SOUTHWICK, Mass. — Hot off a one-two finish with Kody Swanson and Todd Bertrand at last weekend’s Open Wheel Showdown in Las Vegas, Tim Bertrand, owner of Bertrand Motorsports, says one secret to success is to surround oneself with good people.
He’s doing just that to try to defend his Chili Bowl victory in conjunction with Kevin Swindell and Logan Seavey, as Bertrand Motorsports will be involved with no less than four cars entered in the 39th annual Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Okla. next month.
Working in conjunction with fellow team owners Kevin and Jordan Swindell and driver Seavey, Bertrand and his wife, Cara, own the Stanton SR-11 motor and a majority interest in the No. 39 Spike car that Seavey will drive to try to become a back-to-back winner of arguably the biggest midget race in the world.
Kevin Swindell won the race four consecutive years as a driver (2010-‘2013) in addition to winning it as a co-team owner this year. Seavey is this year’s USAC National Midget champion driving for Abacus Racing as well as the USAC Silver Crown champion driving for Rice Motorsports-Abacus Racing.
Only one other driver has more Chili Bowl victories than Swindell, and that’s his dad, Sammy Swindell, a five-time winner (1989, 1992, 1996, 1998 and 2009).
Bertrand Motorsports will supply the Stanton SR-11x engine that Swindell will use in his No. 1 as he goes for victory No. 6.
Bertrand will also supply the Stanton engine in the midget driven by Kaylee Bryson, the first woman to make the feature at the Chili Bowl Nationals (2022).
The team is one of the sponsors of the midget that Tanner Thorson will drive as he attempts to duplicate his 2022 Chili Bowl victory. Although nothing is certain in racing, being associated with the drivers that won an event’s last two editions means Bertrand Motorsports is certainly part of the efforts of some definite pre-race favorites.
It’s also a lot of irons in the fire for any team, but especially for one more noted for its success in asphalt midget racing than dirt midget racing.
Bertand’s Winning Prowess
Bertrand Motorsports, which is based in Southwick, Mass., is the reigning Northeastern Midget Association team champion, with 12 such titles and 105 NEMA feature victories, just one win away from that organization’s all-time car owner winner, the late Gene Angelillo.
But the eyes of the midget world and most of the rest of racing in North America are trained on the roughly quarter-mile dirt oval constructed inside Tulsa’s SageNet Center each January.
The Chili Bowl has become a happening, as some 350 drivers go through the “alphabet soup” of the preliminary mains in pursuit of the Golden Driller and the $20,000 top prize after Saturday night’s 30-lap feature. And the New England racing world will be pulling for the drivers with connections to their region, like Bertrand Motorsports.
“I’m pretty amped to get back to Tulsa next month to defend our title with Bertrand/Swindell,” said Seavey. “Obviously our first attempt as a team couldn’t have gone much better, so we can’t wait to get back and give it another go in 2024. Following this year’s race, Kevin and I instantly began talking about how to improve and be even better come Saturday night.
“We have everything we need to go back and be even better than we were last year, and coming off the best year of my career is a great confidence boost going into Tulsa in January. The ball will be in my court to get the job done.”
Last year there were supply chain issues that complicated getting Seavey’s car ready for the Chili Bowl, but Kevin Swindell says they have improved and he’s not thrashing for parts this time.
“This year our car is already ready to go; we just fine-tuned it this year and got it ready; we’re trying to build off last year,” he said. He has worked with Logan Seavey at the Chili Bowl for several years now, so it’s basically a case of friends getting together to go racing. His arrangement with Bertrand fits right in. “He lets me do what I need to do on my end of things, so it works out well.”
His father is also looking forward to the event, where he’s definitely the king. His earlier Chili Bowl victories were with other engine manufacturers, but he feels like he has a good piece with the Bertrand-supplied Stanton SR-11x.
“For the Chili Bowls that I won, he [Gary Stanton] was just getting started,” he explained. “But we’ve been running them [Stanton engines] for quite a while now, and they’re definitely the best ones I’ve had there.”
Although he’s the winningest driver in Chili Bowl history, he pointed out that for most of the years he’s participated in the Chili Bowl, it was the only time that season that he drove a midget.
“Coming in and getting in a car and having the success I’ve had has been good,” Swindell said. “The odds are stacked against us a little now,” he said, but with his driver and car owner victories he has a total of 10 drillers among his trophy collection. “That’s a pretty good record.
“The bigger it gets the more lucky you have to be to survive, and that’s the part we can’t change,” he added. “But it’s been fun, and I’ve always enjoyed getting to do it.”
Sammy Swindell coached Bryson at some sprint car events this year, and she’ll be running with his team at the upcoming Chili Bowl. She’ll be in the Swindell Motorsports — Bertrand Motorsports No. 91K.
“I’m excited to be running with Sammy Swindell; he has helped me in the sprint cars, and it’s really cool to be able to work with him at the Chili Bowl too,” she said. “It’s also cool to have the Bertrand family behind us.
“My first goal is to make it into the feature on Saturday night,” added Bryson. “We’ll try to do our best. It’s great to be in competition with so many good drivers.”
As one of the sport’s leading open-wheel women drivers, Bryson has a large fan following. That includes the Bertrands’ daughter, Norah, 12, who is already turning heads in quarter-midgets.
Thorson is also looking forward to trying to repeat his 2022 Chili Bowl victory. He’ll be in the No. 88.
“I’m excited to get back in that building and go back after it again,” he said. “It’s easier to do it with Bertrand Motorsports behind us, and I’m excited to have another fast race car to bring into that building.”