Karl to Debut in Midget at 2020 Chili Bowl Nationals

Cody Karl sets his focus on debuting in the Chili Bowl in January 2020, much like the focus he needed at places such Mobile Speedway, pictured here from 2019. (Eddie Richie/Turn 1 Photos)

TULSA, Oklahoma (January 8, 2020) — At 21 years old, Gulfport, Mississippi’s Cody Karl has established himself as a talented sprint car driver in the Deep South and Gulf Coast regions of the country, racing both asphalt and dirt, winged and non-winged cars. Karl is now eyeing his next challenge; debuting behind the wheel of a midget car at the 34th Annual Chili Bowl Nationals in the Tulsa Expo Center next week.

Karl will piloting a car out of the Ed Lee Racing stable in a deal that was three years in the making, alongside teammates Blake Carrier and Brad Bowden. The car Karl will be driving is a brand new, untested machine, but Karl is confident in the skill and ability of his team and their preparation of the car.

“A good buddy of mine, Ed Lee owns a few midgets and actually gave me my start in a sprint car and,” said Karl. “We’d been talking about it up there with him for the last three years… watching and helping him with his cars. He called me about three months ago and asked if I’d be interested in running the Chili Bowl. I told him absolutely. Then we they hit the ground running and haven’t looked back yet.”

“It’s very unlike me, but I’ve actually done no work on the car, except mount the seat,” said Karl when asked about what has gone into preparing the car.

“I’ve been in Jacksonville busy with Jett Motorsports on the asphalt Late Model side of things and I haven’t got to see the midget car but twice.” 

Not only will Karl be going into Tulsa having never driven this new car, he himself has never driven a midget car. His plan is simple… go full throttle into the weekend from the drop of the first green flag in practice, all the way through the rest of the event.

“We’re just going to go straight to the show and see if we can’t get ourselves a “Driller”, said Karl. “I’ve got a bunch of trust in the guys that have built this car and I believe that they’ve got it prepared. So when I go out there and they drop the green, I’m going to run six qualifying laps to see what we have and go from there.”

Karl said he’s more comfortable on asphalt, and was on track and down an asphalt Late Model racing path, competing in Late Models at places like Mobile International Speedway in Alabama and Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. That plan was cut short in 2014 after a crash all but ended his hopes to race in Late Models.

“I  started off in go karts, went to a legend cars and when we got done with that we were on to asphalt late models. Then we got in a bad wreck at Pensacola… took about two years off before we moved on to sprint car racing.”

This led Karl to sprint cars, where he has thrived ever since, also racing in Mobile, but all across the south, including his hometrack in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Karl hasn’t completely left the late model word, however. Karl’s day job is as a crew member for Jett Motorsports out of Jacksonville, Florida. There, he works with the team in support of Stephen Nasse, Jeff Choquette, and Jett Noland.

“Yeah, I moved down there in the middle of the summer,” he said “I work for them full time and do whatever we got to do from sweeping the floor to, you know, whatever needs to be done. I’ve probably been home (Gulfport, Mississippi) four times since I’ve lived down here (Jacksonville, Florida).”

“It’s something,” he added. “It’s awesome to be so young and work for a professional race car team. This is what I’ve dreamed of doing and you know, you’re doing the right thing when you wake up every morning and you’re excited to get to work.” 

While his day job keeps him deep in the racing world, his focus right now is at the Chili Bowl, and while he is going into the event as a rookie to both the race and the style of car, he expects to succeed out of the gate.

“I’ve actually got quite a bit of confidence,” he said. “Good runs this past season in an open wheel car kind of boosted that and I’m in some very good equipment.”

The path to the “Golden Driller” is a steep mountain for not only Cody Karl, but for every competitor in Tulsa as well. There are over 350 entries for this year’s Chili Bowl, and most of them will have to navigate the infamous “alphabet soup” of preliminary races leading up to final A-Main.

“It really all comes down to luck,” he added. “If we can get some good luck and get through our heat and that’ll maybe put us in our prelim nice. Then it will be all up to me to see if we can’t lock it into Saturday.”

When asked why debut in this style of car at an event as monumental as the Chili Bowl, Karl didn’t hesitate to iterate the old adage of beating the best to be the best.

“I always think to better yourself, you need to race against the best,” he said. “So we’ll jump in there with them and I’ll learn from the best as I get going. I think it will speed up the process of learning. And, it’s the Chili Bowl, what else do you have to do in January?”

PixelatedSPEED will follow along Cody Karl’s journey at the Tulsa Expo Center, and whatever the result, will follow up with the story of his debut effort in the Chili Bowl Nationals.

Looking beyond the Chili Bowl, Karl already has a couple more races planned, in addition to his duties at Jett Motorsports.

“So we’re going to kick off our sprint car with the pavement stuff at Showtime Speedway to do the Dave Steele race… 125 laps. And then we’re going to go to the Little 500 in Anderson, Indiana. That’s our main two races this year. I’m sure we’ll throw some dirt shows in there, maybe some other pavement stuff, and make the trip over to Mobile.

The 34th Annual Chili Bowl Nationals kicks off with the preliminary qualifying events on Monday, January 13th, with intense indoor racing throughout the next week, culminating in the featured C, B and A-Main races on Saturday, January 18th.

Those looking to follow along should look no further than the RacinBoys.com, which will have a PPV for all the preliminary events leading up to the Saturday show which will air on MAVTV and be streamed on Lucas Oil Racing TV.

– Daniel Vining, Twitter: @danielvining

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PixelatedSPEED is a motorsports news and views website covering all things racing and has been “Bringing Pixels 2 Pavement Since 2018”.