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Torque of the Town

The largest event for micro sprint racing in the country, the Tulsa Shootout is a grand celebration of dirt track auto racing that draws over 1,000 entries from nearly 35 states and three countries.

Article
John Tranchina
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
November 29, 2017

A grand celebration of dirt track auto racing for all ages, the Tulsa Shootout has turned into a breeding ground for the next generation of driving stars, primarily featuring smaller-size cars. Along with its sister event run by the same group, the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in January, the Shootout has established Tulsa prominently on the racing world map.

“This is the micro event, the 600-cc motorcycle engine-driven micro sprint cars. If you want to talk about the micro and midget scene, Tulsa is very big,” says Bryan Hulbert, publicist-announcer for the Tulsa Shootout. “The Shootout draws over 1,000 entries, from nearly 35 states across the country and three different countries, and you’ve got the Chili Bowl, which draws in drivers from nearly 40 states an five countries. And the economic impact of this event on the Tulsa area — the Chili Bowl alone is upward of $15 million of what it brings into the local economy. You bring the Shootout into that, you’re getting closer to $20 million. It’s huge for the local economy.”

The Shootout has also gained a reputation among drivers across the country as one of the best events to race in.

“There’s no comparison, everybody wants to win it, it’s a really big, prestigious race for everybody,” says Blake Hahn, a local from the Tulsa suburb of Sapulpa who is the Shootout’s winningest driver in the modern classes — and he’s just 22 years old. “That’s what they talk about all year long, and being able to win brings bragging rights for the whole year.”

Hahn actually started racing at 8, and the Tulsa Shootout has races for kids as young as 6 years old.

“You get the kids who do quarter midgets and junior karts and all that, then they move up into junior sprints, and they progress into what we call our A class,” Hulbert explains. “They can go to Outlaw and then they can go to midgets, sprint cars, modified late models, but those are the little bitty kids. Really, the point of that class is to teach car control, fair play, how to read a race track, and to know that you’re not out there playing bumper cars. These are fully open-wheel cars, and they will flip and it will hurt.”

Most kids first get started in racing because of the influence of family members, usually their parents. That’s how Hahn first got into it. His grandfather, Emmett, owned a track in Kellyville, and wound up co-founding the Tulsa Shootout in 1985, along with Lanny Edwards, one year before they also started the Chili Bowl.

Hahn’s father was also heavily involved in racing, and it just seemed inevitable that he would become a driver himself.

“My grandfather raced forever and my dad kind of did the same. I grew up going to races every weekend, and it was something I really enjoyed,” says Hahn, who was the Lucas Oil ASCS National Rookie of the Year in 2014. “I was fortunate enough that my dad and my grandpa had pretty good influence on me; they taught me a lot growing up. My dad made me work on the car a lot when I was younger and that kind of benefits me quite a bit now, looking back on it.”

It was a big stage to start on, but Hahn actually participated in his first race at the Tulsa Shootout in 2004.

Hahn’s victory in the junior sprint race in 2006 at 10 was the first of his six iconic Golden Driller trophies, claiming championships in four different divisions over the years (and a runner-up finish in a fifth). He has won three of the last five titles in the ECOtec category and he’ll be racing again this year, looking to add to his total.

The variety of different car classifications encompassed by the Tulsa Shootout is one of its appealing characteristics, with many drivers racing in more than one.

“That’s one thing that’s neat about it — you could actually bring one car and run four classes,” Hulbert says. “We have what’s called our stock class, which is basically, as the name implies, it’s a 600-cc engine, straight out of a motorcycle, put it in a micro, go race. You can’t mess with it, board out, do anything like that. Then we have our outlaw class, which you can board up to 630 ccs. You can do all the headwork you want, you can do all this great stuff to it, and go way faster. But you can actually run what we call an A class car, in four different divisions, between your stock division and your outlaw division. It just depends on how much you want to race.”

And the fact that all the action occurs indoors is another unique feature of the Shootout.

“It’s all inside the River Spirit Expo Center — the track, the stands, the pit area, everything,” Hulbert says. “The lower level, on the east end of the building, that’s where the track is. And there are grandstands on three sides of it, on the front straightaway, back straightaway, and where it goes up to the upper level, there’s 35 rows of grandstands that go up there. Behind that, all the way to the very west wall of that building is the pit area. So we got 22 acres of building, and we’re able to fit trucks, trailers, cars, equipment, everything. It is the biggest redneck puzzle you’ve ever seen in your life.”

LOCATOR
33rd Annual Tulsa Shootout
Expo Square
4145 E. 21st St. | Tulsa
tulsashootout.com
Dec. 27-31