Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals adjusts to virus world


As the 2021 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire rapidly approaches, the event continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the sight of fans packed around Tulsa Expo Raceway in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for one of the greatest motorsports events in the world, has been common, organizers want to ensure fans are as safe as possible.

Currently, grandstands and pits have been placed at 25 percent capacity. Given coronavirus restrictions, fans who reserved tickets who do not wish to attend the 2021 Chili Bowl Nationals, can opt out by Nov. 20.

After notification is received, they will not be charged, and the tickets will be reserved for renewal prior to the 2022 event. If fans already paid by check or cash, a refund will be processed.

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Requests to defer seats until 2022 event must be made before 5 p.m. Nov. 20. The office can be reached at 918-838-3777 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays.

In an attempt to add another layer of safety to the 2021 Chili Bowl Nationals, anyone entering River Spirit Expo Center will be required to wear a mask and have their temperature checked.

Masks must be worn completely covering the individual’s nose and mouth. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees, or higher, will not be allowed into River Spirit Expo Center.

COVID-19 symptoms include fever, muscle pain, cough, headache, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, chills or repeated shaking with chills. Anyone experiencing those symptoms should not attend.

Sweet takes Outlaws championship

Brad Sweet and Logan Schuchart closed out the 2020 World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series season the same way they opened it.

Schuchart won the DIRTcar Nationals finale in February, while Sweet claimed the event’s title Nov. 7 during the World of Outlaws Last Call season finale at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. Schuchart won the race, while Sweet was officially crowned the 2020 champion.

“We overcame a lot of adversity to have four DNFs and to still win the points,” Sweet, of Grass Valley, California, said of his 2020 season. “I thought we showed our resilience this week, and we came here and executed, I thought, perfectly.

“We did everything we needed to do to win the points and get Kasey Kahne Racing the team championship. Hats off to our competitors. Logan gave me a good run for my money all season long, and the 41 (Jason Johnson Racing) bunch … nothing but respect from all of us here. Obviously, we want to win and stay on top of the mountain.”

Schuchart, of Hanover, Pennsylvania, said he entered the weekend wanting to finish strong.

“We knew certain things were out of our control,” he said. “Last night was a challenge, but we made up for it a little bit. To end the World of Outlaws season with a win is awesome. We weren’t able to get the championship, but fifth last year and second this year (in points), this Shark Racing team is coming. We’re going to continue to try and get better and move forward.”

Sweet was the early contender for the win, claiming the pole for the feature, and led the three opening laps. But Schuchart had the NAPA Auto Parts No. 49 in sight the entire time, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. With a run down the front stretch, Schuchart pulled the trigger and shot a slide job underneath Sweet into Turn 1 that cleared him for the lead by Turn 2.

From then on, the Drydene No. 1S held command out front. Sweet closed in traffic, but could never get close enough to attempt a pass.

In the feature, David Gravel stole third on the first lap and kept Sweet in sight throughout the entire event. Gravel could close on him after a restart, but Sweet pulled away over time in clean air. To have any shot at bringing JJR the team title, he needed to beat Sweet and hope “The Big Cat” fell at least 11 positions behind him.

He came up short and ended the season with a third-place finish.

The race was also Gravel’s final drive behind the wheel of the JJR No. 41 car. He’ll join Big Game.

Motorsports in 2021

for a championship run

Ten-time series champion Donny Schatz ended the night with a sixth-place finish and ended the year third in the championship standings.

That breaks his 14-year streak of finishing first or second in points. Schatz drives for Tony Stewart Racing.

Sheldon Haudenschild had a career-best season, finishing fourth in points with a career-high seven wins in a single season. Carson Macedo also had a new career achievement by finishing fifth in points with Kyle Larson Racing. Macedo will join Jason Johnson Racing in 2021 as KLR closes this year.

Former Stewart crew chief passes away

Scott Gerkin, a longtime sprint car crew chief, passed away Nov. 8. He was 62.

In 2010, he joined Tony Stewart Racing as the crew chief for Steve Kinser, staying with Kinser through the 2014 season.

Gerkin, a 2018 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee, got the racing bug watching his uncle and a friend race stock cars at Brownstown Speedway. He was introduced to the Kinser clan through Larry Kinser’s instruction in auto mechanics. Then he was a frequent visitor to Dizz Wilson’s garage, where he learned maintenance skills that would last a lifetime. Traveling to events with legends like Dick Gaines provided valuable experience.

James Essex writes a motorsports column for The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected].

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