TULSA, Okla.—Enter Tulsa Expo Center, and it’s impossible to miss the elephant in the room.
Toyota Racing’s crown jewel of midget racing—Keith Kunz Motorsports—sits front and center with its eight cars aligned in front of the jumbo screen. The KKM juggernaut has collected the last five Golden Drillers—the iconic trophy that’s awarded to the winner of the Chili Bowl Nationals.
But with three-time winner Christopher Bell moving to his own equipment at Tucker-Boat Motorsports and Kyle Larson, who won the last three USAC midget races in November after venturing out on his own, now could be a good time for the competition to make a move.
And team owner Scott Petry is no exception.
“Keith has a great program,” Petry said. “He’s worked hard to get where he is. He’s set the bar pretty high for us, but it has made everybody work harder. We worked harder this past summer, and it has paid off.
“I think it has made Keith work harder—and he’ll tell you the same thing.”
Petry is no stranger to racing. The Greenfield, Indianan has been involved in racing for more than 25 years. Although his focus had shifted to semi-retirement, after a trip to Tulsa five years ago, Petry jokes he was “sucked back in.”
Last year, Petry ran his first full season of USAC competition with Kevin Thomas Jr., 28, and Jerry Coons Jr., 47, who will lead his five-midget roster for the 33rd Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. Tanner Carrick, who turns 18 on Friday, joins Petry following three seasons with KKM.
“I feel like our chances are as good as anybody’s,” Petry said. “Last part of the year, we really came into our own. As a team, we’re coming together, and with the addition of a couple of guys, I think we’re sitting pretty good.
“K.T. is a fierce competitor—he has some experience and is becoming a veteran in the midgets. We get a lot of good feedback from him, the same as with Jerry. Jerry Coons is a (USAC) Triple Crown Winner. His record stands alone. Jerry works with his kid a lot, but he still spends a lot of time with us. He brings a lot to the table.
“Tanner came to us from KKM and was ready to do things a little bit different. He’s a young kid with a lot of talent. We’re really looking forward to see how we can groom him with mentoring from K.T. and Jerry.”
Veteran Harley Hollan, 48, and IndyCar driver Conor Daly, 27, round out the Petry Motorsports CBN stable. Hollan is making his seventh appearance at his home track. In 2018 POWRi competition, he scored three wins and six podiums racing in the 600cc Outlaw MicroSeries. His daughter Holley races for KKM.
“Harley has been a friend of mine for years,” Petry said. “He always said he wanted to run a good car—and a Toyota—at Chili Bowl. So we’re going to make it happen.”
Over the last few years, Daly has split his time between IndyCar, USAC, IMSA and NASCAR. He competed in three races for Petry Motorsports last year, and the owner described the experience as “a blast.”
“I think Conor will do pretty good at the Chili Bowl,” Petry added. “He had a couple of phenomenal nights at Phoenix and became really comfortable in the car.”
Following the Chili Bowl Nationals, Petry Motorsports will field USAC midgets for Thomas, Coons and Carrick in 2020 as well as a POWRi Midget schedule for 15-year-old Emerson Axsom.
Petry enlisted the services of Terry Goff, who has 15 United Midget Racing Association (UMRA) championships and 120 feature wins, to oversee the operation.
“We’re excited about where we’re headed,” Petry said.