Stewart 10th; Swindell wins Chili Bowl
TULSA, Okla.—NASCAR star Tony Stewart returned from two days of testing at Daytona to finish 10th in the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, while Kevin Swindell led wire-to-wire in the 55-lap main event en route to his third consecutive title Saturday night.
A record crowd of 17,227 watched Swindell, from Germantown, Tenn., easily edge father Sammy Swindell, a five-time champion, in the indoor Midget event on the 1/5-mile dirt oval at QuikTrip Center.
"My focus is not on NASCAR this week, but doing well in Tulsa," the three-time Sprint Cup champion said. "This is a small track and that's what makes this event so cool.
"It's about the car and engine combination. You don't have to have the baddest car out there, but to win you have to be spot on. One mistake will catch up with you."
After starting 10th, Stewart made no errors, but couldn't advance on a night where cars played follow the leader. Kevin Swindell was chased all the way by his father, who started behind him in the second row. Kyle Larson of Elk Grove, Calif., finished third.
"You have to be ready to go because your preparation here is not like anywhere else," Stewart said. "I hadn't been in a Midget in two or three years until Tuesday. The first time I drove the car was in the Race of Champions, but I've got really good guys working on it and they changed a lot of things on it. Still, it's not a perfect car and it can be much better than it was."
Stewart said he was looking forward to the event following a four-year absence, proclaiming the race one of his favorite events.
"There is pressure here," Stewart said. "You have World of Outlaws drivers, winged drivers and every top Midget driver. There is a lot of pressure to make the `A' main and you have to be pretty satisfied you got there."
Stewart, the 2002 and 2007 Chili Bowl champion, finished seventh Tuesday night in the Race of Champions, second in his heat race on Wednesday crossed third in the 25-lap `A' main qualifying race.
Kevin Swindell recorded his third victory in four Chili Bowl starts and has never placed out of the top 10.
"It's nice to win here," Swindell said. "I don't get to race a whole lot in the year and this is a good way to start. It's nice to make sure I've still got my ability and maybe somebody will call me (to drive) next week."
Sammy Swindell finished second for the second straight year.
"I was able to get to the corners better, but he was able to get off them," he said. "Sometimes, I had a good run, but there was no place to go. Traffic can make the difference."
The main event, scheduled for 50 laps, was extended an additional five to honor Donnie Ray Crawford's No. 55. Crawford, a Broken Arrow, Okla., resident, was scheduled to complete in the Chili Bowl on Saturday night, but was killed in a domestic dispute earlier in the day.