Dream Recipe: Todd Bertrand Ready For Chili Bowl Nationals Debut In January 

Todd Bertrand celebrates with his son Tucker after winning a NEMA Lites event in April at Thompson Speedway (Photo: Courtesy NEMA)

When it comes to Dirt Midget racing in the United States the granddaddy of events is the annual Chili Bowl Nationals at the Tulsa Expo Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Chili Bowl, which will run from Jan. 9 to Jan. 14, is a six-day grind of racing leading up to a main event considered to be essentially the Super Bowl of indoor motorsports. 

Todd Bertrand of Danielson has had the chance to experience the off the charts energy of the Chili Bowl as a fan. Now the 2020 NEMA Midget champion will get the chance at living out the dream of experiencing that energy and drama as a driver on the quarter-mile clay bullring.

Bertrand will drive as a teammate to the legendary Sammy Swindell at the 37th running of the event next month. 

“Its pretty exciting stuff,” the 31-year old Bertrand said. “I’ve gone a couple times and I’ve always dreamed of actually building a car like the one that I’m driving. Something built for the Chili Bowl that is super lightweight and getting the chance to work with a guy like Sammy to do it. The dream is becoming a reality.” 

The Bertrand Motorsports team has built a tight relationship with Swindell in recent years. Swindell has raced NEMA events for the team and Bertrand Motorsports has helped supply motors to Swindell in recent years for the Chili Bowl. 

“We’ve built a great relationship with Sammy,” Bertrand said. “He’s run for us with our NEMA stuff. Sammy called me a few months and asked me if I would be interested in driving for him at the Chili Bowl. I pretty much didn’t know what to say except for ‘Hell yeah’”.

Bertrand will race a car that Swindell’s son Kevin won the Chili Bowl Nationals with four consecutive times from 2010-2013. 

“It’s just a very expensive deal doing this on your own,” Bertrand said. “Typically guys are renting their cars out to people. Without having a lot of dirt experience it would be hard for me justify renting a car for like $15,000 to do one event. After the costs of traveling and everything else that goes with it, it would be like a $25,000 experience. I wouldn’t want to do that. With him providing a car that’s won the event four times, that’s a pretty special deal. Definitely one that I couldn’t pass up.” 

Bertrand got his start in racing at 12 years old running on dirt at the old Whip City Speedway in Westfield, Mass. He spent about 10 years running regularly in dirt Micro Sprint events around the Northeast. He began running asphalt in NEMA Lites events at 17 years old. While asphalt racing has been Bertrand’s focus in recent years, he has continued to dabble in dirt events sporadically.

“Racing dirt is a lot of fun,” Bertrand said. “It’s just very technical. I definitely have a good amount of experience doing it.” 

The Chili Bowl features five consecutive days of qualifying events leading up to a wild Saturday schedule. The ultra-dramatic “Alphabet Soup” lineup of qualifying heats on Saturday sets the field for the main event. 

“Basically, half the battle is having a good car and good experience to help you make adjustments as the track changes,” Bertrand said. “The rest is your mindset. Just knowing that you’re a good driver and that you put your pants on the same way that all these guys other do. And there’s luck. So when it comes to the format you either have to draw a really good number and start at the front in your heat race and win the heat race and collect the points or you’ve got to start in the back and stay out of trouble and pass a few cars and earn points that way. You’ve got to be on the money, you’ve got to be aggressive, but you’ve got to be smart at the same time. You can’t take yourself out. What I’m going be focused on is keeping my nose clean and minimizing mistakes.” 


  1. I’m having a bowl of chili for lunch today.

  2. Stuart A Fearn says

    Great racing family with Gil, Todd, Tim, and now Nora Bertrand winning in the quarter midgets. 100% racers and everything is full commitment to first class quality and preparedness in the car, team, and equipment.
    Best of luck to Todd and the Bertrand and Swindell families at this years Chili Bowl!

  3. The Chili Bowl currently has 241 entrants a month before the event. Last year they had around 320 entries. One of my favorite parts of the Chili Bowl is seeing the track walk of all the drivers by state. I always look forward to seeing the New England states. There is usually a lonely one or two drivers from the Northeast states like MA or CT compared to some 30 plus from California. I always try to follow the locals throughout the event. They probably have over half the States represented by drivers. Its truly a national event.

    For a small indoor track with a ton of racing over the course of a week the racing is pretty good. I believe this will be on Flo. If you have Flo try to check it out. There are usually a couple of local guys giving it a go against some of the best dirt racers in the country. If you like Nascar, there are a bunch of cup drivers among the entrants. Its the only event that keeps a running tally of the flip count over the course of the event.

  4. Hopefully still on MAVTV

  5. Amen to being on MAVTV. DVR it and watch when you want and as many times as you want.

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