By Ken De La Bastide
— When it comes to the Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Okla., the driver to beat in recent years has been Kevin Swindell.
The National Midget championships take place at an indoor dirt track with the trophy up for grabs appropriately dubbed, the “Golden Driller.”
Swindell made it four wins in a row, capturing the title again last weekend. He was followed to the checkers by family member Sammy, who also has a few “Golden Driller” trophies in his collection.
Third place went to Brad Sweet, followed by Tim McCreadie and local driver Dave Darland.
Darland started 11th in the field and drove to the fifth-place finish. Noblesville driver Bryan Clauson finished eighth and Pay Less Little 500 runner-up Billy Wease started 22nd and finished a respectable ninth, capturing the Hard Charger award in the process.
Tony Stewart finished 15th in the Saturday night feature.
In other racing news:
— The Daytona 500 is a little more than a month away and the Sprint Cup drivers just finished three days of testing in the new “Gen 6” car. There was a 12-car wreck on Friday during the only day in which the teams elected to attempt some drafting.
Reports circulating following the testing is that the days of “bump drafting” are over and that the “Gen 6” car is unstable when drafting or running in large packs.
I still suspect the drivers will be “bump drafting” at Daytona when Speedweeks start Feb. 17 and there will undoubtedly be the “Big One,” which will take a number of drivers out of contention for the win.
— Kyle Busch extended his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing through the 2017 season. Busch’s contract was set to expire at the end of the 2013 season, so his new contract removes one of the biggest names from the free agent market going into the ‘14 season.
— Odds makers have made Jimmie Johnson and the Lowe’s Chevrolet team a 4-to-1 favorite to win the Sprint Cup championship this year. Johnson was in a position to win the championship last season until an error during a pit stop at the final race of the year ended his chances.
Defending champion Brad Keselowski is the number two favorite, followed by Denny Hamilin, Kyle Busch, and Kasey Kahne.
Following the top five were Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, and Tony Stewart.
The odds for Ryan Newman winning the championship was set at 50-to-1.
It is a surprise that Kenseth was put in the Top 10 after changing teams for 2013, leaving Roush/Fenway Racing to compete for Joe Gibbs this year. Kevin Harvick was further down on the list with the reason being he was leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of the year.
I was unable to find any odds for Danica Patrick winning the championship.
— In two weeks, action starts at Daytona International Speedway with the running of the Rolex 24-hour race for the Grand Am sports car series. The event is Jan. 26 and 27. There are 17 Daytona Prototype cars entered, which is a good omen for the rest of the season.
— On the same weekend, there are 27 cars entered for the ARCA/CRA Super Late Model race in Georgia as part of SpeedFest. Several top young drivers are already entered including Snowball Derby winner Erik Jones, Chase Elliott, John Hunter Nemechek, and Kyle Benjamin.