New Zealanders Michael Pickens and Brad Mosen have journeyed to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to compete in the famed ‘Super Bowl of Midget Racing’, the Chili Bowl.
First hosted in 1987, consisting of 52 Midgets for a two-day event, the Chili Bowl Nationals have grown exponentially, with the 2024 edition featuring 370 entrants from Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
Pickens, The most successful New Zealand midget driver of the modern era, who has also qualified for the A-main six times and finished third in 2011, will run with Abacus Racing, while Mosen, the 2014/15 New Zealand Champion and runner-up in 2022/23, links up with three-time champion car owner Andy Bondio to drive the #47.
The six-day event begins with five nights of qualifying heats, features and preliminaries before the Saturday night features determine the 2024 champion.
“The first goal is just to make the show,” Pickens told Velocity News. “My main goal is to finish in the top two of my prelim night because that not only locks you into Saturday night but also puts you into the pole shuffle on Saturday. You’ve really got to finish in the top two nowadays to have any realistic shot at it.
“I haven’t met the car owners or any of the team yet, so it’ll be about getting familiar with the team and the car first and making sure I get comfortable in my car, which is what Sunday’s about.
“You’ve got to press on from there, but to be able to do that without making mistakes is all about making sure you’re not only comfortable with the car but also with all the guys making ride adjustments, etcetera.
“It’s the biggest Midget race in the world with the numbers they get. You’ve got the best drivers in the world there. To win the Chili Bowl, you are winning the biggest race in the world. That’s what draws me back, the competition and the scale of that.”
Pickens and Mosen were both involved in the recent International Midget Series across the North Island.
Mosen was a casualty of an opening night incident that forced him to the sidelines for the remainder of the competition. Despite the limited track time, a career record of three New Zealand Grand Prix victories, three North Island Championships and six New Zealand Championship podiums shows he’ll be no easy beat.
Pickens won the International Series, claiming three feature wins, while American star Michael ‘Buddy’ Kofoid claimed the other two.
The ten-time New Zealand champion says the success gives him an extra boost as he heads stateside but realises the scale of the Chili Bowl means he’ll have to be at his best.
“It’s huge. It’s really important to have that confidence,” he adds. “At the same time, the racing here is so different to what it’s like overseas. It’s a style of racing that you can’t even compare.
“Although you’re racing the same guys, or even beating Buddy Kofoid, when you’re competing in the Chili Bowl or racing anywhere overseas, the style of racing and the tracks you race on are so different.
“We can definitely take some confidence from the international series form we’ve had, though, for sure.”
Other competitors in the field include Kofoid, Thomas ‘T-Mez’ Meseraull, who also competed in the New Zealand series, five-time champion Sammy Swindell, 2023 champion Logan Seavey and 2022 winner Tanner Thorson.
Header Image: Chili Bowl Nationals