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(Cypress, CA, January 30, 2024) A little over a year ago, open-wheel racer Tommy Dunkel liked chili. However, after only three nights of racing in the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals inside the famous Sage Net Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he now loves the dish. So much so, that the Murrieta, California-based driver is already making plans to start racing midgets on the Left Coast this season so he can be ready for the 40th annual Chili Bowl 11 months from now.

To many, Dunkel is a newcomer to racing. In reality, that is far from the truth. He had a brief foray into lightning sprints and 360 sprint cars a few years ago. More recently, his Inland Rigging company became familiar to fans as a sponsor of longtime Southern California star Brody Roa. However, Dunkel wanted more. He had an itch to get back into a sprint car. He finally did that at the end of the 2022 season, when he finished 13th in the prestigious Turkey Night Grand Prix at the Ventura Raceway.

With the desires on fire, Dunkel entered the 2023 Chili Bowl. Things did not go as well as he had hoped. It was one night and done. He ran on his preliminary evening but called it a day before the Saturday finale.

In no way did the disappointment of the Chili Bowl deter Dunkel's open-wheel ambitions. He was back in his sanitary white #17A in select 360 races on the West Coast and would add in his first 410 endeavors in 2023. In addition, he and his wife Christy owned the #17R that Roa drove to the 2023 USAC/CRA championship. In addition to Roa taking the title and posting numerous victories, Dunkel scored his first sprint car win at the Ventura Raceway on April 8th.

Even though Dunkel met with success in the cockpit and as a car owner in 2023, the Chili Bowl was still boiling on his mind. He wanted another shot and he wanted to do it with a front-line car and team. Enter longtime crew chief Jimmy May and the Josh Ford Motorsports team. Known for fast cars and a top-notch crew led by May, they were just what Dunkel was looking for and a deal was set.

"They have been in that building so many times and they have had good success," Dunkel enthused about May and his crew. "Having that kind of confidence (in the crew and the equipment) going in was great. That helped me a ton. I knew I could go out there and drive really hard and do my best because I knew I had good equipment underneath me. You give them feedback and what they do with the wrenches from there is pretty amazing. Those guys know how to tune for that joint."

"Jimmy himself is such a natural," Dunkel continued. "He can watch the dust, he can watch the TVs there and he can gauge what the track is going to be like even if there are four or five races to go (before he got on the track). He knows what setup to put on by knowing what the track is going to do. It seemed like all of us were in sync in working with Jimmy and his crew guys. They are just spot on. Some of the hardest working crew guys that I have ever had wrenching for me. It was a pleasure working with them the whole weekend."

January in Oklahoma in no way resembles Arizona in July. Cold can permeate throughout the month and that can wreak havoc on the cars in the Chili Bowl. Fans are used to pump fresh air into the building from outside. That makes it anything but bikini-wearing conditions inside the massive SageNet Center. It negatively affects the engines on the cars that were referred to as "doodlebugs" three-quarters of a century ago.

"We were chasing the cold," Dunkel shivered recalling the temperatures in Oklahoma. "It was a really big factor. The temperature in the building was just shy of freezing. With how cold it was outside, the fans were pumping 10-degree air into the building."

Compounding the issues with the air were some unfortunate incidents that delayed Dunkel getting on the track.

"Unfortunately, every time before I went out something happened (on the track) in the race just prior," Dunkel laughed. "So I ended up sitting on the ramp a long time and the car was getting cold. That kind of factored into some of the issues we had but that is out of everybody's control. Everybody else was running into the problem with their cars getting cold, too. We were all dealt the same cards with the temperatures."

"My guys did not skip a beat," offered Dunkel. "They were wrapping the car in blankets and putting the engine heaters on it in staging. They did everything they could possibly do for me to make the car better. I would have liked to have done a little better but I could not have been happier (with May and the crew)."

With more laps at this year's Chili Bowl and the guidance of May and his crew, Dunkel is already making plans for 2025. He is teaming with May for four, five, or six midget races this year including the Turkey Night Grand Prix in November.

Dunkel wants to thank his family, Jimmy May, crewmen Sam and Charlie, the Tafoya Family, Specialty Fasteners, Malyssa Perkins, and Inland Rigging for making his Chili Bowl racing endeavor possible.

This Saturday, Roa and the Dunkel's will receive their just rewards for last year's CRA title at a banquet in Riverside, California. After that, it will be back in the shop getting the cars ready for the upcoming USAC/CRA and USCS seasons. Some exciting team news is on the horizon. Stay tuned.

Dunkel would like to thank the following 2024 season sprint car sponsors. Inland Rigging, Dunkel Farms, Specialty Fasteners, BR Motorsports, King Racing Products, Osborne Speed & Machine, Maverick Transport, and HBC. If you would like to join this championship team for another title run this year, please contact Dunkel using the information at the top of this release.

Tom Dunkel's 2024 Racing Results

1/11/24 SageNet Center Chili Bowl Midget Nationals 8th C Feature

1/13/24 SageNet Center Chili Bowl Midget Nationals 11th L Feature

This release was produced by Scott Daloisio Sports (909) 226-7768 mailto:sdaloisiosports@gmail.com