OSWEGO, N.Y. – When 17-year-old Tyler Thompson won the Budweiser International Classic 200 for supermodifieds in September, he had no idea it was just the beginning of a new chapter of opportunities for his racing career.
A winged ISMA supermodified win and an opportunity in a New England asphalt modified followed, but neither of those came close to generating the kind of excitement that Thompson has for what he’ll be doing this winter.
Thompson recently announced that he’ll take part in the 34th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, Jan. 13-18 at Tulsa Expo Raceway inside the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, Okla.
The young gun will team up with Seymour Racing and owner Bobby Seymour, son of legendary racer Boston Louie Seymour, for his first attempt at chasing the Golden Driller trophy against an expected field of more than 300 midget-car entries.
Though Thompson has run a supermodified, a dirt modified and will debut in a pavement modified during this weekend’s World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, he told Sprint Car & Midget that the chance to run the Chili Bowl is one that’s captured his attention most.
“After the (Budweiser International) Classic, we were talking to Jeff West, and he’d had some really good ideas for me about the Chili Bowl and some other races that I could do like that, but we didn’t really think very much of it until my dad got a three-way (phone) call with Jeff and Bobby Seymour,” Thompson explained. “We talked about the Chili Bowl and got it figured out, and that was something that I never expected until it actually happened. It’s awesome, though.
“I’ve always wanted to run the Chili Bowl; it’s been something that I’ve always wanted to work up to, and now we have the opportunity to do that and I couldn’t be more excited,” he added. “It’s really a childhood wish come true for me, honestly.”
Thompson’s diversity in equipment and quick ability to adapt to new situations has been well documented, particularly this season after winning the Classic in just his second full season at Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway, adding his first ISMA supermodified win and then making the field for the dirt-modified Outlaw 200 as well at Fulton Speedway.
It’s a skill and a quality that he’s relished, being able to compete in multiple different types of cars, and Thompson hopes he can put that skillset on display again in January in his maiden Chili Bowl voyage.
“I started off in a crate car on dirt, and last year I played around with some bigger stuff … but it wasn’t until this year that we started running the (DIRTcar) 358 modified and the big-block car,” said Thompson. “I think the midget will be a whole lot different. It’s a whole different animal when it comes to the weight and the power ratio, but I think with the help of both my asphalt experience and my dirt experience I should adapt pretty quickly. I hope so, anyways, because we want to go there and contend!
“It’s been a blast, though, to do everything I’ve gotten to this year … and everything that’s coming up,” Thompson continued. “I’m purely grateful to my dad and all my sponsors, because a whole lot of kids my age don’t get the opportunities to drive all the different things I’ve had a chance to. I don’t even have the words to explain how special this period of my career is right now and what it means to be in the position that I’m in.”
As for the Chili Bowl itself, Thompson is keeping his goals realistic for his first foray into Tulsa, despite the fact that he’s proven to be a quick study in every other type of car he’s been in to this point.
“My goal is to make the race, the Saturday A-main,” noted Thompson. “There’s a whole lot of guys out there who have been doing this a lot longer than I have and will have the experience that I’ll be trying to get all week long out there. But I know we’ll have a team that’s capable of doing big things and I can’t wait to see what we have and hopefully surprise a few people along the way.
“January can’t come soon enough for us, as far as I’m concerned. I’m ready for the challenge.”