The Chili Bowl Nationals announced it would adopt the Uniform Midget Chassis Specs for 2025. Some team owners did not welcome the change. Chili Bowl officials countered by saying it came with good reason.
“We are having to enforce frame mandates because cars with tubing with wall thickness that are way too thin are winding up on outdoor tracks,” said Bryan Hulbert, PR for the Chili Bowl Nationals. “When a car that may be considered safe enough for racing on the 1/5-mile indoor oval winds up on a 3/8-mile oval, somebody is going to get hurt.”
In June 2023, three sanctions said they’d adopt the Uniform Midget Chassis Specs for 2024 — the United States Auto Club (USAC), Badger Midget Auto Racing Association (BMARA), Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series.
“The Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series’ commitment to driver safety remains unwavering,” Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series Director Tyler Bachman said in a press release. “The cooperation with our fellow racing organizations has been superb, and our sport is already more safe today with this groundbreaking new regulation of chassis manufacturing.”
The specs dictate the placement, diameter, and wall thickness of the tubes in the roll cages. However, several cars that compete in the Chili Bowl do not meet these standards. One of those teams is owned by Andy Bondio, of Torrance, California. His company, Bondio Fabrication, first built midgets for the now-defunct Ascot Park in 1988. Bondio has won the Chili Bowl three times. He did so once with driver Lealand McSpadden in 1991. Then twice with Corey Kruseman in 2000 and 2004. This year, Bondio fielded midgets for Brad Mosen and Zach Daum. Daum made it to the B-main in an event that drew 380 cars.
Bondio does not use downtube cars in the Chili Bowl. Instead, he fields mid-rail midgets. Bondio built a reputation for his fabrication skills beyond the Chili Bowl. His handiwork contributed to the Cunningham Racing Nissan 300ZX. It won the 1994 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall. It also scored the 24 Hours of Le Mans class win the same year.
“My cars are safe,” said Bondio. “The cage is 1-3/8″ tubing with .095″ wall. I’m so fed up. Not one official would talk to me about my cars. I take a month off from my other race car work to prepare my midgets for the Chili Bowl. What if I show up and can’t race next year.”
The Chili Bowl will continue to inspect cars as it has always done, with the exception of adding the chassis to its docket next year.
“As Emmett [Hahn] says in the drivers’ meeting, personal safety equipment is the driver’s responsibility,” Hulbert said. “We will inspect the frame, check to see that the correct tires are being used, and post-race we will pull the ignition box to make sure there is no traction control.”
Bondio questioned the rules.
“There were no rules in the beginning,” said Bondio. “You just can’t have a couple of rules. Rules lead to more rules. You can’t say that the chassis rule is for safety and not inspect throttle linkage, drivers’ belts and helmets.”
As far as the 2025 Chili Bowl Nationals, it will remain on Bondio’s calendar.
“This is not necessarily my last year at the Chili Bowl,” Bondio said.
The Outside Groove Director of Photography has written hundreds of stories since the website’s inception. This year marks his 54th year of covering auto racing. Adaskaveg got his start working for track photographer Lloyd Burnham at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway in 1970. Since then, he’s been a columnist, writer, and photographer, in racing and in mainstream media, for several outlets, including the Journal Inquirer, Boston Herald, Stock Car Racing, and Speedway Illustrated. Among Adaskaveg’s many awards are the 1992 Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Ace Lane Photographer of the Year and the 2019 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) George Cunningham Writer of the Year.