Broken Arrow racer ready for Chili Bowl after bad wreck
BY JOHN RITTENOURE World Correspondent
Sunday, January 06, 2013
1/06/13 at 7:40 AM
Chett Gehrke will not soon forget Aug. 12, 2012. The Broken Arrow midget-car racer took the ride of his life during a Powri National Midget Series event in Illinois.
"I broke my collarbone in Belleville, Ill.," said Gehrke of his hard crash with the wall that nearly ended his season.
"You have to run right up next to the wall in Belleville. I got into the turn a little too hard and fast and hit the wall and flipped pretty good. The frame was destroyed.
"That is the first broken bone I have ever had," he said.
Gehrke could not drive home because of his injuries, but he was able to stay for a week with an aunt who lives in the area.
The time away to heal cost Gehrke a shot at the national points title but all was not lost.
"I missed eight or nine races after that," Gehrke said. "I was leading the West points and I still won it. I was 50 points back in the national points."
Gehrke climbed back behind the wheel in early December and finished second in the Longhorn Shootout at Diamond W Arena in Alvarado, Texas. It was the first time he had driven since being injured.
Gehrke led every lap of the Longhorn Shootout but was passed on the final lap by 16-year-old Tyler Thomas of Collinsville.
His next race came at DuQuoin, Ill., and a 10th-place qualifier finish caused him to miss the feature event, which was won by three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart.
"I raced the first week of December down in Texas then Powri had a race in DuQuoin, Ill., on Dec. 15," Gehrke said. "I should have stayed home because I did not do very well."
Two weeks ago, Gehrke entered the ECOTech midget class of the Tulsa Shootout and turned in a third-place finish.
"It was pretty good for starting fifth," Gehrke said.
Now Gehrke is preparing a new car for the 27th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals that begins a five-day run on Tuesday at the Expo Square's Expo Center.
Gehrke is scheduled to qualify on Tuesday.
"We bought a different Spike frame and we are putting it together. We will see what we can do with it," he said.
"Last year was the first year I made the A main on my preliminary night and finished 15th. But it was better than the other years."
A strong performance would certainly be a great way to start off the new year.
"It is a tough one to win, but if you could win, it would certainty be a feather in your cap," Gehrke said.
"A lot of people say it is mostly luck. It depends on what you draw, who is in your heat race and where you start. Kevin and Sammy Swindell pretty much have it figured out better than anyone else so far."
Now 28, Gehrke started his career 20 years ago in quarter midgets and has raced small cars ever since.
"I started racing when I was 8," he said. "I raced quarter midgets with the Tulsa Quarter Midget Association and raced some 125 micros at Port City (Raceway). I stayed with quarter midgets till I was 16 then raced with a truck series on asphalt a couple of years before going to the midget.
"I started running Ford Focus midgets here when that started, then it fell through and I went to Indiana to race. When I could not afford it anyone I moved back home. I was asked by Skip and Diana Matteson to drive their car and it just worked out."
After the Chili Bowl, Gehrke plans to continue to campaign with the Powri Series but would not turn down other opportunities.
"I would like to race a sprint car but don't have the money to do that," he said.
"For now I am just going to run the midget. I am trying to get money together for a sprint car but I am still kind of far away on that. I will run the Powri National stuff this year."
Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals
Where: Tulsa Expo Raceway - quarter-mile clay oval inside the Expo Center at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds.
Original Print Headline: BA driver back from injury
Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals
Monday: All-day practice sessions
Tuesday: Warren CAT Qualifying Night plus VIROC V Invitational Race of Champions
Wednesday: River Spirit Casino Qualifying Night
Thursday: John Christner Trucking Qualifying Night
Friday: Vacuworx Global Qualifying Night
Saturday: Lucas Oil/General Tire Championship Feature Events
Kevin Swindell (2010, '11, '12), Sammy Swindell (1989, 1992, '96, '98, 2009), Damion Gardner (2008), Tony Stewart (2002 and '07), Tim McCreadie (2006), Tracy Hines (2005), Cory Kruseman (2000 and '04), Dan Boorse (1999 and 2003), Jay Drake (2001), Billy Boat (1997), Donnie Beechler (1995), Andy Hillenburg (1994), Dave Blaney (1993), Lealand McSpadden (1991), Jon Heydenreich (1990), Scott Hatton (1988), Rich Vogler (1987).
The Trade Show is always a popular attraction at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals. It is open to the public each day (Tuesday through Saturday) free of charge. All variety of racing products, apparel and more is available with more than 100 vendors. The Trade Show covers approximately 20,000 square feet.
Tickets: A limited number of reserved seats for Tuesday night's Warren CAT Qualifying Event and the VIROC V Invitational Race of Champions are available for $43 per person and may be obtained by calling 918-838-3777 or at the gate if still available. Pit passes for all five nights are available at the gate as well.
Chili Bowl online: All official news regarding the Chili Bowl Nationals can be found at tulsaworld.com/chilibowl Live online audio of each night can be found at tulsaworld.com/racinboys
For more information on the Chili Bowl, see tulsaworld.com/chilibowl or call 918-838-3777.