At the time this column was being written, I had just returned home following the completion of the 36th annual Tulsa Shootout.
Thankfully, many more got to witness parts of what is special about the Tulsa Shootout thanks to it being streamed on FloRacing.
Understandably, in the past people may have been hesitant about paying a nightly fee to watch a “micro race,” but now that many race fans have subscriptions it was an easy choice to tune in.
For people that have grown up in and graduated from the micro-sprint community, the Tulsa Shootout is the pinnacle of the genre, the ultimate measuring stick, and a yearly homecoming.
The level of competition at the Shootout has continued to grow over the years and has recently shot up dramatically. The quality of equipment in the building for the week is staggering.
Manufacturers and teams bring their best to Tulsa and the bar gets raised every year.
Carbon fiber bodies, titanium hardware, and engines costing upwards of $20,000, all of which used to be rare and reserved for house teams, are commonplace in the Expo building.
Unfortunately, the payout is nothing to write home about but, make no mistake, this is the one everyone wants to win, and many are not afraid to spend a large sum of money in order to try.
The amount of raw talent competing in the Shootout is staggering, and in my opinion gives micro-sprint racing an edge on being the foremost discipline to groom young drivers’ skills.
Nowhere else can a form of “hobby racing” allow you to compete side-by-side with full-time professional drivers that have asserted themselves as top talent in motorsports.
USAC standouts Tyler Courtney and Kevin Thomas both had quality rides this year and NASCAR star Christopher Bell assembled a team of his own to compete for a Golden Driller.
Some drivers in attendance have been able to make a profession out of micro racing, such as Frank Flud, Michael Faccinto, and Brian Carber, who together combine for hundreds upon hundreds of victories.
Local veterans such as Jonathan Beason, Chris Andrews, and Jason McDougal are also always a threat to win each year. An opportunity to compete with and learn from this caliber of competition is certainly invaluable to an up-and-coming racer.
Some may ask, why would someone like myself, or some of the professional drivers mentioned before, waste our time competing in the Tulsa Shootout? Fun. Fun is why.
In the ultra-competitive and fickle world of professional motorsports tensions are constantly high. The Tulsa Shootout gives drivers a chance to compete purely for enjoyment and the thrill of the challenge, without the worries of what each position pays or if their job is secure.
I, like many other drivers, grew up racing in the Tulsa Shootout and have made lifelong friends in the process. This event, much like the Chili Bowl, provides a once-a-year opportunity to catch up with those friends we enjoy so much.
Not surprisingly, Oklahoma drivers have been the dominant force in Tulsa Shootout competition since its inception. California, however, has long been a powerhouse as well, and continually brings a fleet of drivers with a shot to claim a Driller each year.
Recently, Pennsylvania has asserted itself as a premier region of micro competition, and Pennsylvania drivers have hauled four Drillers east in the last two years.
Each area of the country brings their own unique style and approach to racing, as well as their own stable of great drivers. Regional rivalry and pride can be intense and add another exciting and interesting dimension to an already extremely entertaining event.
All the above points illustrate how competitive and enjoyable the Tulsa Shootout can be, but in recent years the thing I enjoy the most is seeing how much fun my kids have during the week. No other race we attend throughout the year has quite the same atmosphere where the kids can have quite as much freedom.
There are no cars under power in the pits, and we know a majority of the people in attendance, so they can more or less safely come and go as they please with their friends.
My youngest, Linley, loves the attention she gets from my family and friends. My son Lowry walks with a little extra pep in his step as he gets to hang out with the “big kids” and, thanks in part to my mother, eat two servings of ice cream a day.
My oldest daughter, Levany, even had her first full non-family sleepover at a friend’s house, which was all the rage to her.
Levany and Lowry both seem to have increasing interest in the Junior Sprint division, so I foresee many more Tulsa Shootout visits in my future.