It does not take a professional racing career, corporate sponsor and large team to be competitive in the “Super Bowl of midget racing.”
That is something Caney, Kansas native Andrew Deal and his family held onto this week as the small business owner raced against hundreds of drivers, 11 NASCAR national series regulars among them, at the Chili Bowl Nationals at the Tulsa Expo Center.
Deal placed 7th in the D-main race Saturday after qualifying in a Thursday race, despite a small wreck. While he did not move on in the competition — the top five in the D-main qualified for the next race — Deal’s final position placed him ahead of hundreds of drivers.
“(In sports) If you have a lot of money, you can pay your way into it. You’re only as good as the equipment you’re in. The Chili Bowl is a little different in that it puts everyone on kind of the same playing field,” Deal said.
“I work for a living … It didn’t work out for me to be a professional racecar driver. But, I can go there and prove that I do have the talent to compete with guys who do it every day.”
Racing has been a family affair for Deal, whose father was introduced to micro-sprint racing by coworkers at the Phillips 66 Research Center in Bartlesville. Deal began racing at 13 and eventually was traveling every weekend for regional races, with his parents, Mike and Karen Deal, coordinating races, working on the car and acting as a “pit crew.”
“I’ve always enjoyed automotive and fuel technology. I got to do that at the Research Center, so I learned the details and can apply it to racing. My niche, my passion is making a racecar go faster on a dirt track,” Mike Deal said.
“That’s my challenge and Andrew’s the driver, he’s got a gift to drive.”
Eventually, Andrew Deal opened DFR Discount Tire in Dewey and, more recently, got married and had a baby.
While he once thought about racing professionally, he decided against the lifestyle of frequent traveling to stay close to his family. Still though, he frequently competes in regional competitions, often placing in the top five or 10.
He travels for less races than he once did, but Andrew Deal said that each year, the Chili Bowl is a must.
“It’s right here in our backyard so it gives a lot of our local talent to showcase on a national stage where they would never get that opportunity in any other sport,” Andrew Deal said.
“All those years of laps I ran there, you kind of learn how to race the track. That kind of makes up for the fact that I don’t have unlimited funds for motors and cars … but we do have my dad and I’s knowledge of the track. That makes up for some of the gaps.”
Through years of competing on the local racing circuit, Andrew Deal and his family made connections and built support, getting to know others who also attend certain races each year.
He has also developed somewhat of a following. For the Chili Bowl each year, Andrew Deal has a couple hundred shirts made, of which he sells out.
While the Chili Bowl allows Andrew Deal the chance to compete with the likes of title winners Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, it also provides his family the chance to connect with friends they have made through other races.
“The Chili Bowl is an event where the best in the world are there. We as a family still go participate in it on our own. There’s only a few people that do that anymore on their own. We have some pride in that,” Mike Deal said.
“It gives you a lot of satisfaction for your accomplishment as a family that you’re getting to do it as a family.”
Before the competition each year, Andrew Deal is even able to make and sell several-hundred t-shirts to supporters.
Now that he has a family, Karen Deal said Andrew will be able to include them in the experience.
“You make a lot of memories with the road trips at the different tracks,” she said.