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Sarah Fisher, brother-in-law ready to take a bite out of Chili Bowl

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Sarah Fisher is hungry for some chili. But instead of cheese or onions, she’ll take her chili with a heaping side of dirt – as in the 2016 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget National, which takes place this week in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Fisher began practicing on the dirt track Monday at the Tulsa Expo Raceway inside the River Spirit Expo Center. The five-day event begins Tuesday with qualifying and several heat races, which continues through Friday. Saturday is the final championship round, with 24 drivers competing in the A/Feature.

Fisher and Kyle O’Gara are competing on the same team, SFH Racing Development, for the second consecutive year.

Fisher and O’Gara are part of a Chili Bowl record 335-driver field, with drivers from 24 states and five countries. There are also eight previous Chili Bowl winners, including last year’s champ, aspiring NASCAR driver Rico Abreu.

Fisher’s first start in the Chili Bowl last year was her first race of any type since competing in the 2010 IndyCar season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“Last year I was able to cross the Chili Bowl off my bucket list,” Fisher said in a media release. “But the electric atmosphere and high levels of competition that it brings wasn’t something I could pass up this year.

“Last year was my first experience with midgets on dirt, and it was a challenge. I’m really looking forward to this challenge again.”

Fisher will drive car No. 67SF, while O’Gara will pilot the No. 27R. O’Gara will qualify Wednesday, while Fisher will qualify Thursday.

O’Gara, Fisher’s brother-in-law, is making his fourth try in the Chili Bowl and is coming off an outstanding season in the USSA MKMS Midget Series, winning 12 of 19 races and the championship.

“The Chili Bowl is an event I look forward to every year,” O’Gara said. “I’ve been competing for four years, but every year the level of competition raises.

“It’s such a fun event to attend, let alone to compete in. I’ve had a great year racing midgets and I hope to continue that this week with SFH Racing Development.”

Added Fisher, “Andy (O’Gara, Fisher’s husband) and I really enjoy working with Kyle on his short-track efforts through SFH Racing Development, and it’s going to be a lot of fun for him and I to both compete at the Chili Bowl again this year.”

For more information or to keep track of how drivers are doing throughout the week, go to www.chilibowl.com. Also, Fisher and O’Gara will be active on Twitter (@SarahFisher, @Kyleogara) and Instagram (@SarahFisher67, @KyleOgara27) throughout the week.

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Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).