It was 173 years ago that John Babsone Lane Soule coined the phrase “Go West Young Man” in the Terre Haute Express. Dirt track, open-wheel race car drivers from the left coast pay no heed to his sage advice when the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals beckon every January. Like a herd of cattle on a stampede, they head straight to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the big race. For the second consecutive season, Murrieta, California-based sprint car racer Tommy Dunkel is among the pack steaming toward the “Sooner State.”
361632623_6357545884281760_5224352817620114276_n.jpgTommy Dunkel before a CRA main at Perris in 2023. Doug Allen photo.
Dunkel’s first pilgrimage to the world’s biggest midget race came a year ago this week. Going into that one with virtually no experience on the Tulsa Expo Raceway that is located inside the massive SageNet Center, the Inland Rigging proprietor was contesting his initial midget race. Competing against a stellar field of superstar drivers from many disciplines of racing, things did not go quite the way Dunkel had hoped.
An eighth-place finish in his heat and a 14th in the C main on his preliminary night brought a premature exit for the remainder of the week. The result left Dunkel frustrated and itching for a return to the Tulsa track. That reappearance, which will be complemented by a renewed level of confidence, will happen this Thursday.
“I kind of feel like I have a little unsettled business if you will,” Dunkel said on Sunday. “I felt last year didn’t really go as planned. When the opportunity came up to drive for Jimmy May and the JFM boys this year, I had to jump on it. It is a good opportunity to go back and finish what I started there.”
“We are actually going to fly out Wednesday prior. We are going to fly out nice and early, and get to catch our teammate David Gasper in his preliminary night on Wednesday. Myself and Eddie Tafoya Jr. will be contesting our preliminary on Thursday for JFM.”
Wanting to avenge his result from last year, Dunkel has taken the bull by the horns. He signed on with Josh Ford Motorsports and noted crew chief May to drive the #73T Triple X/Mopar. A former racer himself, May knows the ropes. Likewise, JFM has been a top-rated team on the West Coast for a couple of decades. In that time, May and his crew have racked up victories up and down the coast in Midgets, 360 and 410 sprint cars. Included in their triumphs is the longest-running midget race in the USA, the Turkey Night Grand Prix which the team won with legendary Dave Darland behind the wheel, in 2013.
Given the team’s prowess and expertise in several disciplines of open-wheel cars, Dunkel is confident his results will improve in 2024. Last week to get some laps in and work with May, the team rented the Ventura Raceway.
“This is only going to be my second time racing a midget,” affable Dunkel said. “We tested at Ventura last week with Jimmy and the boys. It went great. We got some really good practice laps in. So, being my second time racing (a midget), I am really looking forward to it.”
In addition to the confidence that working with JFM brings, having been at the Chili Bowl last year, Dunkel knows a little more about what to expect. He figures the Chili Bowl jitters will be suppressed just by being familiar with the surroundings. It is going to be easier to focus on just getting in the car and driving.
“I would be tickled to death if I could make the show on my preliminary night,” he enthused. “That would be the highlight. I just want to go make some good laps and pass some cars. Just have a solid, positive experience in the racecar this year.”
“I feel I am in good equipment and I have a big-time crew behind me with a lot on their resume at the Chili Bowl. They have made the show a few times and I feel like that is going to be a huge help. A big difference really.”
Dunkel’s appearance on Thursday will determine where he starts at Saturday’s 38th Chili Bowl finale.
If you wish to see the Chili Bowl, it will be available online on Flo Racing. Information on how to subscribe and other details are available at the following link https://www.floracing.com/.
Dunkel and Roa want to thank the following sponsors for making the 2023 season possible. Inland Rigging, Dunkel Farms, United Asset Sales, Osborne Speed & Machine, “Biker” Bruce Fischer, ALR Virtual Services, Burris Racing, Caltrol, Jambo Barbeque Pits, Competition Suspension, K-1 Race Gear, Molecule, Rod End Supply, Driven Racing Oil, Baldwin Filters, and NGK Spark Plugs. If you would like to be a marketing partner with the Inland Rigging Racing Team in 2024, please contact Dunkel or Roa the information at the top of this release.
Inland Rigging Racing PR