(Special to Shawn Miller)
Several of the most well-known entities in Midget racing are teaming up for the 2018 Chili Bowl Nationals.
Swindell Motorsports is putting seven-time New Zealand Midget champion Michael Pickens in the No. 39 with support from Tim Bertrand of Bertrand Motorsports during the event, which runs Jan. 9-13 inside the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, Okla.
“I wasn’t going to run the Chili Bowl this year as we have a lot going on in New Zealand this summer, but when the Swindells ask you to drive their car you don’t say no,” Pickens said. “I’ve wanted a Golden Driller for so long now and this is an awesome opportunity to try and get one.”
Pickens finished a Chili Bowl career-best third in 2011 behind both Sammy and Kevin Swindell. Pickens charged from 19th to sixth place in 2005 to garner the Chili Bowl Rookie of the Year Award and he also reached the main event in 2010 when he ended 11th, in 2012 when he placed 15th and in 2014 when he finished 20th.
Pickens is the first driver Swindell Motorsports will have in the car outside of Kevin Swindell.
“I’ve raced with Michael a few times at the Chili Bowl and I ran a few times with him in New Zealand,” Sammy Swindell said. “He’s always been pretty quick in the Midget and done a good job.”
The opportunity wouldn’t be possible without the support of Bertrand Motorsports, which has been involved in Midget racing for approximately two decades and has recorded six championships.
“I met Sammy a couple of years ago through Dan Esslinger and we’ve become good friends,” Bertrand said. “Sammy has driven for me (in a pavement Midget). When he was out to our house this summer we talked about doing a deal for the Chili Bowl. I’m super excited to be teaming up with their team. I think Michael Pickens is as good as a driver as you could have.”
Kevin Swindell earned an unprecedented four straight Chili Bowl titles in the No. 39 from 2010-13.
“We’re excited to have Michael in the car,” he said. “He’s one of the guys you could say has a good chance at winning each year and I think he has the speed and mindset required to be successful during an event like the Chili Bowl.”