Avidisian has momentum on its side
Jade Avedisian was named the 37th Annual Chili Bowl Nationals’ Rookie of the Year. (Photo by Richard Bales)
When Jade Avedisian rolled her Midget No. 84 off the ramp and onto the dirt at Oklahoma’s Tulsa Expo racetrack for the hot laps of the Chili Bowl Nationals, she wasn’t quite sure what she was getting into.
Although she previously raced on the makeshift track inside the SageNet Center during the Tulsa Shootout, it was her 16-year-old’s first year in the Chili Bowl.
The first thing I felt was a nervous thud as the tires neared the track. The second thing I experienced on Tuesday night’s intro was a small victory. Avedisian set fast times during the hot laps, boosting her confidence on her way to the heat race.
She finished second in her classification, finished in the top three during her heat and finished third in Tuesday’s A feature. With her performance, the Clovis, California, native became the highest female finisher in the history of the event.
“It was definitely a lot of pressure, because I wanted to lock in so badly. Unfortunately, I didn’t close the door, but I wasn’t too mad about taking the podium. Only the top two winners in the preliminary evening features earn a place in the coveted main event on Saturday.
Reflecting on her preliminary performance, Avedissian identified one moment as the move that likely cost her the victory.
When Spencer slipped [Bayston] And Hank [Davis] In the third turn, I followed Hank into one, and ended up getting tight. I could have come out first from right behind,” Avedissian recalls. “That kind of hurt, because I could have had a chance to win.”
However, she kept her hopes high by moving up to the B major on Saturday. Its initial goal was to make the feature more accessible.
With a front row start in her B feature, Avedisian skillfully cycled her midget Chad Boat Industries into second place over a quarter mile, becoming the second woman to gain entry to the A feature.
Of the 365 entries, Avedisian was one of 24 drivers with a chance of winning Saturday’s gold rig.
Kylie Bryson also secured a spot in the 55-lap feature for the second year in a row.
Ranked 13th, Avedissian was off to a good start.
“We did a really good job, I felt it,” Avedissian said. “At one point we were running ninth and looking eighth.”
It was arguably Chili Bowl’s luck that hit the 16-year-old on the first restart. The air pressure in her tires went down – or the bleeding stopped – and it took about five laps for her to fix the tires.
“By then, I was 18,” Avedissian said. “Knowing I couldn’t get back out there, because of the rubber, it was frustrating. I was just trying to keep my cool, because there were still 35 laps left.”
Avedissian finished 18th – matching Bryson’s finish from 2022.
“There’s a lot to be proud of, but at the same time, I wish I had a top-ten finish on Saturday,” said Avedissian. “Looking for more next year.”
However, the California native did not return home empty-handed.
Among the more than 80 rookies who made their debut in the Chili Bowl this year, Avedisian was named rookie of the year. Notable past receivers include Corey Day (22), Donnie Schatz (17), and Tyler Courtney (11). She was also the inaugural recipient of the Fuzzy Hahn Highest Finishing Female Award, and her introductory performance earned her the Jason Leffler Elbows Up honor.
Although she isn’t sure of what’s next in regards to her upcoming season, Avedissian is certain of one thing.
“When you have a good week or you’re racing, you go into the next weekend with a little bit of momentum,” said Avedissian. “I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do in the race, but I know I’ll have a little bit of momentum on my side.”