’s got a good car and he deserves everything he’s got over there and I think he’s going to surprise everybody.
I think Shane Golobic will be tough. He’s in a good car and he goes pretty good on short tracks so I’d say he’d probably be my pick.
I think Maria Cofer’s going to surprise people. She’s run a midget all year and has gotten some laps before coming here so I think she has a good chance to surprise people with a good performance.
If I was going to put money on anybody it would be Zach Daum. I think the past couple of years he’s had a car to win and he seems to get taken out or run in the top 3. I think he’s made a lot of improvements for this year so I’ll say, Zach Daum.
I think Logan Seavey is going to be the big surprise for everybody. He’s an outlaw kart kid from California and anytime he gets in anything he goes pretty good. I know if I had a car I’d give him a chance so I think he’s going to turn some heads this week.
I don’t know who’s going to win this year. I think there is a lot of young talent here this year and I would like to say that it will be someone who hasn’t won a Chili Bowl before. Honestly, there are some really talented veterans that haven’t really been at the forefront but I think that JJ Yeley might be someone who could surprise people and win the race. He always stands on the gas and he’s not really afraid to put 4 in the fluff.
I think you’ve gotta go with Rico to win The Chili Bowl this year. He’s been pretty good here so I’d say either Rico or Larson.
I couldn’t even tell you who I think would surprise people, hopefully, it’s someone in one of the cars I built.
Since I can’t go with Stenhouse Jr, Johnson, Sunshine, Schatz, Golobic or our mystery driver I’m going to go with Kyle Larson. Kyle is always so fast here but he always seems to have bad luck. Bryan went through the same thing for several years here but when he finally figured it out or knocked the monkey off his back it just clicked and I think that may finally happen with Kyle Larson. Honestly, it’s tough to pick a winner. There are so many good guys here.
I’m going to break the rules and go with one of our drivers for a surprise pick because I feel very strongly about it. I don’t actually know if it would be a huge surprise but if I had to pick straight up I think Shane Golobic has a hell of a shot. Every time he’s here he’s fast, he’s run more midget stuff this year than he ever has and he’s been really good every night.
If I have to pick someone not on our team I think Parker Price-Miller is going to have a breakout year as well. For a young guy, the maturity that he has shown is incredible and I think he’s been on the big stage enough that this place isn’t going to intimidate him like it does to young guys.
Who’s going to win is a really good question? There’s a lot of guys here that can win. I’m going to have to say Christopher Bell will win this year. He’s really good for one, but he’s been really on his game and I think he’ll dethrone Rico.
I guess I’m going to have to say that I think my nephew; Colten Cottle will surprise people. He’s been running sprint cars and once you run sprint cars it kind of helps you out in the midget. I think it’s going to help him here since he ran pretty much the full year in a sprint car and we’ll see how he does I guess.
I have to take Christopher Bell to win The Chili Bowl. I think after last year he’s especially determined to win this year so I definitely think he has a good shot.
I think Justin Allgaier will be quick and will surprise people. I don’t know if that’s a huge surprise but I think he’ll be up front this year. I’m kind of partial because he’s part of The Boss Chassis camp now but last year they were pretty quick and I think they’ve got their stuff pretty sorted out for this year.
My money this year is on Christopher Bell. He’s been close every year, last year he was leading and got together with a lapped car and I think he’s going to put it all together this year.
I think Chris Andrews (Oklahoma) will surprise people this year. He’s a hell of a race car driver, he’s got pretty decent equipment, he ran good at DuQuoin and I think he’s going to fly under the radar. I’m a big fan of his.
Sam Hafertepe Jr
I think it’s fairly obvious that one of The Kunz cars is going to win. I’m not sure if Rico will be as good this year because he hasn’t run a bunch of midget stuff this year and I think that’s what has made him so good in the past. He’s obviously still going to be good but I think this year is more difficult to pick a winner based on how many good cars are here this year. I think you’ll see a guy like Tanner Thorson have a real good shot this year just because he’s been focused on racing midgets all year. Obviously, Kyle Larson could win it but he just hasn’t been able to put it all together yet. If I had to pick though I’d probably say Larson will put it all together and I’ll pick Larson this year.
I wouldn’t say it would really be a surprise but I think Brady Bacon could surprise people and give The Kunz cars a run for their money. He’s run quite a few midget races this year and his team’s gotten considerably better. I think Brady Bacon could truly be truly elite this year.
I’m going to with a dark horse. I’m going to pick Chad Boat. I don’t know that too many people will pick him but I think he’s got a real good opportunity to win. I’d like to see an ASCS guy win though and I think Sam Hafertepe Jr. is probably our best chance.
I think I’m going to surprise some people as a rookie but I think I’m going to go with Larson if I can’t shock the world and win it. He’s going to win it because he’s a savage.
I think my buddy Tanner Berryhill might surprise people this year. He’s in a really nice car this year and he’s got a few laps around here so I’ll take him.
It will be a Kunz car that wins this year and I think it will probably be Kyle Larson, maybe Christopher Bell. They are both fast here but usually run into bad luck. They’re going to have to beat Rico but I think no matter what it will be a Kunz car.
I think Brady Bacon is going to do better this year than people may think. He’s been pretty good this year and won a national championship. He’s in a pretty good car and has Mr. East wrenching on the car.
It’s a really good question. I think I’m going to go with Rico to win it again. He’s a wildman and he can rip the top as good as anybody around this place.
I think Donny Schatz is going to surprise people. I know he’s never really been in a midget but I think he’s going to do very well.
I think Rico is going to win the deal. I think he’s going to three-peat. I’d really like to see that and I think he’s going to be able to do it.
I think Ryan Robinson with Keith Kunz Motorsports is going to surprise people. He has a really good car and it’s his rookie year. He’s up on the wheel back home in winged sprint cars and I think he’s going to do really well.
I’m going to say Christopher Bell is going to win this year. He’s been so close the past few years. He was leading last year and had a mishap with a lapped car. He’s from Oklahoma and an Oklahoma boy hasn’t won in a while so I feel like it’s Christopher’s year.
I’d like to say that one of my own drivers; Levi Curry is going to surprise people but we’re not allowed to choose our own guys so I’m going to go with Tyler Courtney. Tyler’s never been in a really good ride at The Chili Bowl and I think he’s got a top-notch car this year. He won DuQuoin and he’s got Tim Clauson wrenching so I think he’s going to be pretty tough.
I’d say Christopher Bell is going to get it done this year. He’s been really close the last few years and has had bad luck. I’m thinking and I’m hoping that this is his year.
It’s tough to say who is going to surprise people. I’d say Tyler Thomas will surprise people this year. He’s always been pretty fast here but had bad luck. In 2017 he’s in a car built for racing indoors and I think he can do something this year.
I honestly think The Chili Bowl has become like Knoxville with Donny Schatz. I think Rico is going to win. I think it’s really his race to lose.
It might sound crazy but I think Michael Pickens might really surprise people. Pickens is teamed up with Justin Insley. Justin builds a great car and Pickens is a great gasser. They are my dark horse team, I really think Justin Insley and Michael Pickens could do something special.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
If I have to go outside of our team to pick a winner I’d go with Kyle Larson. He’s always really good in the midget, he’s run quite a few dirt races this year (Which I’m jealous of), he’s got more practice this year and he’s just always good here.
I would say after being at DuQuoin and watching I think Ryan Bernal might surprise people. Obviously, he’s really good in sprint cars but I felt he looked really good at DuQuoin before they had engine troubles. I think he might surprise people.
Indy Race Parts
I’m going to go with Tanner Thorson for both the win and to surprise people. I’m picking him because he drives my Outlaw Kart so I’m going to show favoritism to him.
It’s hard to go against Rico. He’s pretty stout at this track. I think it’s between Rico and Christopher Bell. Bell’s been close, I think he was winning the race last year but he got caught up in a lapped car. I think the race is going to come down to those two.
I don’t know who to pick as a sleeper. I would kind of like to see Donny Schatz run well. I think a lot of guys are doubting him being as good as he could probably be but I think he’ll probably make some noise this year.
I’m going to go with Christopher Bell, especially because I picked him in my Chili Bowl Pool. Hopefully, I surprise some people but if I had to pick someone I’d say, Logan Seavey. Everybody is talking about him and I think he has a chance to do well.
If I had to pick a sleeper I would pick Brady Bacon. Brady finished the season pretty strong in USAC and won The Leffler Memorial race which is held at a really small track and he was really strong at Ventura which is another small track. I think if you’re looking for a sleeper he might be the guy and obviously with him being from the area I think the place would go wild.
I think it’s more difficult to pick the winner than it is a sleeper. If I had to pick a clear choice I think I could narrow it down to one of Keith Kunz’s car but I’m not sure which one it would be because there are 9 of them but I guess you have to go with Rico. He was very, very well last year so I think I’ll go with him.
The Drivers Project is a media collective devoted to North American open-wheel racing.