INDYCAR is reaching back to its racing roots by sponsoring 10 drivers at this week’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Team INDYCAR consists of 10 drivers competing in the 31st annual indoor midget race that attracts hundreds of racers ranging from weekly short-track regulars and legends to INDYCAR and NASCAR drivers. The week-long competition takes place on the quarter-mile clay oval constructed inside River Spirit Expo Center at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds. The event began Monday and concludes with the climactic championship feature Saturday night.
"Our heritage closely connects INDYCAR with iconic events like the Chili Bowl Nationals and the list of greats who have competed in short-track open-wheel cars for decades," said C.J. O’Donnell, chief marketing officer of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "We’re proud to announce the Team INDYCAR contingency award program and our list of entrants competing in Tulsa this week. This effort recognizes some greats of the sport along with some promising young talent that we hope to someday see in an Indy car. We join midget racing followers across the country in following their progress at the Chili Bowl."
The Team INDYCAR program includes a sponsorship for each car plus contingency prizes that include a $5,000 bonus should a Team INDYCAR driver win Saturday’s championship feature race. Other bonuses include $1,000 to any team driver who finishes second or third in the championship feature, $500 to any team driver qualifying for the championship feature and an additional $500 for the best finisher among Team INDYCAR.
Among those driving for Team INDYCAR is legendary short-track star Dave Darland, who has won more than 100 USAC events and was named Tuesday as a 2017 inductee to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.
"It’s great to be part of this program and great that INDYCAR and the sprint car/midget connection is still there," Darland said. "The Indianapolis 500 is what almost all of us grew up dreaming about. The Chili Bowl is our Indianapolis 500 and Mardi Gras put together. It would be a lot of fun to win it with all the great drivers here, certainly would be meaningful. My team is fairly new but they’ve given me a great piece and I think we have a great opportunity this year."
Team INDYCAR consists of the following drivers:
Chad Boat, Phoenix – The son of Billy Boat, the 1998 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter and winner of the INDYCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway the same year who was also the 1997 Chili Bowl winner. Chad Boat earned his first three USAC national midget wins in 2016, including the prestigious Belleville Midget Nationals, and has qualified for the Chili Bowl championship feature four times.
Jerry Coons Jr., Tucson, Arizona – Coons is one of five drivers to win a USAC championship in midgets, sprint cars and Silver Crowns (the others are Tony Stewart, Pancho Carter, J.J. Yeley and Darland). He also finished fourth in the 2016 Chili Bowl and holds the record for most consecutive championship feature appearances at 13 and counting. Coons is also the director of the USAC .25 midget program that serves as a training ground for the next generation of open-wheel drivers.
Tyler Courtney, Indianapolis – Courtney is driving the #Driven2SaveLives car this week for Clauson-Marshall Racing in honor of the late Bryan Clauson. Nicknamed "Sunshine," Courtney won Tuesday night’s first preliminary A feature race, securing a spot in the championship feature. He won the Gas City I-69 USAC Indiana Sprint Week event last July (beating Clauson) and the USAC Junior Knepper 55 indoor midget race in December at Du Quoin, Illinois, driving for Clauson-Marshall Racing, which is co-owned by Tim Clauson, Bryan’s father.
Dave Darland, Lincoln, Indiana – Announced Tuesday as a 2017 inductee into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, Darland has won more than 100 USAC events. Like Coons, "The People’s Champ" has captured all three of USAC’s championships. He won USAC’s Silver Crown championship in 1997, sprint car champ in 1999 and midget champ in 2001 and ’02. This year is Darland’s 20th competing at the Chili Bowl, with a best championship feature finish of second. He finished third in the annual Race of Champions during Tuesday's Chili Bowl preliminary night activities.
David Gravel, Watertown, Connecticut – Driving the Tony Elliott Foundation entry and competing in his third Chili Bowl. Gravel finished third in the 2016 Craftsman World of Outlaws championship after winning nine races and was the winged sprint car series’ Kevin Gobrect Rookie of the Year in 2013.
Davey Hamilton Jr., Boise, Idaho – The son of longtime INDYCAR driver and current Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network analyst Davey Hamilton. Davey Jr. raced a variety of cars in 2016, including pavement winged and non-winged sprint cars, pavement midgets, Super Modifieds and dirt midgets. He was the 2016 King of The Wing National Sprint Car Champion along with winning the Orchex Sprint Car Series Championship and competed in his first Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires races in the 2016 doubleheader finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Kyle O’Gara, Indianapolis – An Indy Lights and USAC midget competitor, O’Gara claimed the USAC National Pavement Midget championship and the STARS national midget owner's championship in 2014. O'Gara is the brother-in-law of longtime INDYCAR driver/team owner Sarah Fisher and drives for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.
Davey Ray, Davenport, Iowa – A multi-winner in midget competition, Ray was the 2002 Chili Bowl Rookie of the Race. The third-generation racer was a full-time competitor in USAC Silver Crown in 2016 and one of the handful of drivers who helped celebrate Tony Stewart’s last Brickyard 400 on the temporary dirt track built inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway last summer.
Donny Schatz, Fargo, North Dakota – Schatz won the 2016 Craftsman World of Outlaws championship for Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing, with 25 feature wins last year. It was his eighth championship overall and third straight winged sprint car series title. He has more than 200 career victories, including nine of the last 11 Knoxville Nationals, but is making his Chili Bowl debut with Clauson-Marshall Racing.
Tyler Seavey, Sutter, California – Experienced in winged sprints and midgets, Seavey also drives for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing as a teammate to O’Gara for his second trip to the Chili Bowl.