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(Menifee, CA, February 1, 2023) For Southern California racing aficionado Tommy Dunkel, the month of January was an extension of Christmas. To start the year, the Menifee, California racer took part in the world-famous Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the very first time. If that wasn’t enough, he became the car owner of the USAC/CRA Sprint Car team that features star driver Brody Roa. The new owner/driver combo swept to victory in two races in Arizona at the end of the month.

The Chili Bowl, which drew over 350 cars, marked Dunkel’s initial time racing a midget. Widely known as the biggest midget race in the world, it matches drivers from a variety of different disciplines of racing including NASCAR, Indy Cars, NHRA, USAC Sprint Cars & Midgets, and World of Outlaws Sprint Cars. For most, including Dunkel, it is a dream to be a part of the show. He was over the moon to be a part of the program that was staged in the massive SageNet Center and was shown around the world on Flo Racing and MAVTV.

Getting to race the Dunkel Farms/Inland Rigging/Osborn Speed and Machine/United Asset Sales/Southside Mowers sponsored Boss Chassis/Esslinger, Dunkel finally flew into action on night four of the six evening event (all drivers compete once in the first five days and come back for Saturday’s finale). Dunkel’s first race was an eight-lap heat against a tough field of drivers. Forced wide on the start, he ended up with a seventh-place finish.

The heat race outcome placed Dunkel in one of the night’s two C mains. The midget rookie started 14th in the rough-and-tumble affair and came home 12th. That put him in one of the very early Saturday preliminary main events and meant he would have to make more transfers than anyone in the history of the Chili Bowl to make the A main. Being a rookie along with some car issues, Dunkel knew his chances of that happening were impossible.

“Our prelim was Thursday and we kind of really struggled with the car,” Dunkel said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the best of equipment. After Thursday I just decided to sit out Saturday’s alphabet soup. I really wanted to run but for some safety reasons and just not really getting the car to work for me, I decided to bow out.”

While he exited the event early, it does not mean Dunkel is done with midget racing. In fact, quite the contrary. The exhilaration of being a part of such a high-profile race and being on the track with superstar drivers bit him hard and he now has the itch to get back to Tulsa. In fact, he is already making plans to be a part of the show in the upcoming years.

“Racing a midget was a lot different (from racing a sprint car) but I will tell you, I am hooked,” Dunkel enthused about the experience. “To see a midget in the Inland Rigging stable is not too far-fetched anymore. Honestly, it will probably be just for the Chili Bowl. I can definitely see making that a yearly deal. With the sprint car thing getting as serious as it is right now, I don’t know if I will have a whole lot of time to race a midget on the West Coast.”

“I really enjoyed it and they are a lot of fun,” Dunkel continued about his first foray into the lightweight cars. “The power-to-weight ratio is pretty high on them. They are really responsive cars to drive. I enjoyed it, and it was a thrill. In my heat race, I was lined up next to Shuman (Casey Shuman). My practice session had Rico Abreu and a few other big names. It was nerve-wracking, but I had some fast guys to follow. The nerves were at a solid 10 just walking into that place. The prestige that comes with that race is huge. To be able to compete there was a pretty big milestone for me.”

Soon after the Chili Bowl ended, Dunkel met with veteran racer Roa and took on some more duties fielding a car for the star driver in this year’s USAC/CRA Series. To say the least, they got off to a dream start when Roa swept the two opening races at Arizona’s Cocopah Speedway last weekend.

“We are over the top really,” happy car owner Dunkel said on Sunday. “We were hoping for a decent run with a brand new car, new team, and a whole new package. To go out there and sweep the weekend was a little unexpected. We are just over the top about it.”’

Brody Roa scored two wins in the Dunkel Farms #17R last week in Arizona. A.J. Johnson photo.

After three weeks away from the track, Dunkel will return to action when the USAC West Coast Sprint Car Series opens its 2023 campaign on the Dirt Track at the Kern County Raceway in Bakersfield on February 25th. From that day through the first week in July, Inland Rigging cars, with Dunkel or Roa behind the wheel, will be racing every single weekend before getting a week off.

Dunkel would like to thank the following for making the team’s racing efforts possible. Inland Rigging, Dunkel Farms, United Asset Sales, Osborne Speed & Machine, Sander Engineering, “Biker” Bruce Fischer, ALR Virtual Services, Burris Racing, Caltrol, Competition Suspension, K-1 Race Gear, Molecule, Rod End Supply, Driven Racing Oil, Baldwin Filters, and NGK Spark Plugs. If you or your company would like to join the team for a full year of USAC Sprint Car competition in 2023, please give Tommy Dunkel a call at 951-901-5082 or send an email to

Tommy Dunkel’s 2023 Racing Results

1-12-23 Tulsa SageNet Center Chili Bowl Midget Nationals 12th C Main

Brody Roa’s 2023 Racing Results

1-27-23 Cocopah Speedway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars 1st A Main

1-28-23 Cocopah Speedway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars 1st A Main

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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