Tulsa's Reputation For Racing: NASCAR Champ Kyle Busch Shares Legacy With Son

For two weeks a year, all eyes in the racing world are on Tulsa, and some of the biggest names are in town. The racing year ends with the Tulsa Shootout in the SageNet Expo, and the new year begins with the Chili Bowl.

Thursday, January 11th 2024, 8:57 pm



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For two weeks a year, all eyes in the racing world are on Tulsa, and some of the biggest names are in town. The racing year ends with the Tulsa Shootout in the SageNet Expo, and the new year begins with the Chili Bowl.

Both events have tripled in size in the last decade and have become a family affair for even the biggest names in NASCAR.

The events are packed with thousands of racers, from low-budget teams to full-time dirt track racers to millionaires who race the NASCAR circuit. In Tulsa, it becomes a level playing field, and everyone has the same goal: win a Golden Driller trophy.

"There's a lot of people, who see me as a superstar. I'd see me as a normal 'Joe' just here wanting to have fun with my kid,” Kyle Busch said. “Everybody is respectful. They come up and say, ‘Hey, what's going on?’ They want to hear a little bit about your story, a little bit about what you did through the year, then it's on to business from there."

Kyle is a two-time NASCAR Cup champ, one of the biggest names in the sport, and one of the best racers ever. He now spends his New Year's camped out in the expo with his family, racing dirt. Kyle said the real superstar in the family is his eight-year-old son Brexton, who has become a bit of a social media sensation.

"I'm really excited to be back,” Brexton said.

Brexton isn't your average kid. Besides being the son of a famous racer, Brexton is home-schooled because he races full-time. He just won the championship at his home track in North Carolina, but Brexton said the Tulsa Shootout is his favorite race of the year.

"The Golden Driller. I just want one of those,” Brexton said. “It's like all the kids from California, all over the world, I like that."

Kyle said the main reason they started coming to Tulsa was for Brexton, and Kyle's love for dirt quickly grew. He said even at the highest levels of racing, people know about Tulsa and know how big of a deal it is to win here.

"All these racers here, they culminate here in Tulsa, in the Expo Center, in order to be able to go out and have some fun and try to win a Golden Driller,” Kyle said. "There are a lot more dirt stars that have come up through the ranks that are now racing in NASCAR, so it is pretty fun to kind of talk with those guys, hear some of their background and history and the things they've done, but for us to be able to come here, everybody is on equal turf."

Emmett Hahn founded the Tulsa Shootout in 1986 and, shortly after, started the Chili Bowl. Hahn said this all started out as just guys racing; now, the biggest names in the sport want a taste of it.

"I'm kinda like a little kid. I can't wait for it to start, and then I can't wait til it's over,” Hahn said.

After a great racing career himself, Hahn put his focus on building world-class racing events, but he had no idea what it would turn into. New records are set every year for the number of driver entries, and the Chili Bowl alone brings in $31 million to the Tulsa economy. USA Today named the Chili Bowl a top three race in the entire world.

"You can't go anywhere in the world that people don't know about the Chili Bowl. And I'd like to take credit for that, but it's the talent of the racers that's out on the racetrack. They put on such a good show. And there's a lot of dirt track race fans around the country,” Hahn said.

Hahn said he has met families who come to the Chili Bowl every year for their family reunions. He said it's a melting pot of people who come together for the best racing in the world.

"You have ditch diggers that come here. And you have CEOs that come here,” Hahn said.

Hahn said Kyle, along with racing legends like Tony Stewart, are some of the many big names who helped turn these events into something so special.

"You'd be surprised how many people run the Daytona 500 or cup racing who come to the shootout. I mean the people like Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, I mean, Christopher Bell, the list just goes on,” he said.

NASCAR racers like Bell now own their own racing teams and bring cars to the Shootout and Chili Bowl for other drivers to race.

Hahn said racing has helped put Tulsa on the map, and in turn, these two massive events have fed the popularity of dirt track racing. More kids, and girls, are getting into the sport than ever before.

"The greatest thing about this -- Tulsa, Oklahoma is centrally located for the population in the United States. We're in a huge building. We're not gonna get rained out. And that's why we have people, spectators come in from New Zealand, Australia, the UK, we got spectators from everywhere," Hahn said.

The Golden Driller was just out of reach for Brexton this year, but Brexton, his dad, and thousands of others will be back next year, chasing the same dream.

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