Stewart Rolls to the Chili Bowl

Tony Stewart

After taking a three-year hiatus from the biggest Midget race of the year, Stewart will return behind the wheel of the No. 14 Chevrolet/Chevrolet Performance Parts/Spike. (Photo: Tony Stewart Racing)

Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion will kick off his 2012 racing season a little early as he shoots for a third career victory in this weekend’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.

The 26th annual midget car spectacular held inside Oklahoma’s Tulsa Expo Raceway is expected to draw some of the top names in all of racing.

Stewart, the 2002 and 2007 Chili Bowl champ, is part of a formidable four-driver team that includes Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 2011 USAC National Drivers champion Bryan Clauson, and 2011 POWRi Rookie of the Year Jake Blackhurst.

Stewart will lead the four-car “Team of Champions” into the 2012 Chili Bowl behind the wheel of a special edition black, carbon-fiber entry that has been dubbed the “Back in Black” car. He’ll look to give Chevrolet its second Chili Bowl triumph.

“I think it’s very feasible that we could get four cars in the A-Main on Saturday night,” Stewart said. “Bryan Clauson and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – they’re guys who are going to be a threat in every A-Main they start. It’s going to be a lot of fun to be part of this deal and I think we’re going to have a good chance of putting a car in the winner’s circle.”

Stewart is excited about his return to Tulsa and the chance to bring home yet another of the unique “Golden Driller” trophies that are bestowed to the feature winner.

“Having taken a few years off from competing in the Chili Bowl, I’m really looking forward to returning to Tulsa and the event in 2012,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest Midget races of the year and it’s just a lot of fun to compete in the Chili Bowl. I’m also glad that we’ll be able to give our partners, Chevrolet and Chevrolet Performance Parts, another shot at a Golden Driller.”

Clausen, who will get a chance to compete in this year’s Indianapolis 500 after his USAC National title, is honored to be racing alongside Stewart this weekend in the big event.

“It’s really exciting to be part owner of a team that includes some of the best in the business,” Clausen said. “Tony Stewart and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., are definitely guys you want to have as teammates and it’s exciting to see a younger guy like Jack Blackhurst make his first start.

“Ricky has been a long-time friend of mine and I’m really excited to have him in one of our cars for this year’s race. It’s something we’d talked about for the past few years and, any time you can add the NASCAR Nationwide Series champion to your slate of drivers, it’s a great thing.”

Action begins Tuesday night with a series of qualifying events and features leading up to the finale on Saturday night.

The current count for the prestigious event is at 264 from 32 different states as well as Australia, Canada, Finland and New Zealand.

Kevin Swindell has won the last two events at the .25-mile dirt oval.

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