The Absence of Bell, Larson is Felt, but Chili Bowl Keeps Rolling
Jan 9, 2023
At long last, Kevin Swindell and the No. 39 was back in Victory Lane in a Prelim Night at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals and Logan Seavey has a great shot at doing it again in the main event on Championship Saturday.
It wasn’t even that the 25-year-old from Sutter, California won, but how he won in looking every bit as dominant as Tanner Thorson the night before. Granted, his feature victory came on a track that took rubber and locked-down halfway through, but they were the class of the field all night even against Mr. Friday Night Justin Grant.
"We've had speed all week, throughout practice, Race of Champions, just a lot of drivability too," Seavey said. "I didn't have to hustle it to make speed. And when I did hustle it, I was able to make passes and chase people down, and that's huge.
"If it takes five or six laps to even chase someone down, it's going to be even harder to pass them. I can chase good cars down with this one. I have a lot of confidence in this car and that's huge in this building. I hate winning on a rubber track, mostly because I know it's not fun for fans and I wanted to race it out, but it doesn't take away from how good this car is too."
Just over 10 years to the day of his last triumph in the Tulsa Expo Center, Swindell not only stood in Victory Lane but also did so alongside a car that he personally built and oversaw the development of -- a point of pride for the owner of four Golden Drillers.
"It’s really cool," Swindell said. "I went into this week with no expectations for how it was going to do because we didn’t test like I wanted to. Sunday was okay, Monday was better, and I thought we were in the ballpark. Logan did everything you’re supposed to behind the wheel too."
This is the first time that the younger Swindell has entirely overseen the development of his racing program, having done it alongside his father, the legendary Sammy Swindell, throughout their history together.
But again, this operation, it’s entirely his baby.
"There have been a lot of unknowns for me jumping into this, getting them put together and squared and how to do things and deciding what to do my way instead of how someone else might do it," Swindell said. "I built a lot of things that were one-offs here and there and needed to chase down parts. It’s worked out so far."
Seavey finished 4th and 10th in his first two years chasing the Golden Driller with Swindell Speedlab but missed the show last year to close out a season in which he didn’t win a single Midget race, leading the former Toyota development driver to feel like he was at risk of getting fired.
He hadn’t won a Midget race of any kind since the 2021 Turkey Night Grand Prix.
"I texted Kevin when I found out he was building his own car, and I knew I ran top-five in only two or three Midget races this year, just awful stuff," Seavey said. "He had every reason to find someone else to drive for him, but he believes in me. I think he wanted me to believe in him too building his own Midget, having never done that before, because it was always in Sammy’s hands.
That mutual faith was rewarded with a Friday prelim victory and a front row starting spot in the final pole shuffle to start the televised portion of the event.
"I've always liked Logan and have since watching him run all those Outlaw Kart races back in the day," Swindell said. "I was a big proponent of him taking the next step. I hated to see him not getting more of a shake in the NASCAR stuff with Toyota.
"We've had some bad luck and he looks at me like, 'you're going to hire me again, and I think he was shocked I wanted him here this year. I always believed in him in our car and I just think he gets in weird spots that makes him look maybe worse than what he actually is. He did a great job tonight and manage that race really well."
Grant knew there was no sense in trying to press the issue once the track locked down, but feels like he has a car to contend with the likes of Thorson and Seavey on Saturday too.
"I tried some things in Race of Champions and we were really really bad, but it was a data point for tonight," Grant said. "We were really good in our qualifier, and maybe just went too far in one direction. But if we can get our car running like it did in the qualifier, we might have a shot at racing these guys, especially this one."
That was a reference to Seavey and how good ... again ... that 39 looked.
All told, Friday night was a celebration a decade in the making with Swindell back in Victory Lane in Tulsa. It meant a great deal to the team and its car-builder but all eyes are firmly locked onto Championship Saturday.
"We were fourth together a couple of years ago and that was coming back from a B, but it’s been an uphill battle," Swindell said. "Honestly, it feels like every year since I got hurt, there’s been something in our way preventing us from having a good week.
"We’re in position now. We just have to go close."
A Feature (30 Laps): 1. 39-Logan Seavey; 2. 2J-Justin Grant; 3. 40M-Chase McDermand; 4. 26R-Zeb Wise; 5. 47X-Jason McDougal; 6. 28-Ace McCarthy; 7. 87-Jace Park; 8. 19-Brian Carber; 9. 11B-Clinton Boyles; 10. 01-Bryant Wiedeman; 11. 21-Daryn Pittman; 12. 14M-Michael Faccinto; 13. 11A-Andrew Felker; 14. 00B-Braden Chiaramonte; 15. 19B-Alex Bright; 16. 3G-Kyle Cummins; 17. 68W-Matt Mitchell; 18. 95-Chris Andrews; 19. (DNF) 97-Brenham Crouch; 20. (DNF) 57A-Shane Cottle; 21. (DNF) 17B-Austin Barnhill; 22. (DNF) 23K-Kyle Simon; 23. (DNF) 19M-Ethan Mitchell; 24. (DNF) 45H-Briggs Danner
Lap Leader(s): Logan Seavey 1-30
Hard Charger: Chase McDermand +12