Chili Bowl: Five facts you might not know
BY JOHN RITTENOURE World Correspondent
Thursday, January 10, 2013
1/10/13 at 6:49 AM
Related story: Swindell qualifies for final again.Original Print Headline: 5 things you might not know about the Chili Bowl
Since 1987, the Chili Bowl, held at the Expo Center, has grown into one of the country's biggest auto racing events, as some of the biggest stars from many forms of motorsports have raced here. Here are some little-known facts about the race's history.
1. How the Chili Bowl got its name
Tulsa businessman Bob Berryhill (above) owned a food service company named the "Original Chili Bowl" and decided to sponsor the Midget Nationals in 1987. After four years, Berryhill sold the Original Chili Bowl to Keebler, which did not continue the sponsorship, but the name has stuck with the event.
2. From simple beginnings
When the Chili Bowl started in 1987, the total car count was 52 and the winners purse was just $4,000. The crowd was much smaller and the event lost money. But promoters Emmett Hahn and Lanny Edwards stuck with it, and the event today is the largest indoor race in the country with 276 entries this year and a winners purse of $10,000.
3. A future star
A young rookie by the name of Jeff Gordon came to the Chili Bowl in 1990. Not much was known about him and he finished 16th in his only Chili Bowl main event appearance. Of course, we now know that Gordon moved on to become a four-time NASCAR Cup champion. On Wednesday, the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation held a Kick-it Kickball game at the Pavilion to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
4. Most unexpected guest
In 2000, then-Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Tony George paid the Chili Bowl a visit as a competitor. George enjoyed midget racing and wheeled into town in a large fancy motorhome with racecar in tow. George did not qualify for the main event but did manage to win a heat race in his only Chili Bowl appearance.
5. Expo Center one of a kind
There is not another building in the world like the Expo Center. Built in 1966 to house the International Petroleum Exposition, the facility is one of the largest clearspan structures in the world with 448,500 square feet of floor space. That is equal to 10.5 acres or seven football fields under one roof. The Golden Driller, which stands outside the building as a symbol of the oil industry, stands 76 feet high and weighs 43,500 pounds with a shoe size of 393DDD. His hand is resting on an actual production oil derrick.
Tulsa World file
Midget racers compete Tuesday night during the Chili Bowl at the Tulsa Expo Center. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World