For the first time, a two-car New Zealand speedway midget race team is competing in the famous Chili Bowl midget nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the United States
The Synergy Racing team, headed by Synergy V8 engine developer Simon Longdill and his business partner Luke Fisher, is running two CRC-backed midgets for top New Zealand drivers Michael Pickens and Brad Mosen in what is arguably the world’s biggest race for this class of speedway race car.
“It’s fair to say the Chili Bowl is the Indy 500 of midget car racing,” says Longdill. “Other Kiwis have competed at the Chili Bowl and Michael also raced there in 2005 when he made it through qualifying to the main event to finish an outstanding sixth place. But as far as we know, this is the first time a whole New Zealand team has transported their own cars to the US to contest this prestigious event.”
More than 250 drivers are entered for the 24th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, a five-day event running from 12 to 16 January, 2010. Qualifying races take place on the nearly quarter-mile (0.4 km) clay oval undercover in the Tulsa State Fairgrounds each night for four nights in front of 15,000 fans before the Chili Bowl itself, 50-lap race, on Saturday 16 January.
“We basically want to see how well we can do against the world’s best midget race teams in such a competitive environment. We have put together a very strong package in New Zealand speedway, in terms of the engine, chassis, drivers and team, so this is a challenge to ourselves to see what we can do at the Chili Bowl,” explains Longdill.
“One of the interesting things about the Chili Bowl is that it’s up to the organisers whether you can run or not. There are no published rules and regulations as such, so it’s pretty much the only midget race when you can build almost anything that’s still basically a midget speedway car and race against the best drivers from around America and the world. We’ve had to answer a few questions about our complete package, but everything’s sorted and both drivers are confirmed to race.”
The team flew out of Auckland to Los Angeles on 3 January before clearing the cars through US Customs and driving east for 2,300 km to Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Pickens was among the quickest during Monday night’s practice before coming second in Tuesday night’s main qualifying race in the #88NZ CRC-backed, Synergy-powered midget, using an Aggressor chassis. This placing earns Pickens an automatic place in Saturday night’s Chili Bowl feature race. Mosen, one of 43 rookies at this year’s Chili Bowl, will run his qualifying races in the matching #19NZ midget on Thursday night (US time).
“The Chili Bowl is like the Olympics of speedway car racing,” comments Brad Mosen. “It attracts the best of the best, and to succeed here you need to have something pretty special,”
“It’s amazing to actually be here in Tulsa at the Chili Bowl after such a long and hard build-up in putting the whole plan together,” adds Longdill. “We are very small fish in a very large pond up here, but we know we have what it takes to cause a big upset if the cards play out right.”
Longdill says the whole team especially appreciates the support of CRC, Transitainer and Special Steels and Metals.
“CRC has come onboard with our team last year and have been right behind our Kiwi-Made efforts. They have already enjoyed being part of our success during the midget 40-lapper at Huntly Speedway in December, which was won by Michael with Brad in third. Tranistainer has helped enormously with the freight, custom clearance and the logistics of flying the cars, parts and equipment over to Los Angeles, while Special Steels and Metals has been a much valued supplier to our Synergy V8 engine programme with exotic high grade metals for precision engineering.
“We also acknowledge the valued support of Embroidery Works, Precision AutoWerk, Motul Oil and GoFast Sports Drinks in contributing to our bid to do well at the 2010 Chili Bowl.”
After the Chili Bowl, the Synergy Racing midgets will be back down-under by the end of February when leading American midget racer Davey Ray to defend the Australian midget title he won in the Synergy Racing car last season. The cars may also appear at the last two meetings of the 2009-10 Western Springs season.