Field Set For Chili Bowl’s Race Of Champions

RaceChaser Staff Featured, Other Midgets 1 Comment

Kyle Larson (71) and Rico Abreu lead the field at the start of the 2017 Vacuworx Invitational Race of Champions. (TeeJay Crawford photo)

TULSA, Okla. – An 18-driver field is locked and loaded for the 10th annual Vacuworx Invitational Race of Champions, which will take place on Jan. 9 as part of the opening night of the 32nd Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.

Comprised of drivers who have won the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire, owner champions picks, the reigning National Midget Driver of the Year, or past VIROC winners, the list of drivers who made the cut for this year’s 20-lap feature that pays $6,363.63 to the winner numbers 18.

Over the course of nine VIROC dashes, five drivers have topped the 20-lap event. Sammy Swindell has earned the most VIROC wins with five in 2009, ’11, ’12, and ’15. In 2017, Kyle Larson picked up his second triumph. Both will be on track in Tuesday’s showdown.

Making the VIROC a bit of a brotherly rivalry, Rusty and Keith Kunz will each be well represented with some of the event’s top talents behind the wheel. For Rusty, who earned his Golden Drillers as an owner in 2014, 1996, and 1994, the choice of driver goes to Thomas Meseraull, who made his first VIROC appearance in 2017 with a fifth-place finish.

For bother Keith, the total number of KKM drivers will number four. Including the aforementioned Larson, the rundown also includes 2016 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals winner Rico Abreu as well as defending champion Christopher Bell.

With both drivers punching their ticket with their wins, the choice for Kunz as a six-time owner champion is Indiana’s Spencer Bayston, who will be making his first VIROC appearance.

Winning the VIROC in 2010, Brad Loyet will make his ninth appearance. Arizona’s Jerry Coons Jr. will represent Wilke-Pak Motorsports. To date, Coons has been in five VIROC events with a best finish of fifth in 2013.

With a pair of Golden Drillers in his collection, Cory Kruseman is in the mix along with Tracey Hines, who won in 2005 for Wilke-Pak. Landing behind the wheel of the Kevin Swindell Motorsports No. 39, New Zealand’s Michael Pickens will make his first VIROC appearance.

Winning the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in 2006, late model ace Tim McCreadie will again wheel for Andy Bondio, with Bondio’s owner champion status landing Danny Stratton in his third VIROC.

Using his 2016 VIROC win as his ticket to the show, Tanner Thorson also earned a seat at the table by winning the 2017 National Midget Driver of the Year. Driving for Dooling-Hayward Motorsports, the team will have their second car in action with Joe Dooling’s choice of Brad Sweet.

Dooling, was the co-owner during Bryan Clauson’s 2014 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals win.

Returning to Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire competition in 2018, Washington’s Kasey Kahne earns a spot with the Zarounian credential, while Damion Gardner will see his eighth VIROC appearance.

Winning the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire in 2006, Gardner’s best finish in the VIROC came in 2014 with a runner-up to Larson.

Rounding out the list is Chad Boat. The son of 1997 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals winner Billy Boat, the John Lawson name remains for the Boat family and will be cashed in for Chad’s admission to race.

The VIROC starting lineup will be set by draw following Tuesday’s Warren CAT Qualifying Night Heat Races at the infield stage. The 10th edition of the VIROC will be run just prior to the evening’s B-Features.

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