VENTURA, Calif. – Veteran driver and team owner Cory Kruseman is entering five cars in January’s 36th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Okla., on Jan. 10-15.
The annual event will take place on the same Tulsa Expo Center Raceway surface that Kruseman won the race on in 2000 and ’04.
Kruseman’s Chili Bowl lineup consists of Caleb Saiz, Jesse Denome, Dave Gasper, Evan Garvy and Travis Buckley.
Twenty-six-year-old Saiz, who will be making his first foray into midget racing at the Chili Bowl, comes in as a highly decorated sprint car driver from Albuquerque, N.M. This year he won his third Lucas Oil POWRi New Mexico Motor Racing Association non-winged sprint car championship. In addition, the affable driver also captured sprint car titles in 2017 and ’18 at Sandia Speedway. He will come into the Chili Bowl off a win at the 305 winged sprint car Turkey Bowl at the Vado Speedway Park on Nov. 27. A few weeks earlier, he finishing second in the 305 sprint car feature at Sandia. Later in the program he used the same 305 to finish second in a 19-car 360 sprint car main event.
Jesse Denome, a past resident of San Diego who moved back to his native Escanaba, Mich., will be racing in his second Chili Bowl in January. The veteran driver first crossed paths with Kruseman when he helped the latter with his sprint cars at Ventura Raceway. He then progressed to driving sprint cars in the VRA Series at Ventura and eventually ventured to the USAC/CRA and PAS Senior Sprint Car competitions at Perris Auto Speedway. Denome now races U.P. Super Vintage Modifieds at the Upper Peninsula Int’l Raceway in Escanaba. In 2021, he racked up one win and eight top-five finishes. In addition, he never finished out of the top 10 in nine starts on the fifth-mile red clay oval. Those stats netted him second place in the championship point standings, 18 points out of first.
Sixteen-year-old Gasper made a career shift in 2021 when he went from racing in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Series to the California Lightning Sprint Cars. The teen achieved off-road success at an early age by winning titles in the Junior 1 and 2 classes. In 2020, he won the Rookie of the Year award in the Modified Karts, but when the off-road series folded, Gasper had to find something new. That is when he turned to Lightning Sprints. He won the 2021 CLS Rookie of the Year award and the annual Civil War Series title. Most importantly, he won the season-long California Lightning Sprint Car Series championship in his first try and became the youngest champion in the 27-year history of the club. After making his midget debut at the Chili Bowl, Gasper will defend his CLS title and will begin racing 360 sprint cars next year.
Garvy, who turned 21 in August, competed and won in both quarter midgets and bandoleros as a child. However, he stepped away from racing when he was 12 years old and did not compete again until 2021. He re-launched his career racing dwarf cars and it paid immediate dividends. In 37 appearances, he scored 11 wins, 19 top three, and 29 top 10 finishes. Those lofty statistics netted him two championships in his first year back. One of the titles was the Legends car track championship at Arizona’s Havasu 95 Speedway. The other came in the California State Asphalt Legends Series. In addition to his prowess in the Legend cars, he also made his debut in the Nut Up Pro Late Model Series at Madera Speedway. The Chili Bowl will be his first race in a midget.
Kiwi racer Buckley’s trip to America to drive for Kruseman at the Chili Bowl will be his third trip stateside this year. A regular in sprint car and midget races in his native New Zealand, Buckley’s finest stateside finish came when he placed second in the USAC Western States Midget main event at Ventura Raceway on Sept. 11. In other prior visits to the USA this year, he competed in the grueling USAC National Midget Indiana Midget Week, raced in the Lucas Oil POWRi National Midget League, Taco Bravo Sprints and the Sprint Car Challenge Series.