Local motorsports racing standout Tye Wilke is taking on a new and bigger challenge this week making his midget car racing debut at 35th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl presented by General Tire at Tulsa Expo Raceway January 11-16 in Oklahoma.
The move is a big one from racing INEX Legend cars that weigh around 1,300 pounds with 200 horsepower to the midget cars weighing in around 800 pounds with 400 horsepower.
Drivers will race on a quarter-mile clay oval inside the River Spirit Expo Center at Tulsa's Expo Square.
With such a short track, the cars will not be running at top speed and moves during heats will need to be calculated and swift.
“It’s going to be a challenge to try to pass people and get up there,” Wilke said. “Hopefully, we can get up there and battle.”
Another compounding challenge is this is going to be Wilke’s debut racing this model of car.
“I test drove it once and that was fun,” he said.
Wilke has known he was racing for about a month and has worked on a simulator that has the Chili Bowl track on it. He’s looking forward to getting out on the clay in a big field loaded with professional racers from NASCAR, IndyCar and World of Outlaws.
A few of the pro racers include: Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier, Christopher Bell, and Ryan Newman.
“They’re all going to be racing and there is going to be a lot more experienced people racing there too,” said Wilke. “It’s going to be challenging.”
Wilke will get practice underway Monday and looks forward to seeing who is in his group. The idea of running with NASCAR racers has him pumped up.
“That would be fun; I could follow them so I could learn the track better,” he laughed.
Tye’s dad Travis learned of an opening when a Indy Car driver dropped out because of COVID allowing the Wilke’s to rent the car for the race.
With this being his first race in midgets, Wilke has no expectations. He’s just trying to get a feel for the track and how to maneuver.
“You just want to qualify good to make the show,” he said.
Wilke, who will turn 17-years-old in February, will be one of the youngest racers in the field.
Qualifying nights will be run Monday through Friday.
Drivers draw for heat racing starting position at 2 p.m. The driver who draws the lowest number will start on the pole of Heat 1, second lowest number on the pole of Heat 2, etc.
The number of heats is decided by the number of cars, 7-10 cars per heat race running 8 laps.
Advancement from the heat races to features is based upon passing points earned in heat race and qualifying races. Passing points are based upon the car starting position when the yellow light goes out prior to the initial start of the heat or qualifying race.
The 40 drivers earning the most passing points advance to Four “A” Qualifying Races; drivers in passing points positions 41-68 will go to two C Main races. The two C Main races will have 16 cars 12 laps in length.
The top four cars in each C Main race will advance to the back of the B Main races, going 15 laps.
The lineup of each “A” Qualifying race will include an inversion of six cars. The top 24 cars in passing points will make the inversion.
The Chili Bowl Midget Nationals have been run since 1987. For more information visit the race web page.
Live Streaming is available on floracing.com.
Live Timing and Scoring can be found on the MyRacePass App.