Race teams take over the River Spirit Expo Center for the 28th Chili Bowl Nationals

TULSA - Race teams from around the world have descended on the River Spirit Expo Center at Tulsa's Expo Square for the 28th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.

Midget cars hit the dirt track for the first time Monday morning at 9 a.m. for 28 sets of practice sessions before the qualifying events begin Tuesday night.

Nearly 300 drivers make up this year's field, including racers from 34 states and four different countries.

On the line at this year's time-honored tradition is $10,000 and the coveted Golden Driller Trophy. 

"This race is about bragging rights. To be able to say, "I won the Chili Bowl," said Bryan Hulbert, publicist and announcer for the race.

Among those competing this year is Owasso native and Sprint Car driver Daryn Pittman.

"Being out here as a fan and being at all of them as a kid... Became a fan first and always just dreamed of competing in it," Pittman said.

With that dream realized, Pittman says he'll need to make adjustments from life inside a much larger race car in order to take the title inside the expo center.

"The car's roughly about half the size of a full size Sprint Car, which is what I drive all season long. So they are four cylinder versus eight cylinders, the wheel base is a lot smaller, the chassis itself is a lot smaller," he said.

Pittman and other drivers will also have adjust to the track, much of which is comprised of the original clay used in 1987 but comes with different variables each year.

"Unlike most tracks around the country, it's a temporary surface hauled in and taken back out. So this track is not the same from year to year. As much as they try to make it the same, there's going to be slight differences. The corner's going to arc a little different. The banking might be a little different," Hulbert explained.

All of this on top of having to race Kevin Swindell, who's won the Chili Bowl Nationals each of the last four years. In fact, the family has hoisted the Golden Driller Trophy every year since 2009.

Additionally, fellow Sprint Car drivers Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne will race. Drivers representing the NHRA and IRL are also participating.

Qualifying races Tuesday night through Friday night set the stage for Saturday's 55-lap championship race.

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