While a good portion of the country battles the cold weather that January brings, the racing world heats things up each year with the Chili Bowl Nationals.
This week, some of the best drivers dirt racing has to offer have flocked to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the 33rd running of the annual indoor midget car event held on a 1/5-mile dirt oval at the River Spirit Expo Center. As of Jan. 14, more than 350 drivers and teams were featured on the entry list as five qualifying nights lie ahead leading up to Saturday night’s A-Main event. The champion gets the coveted Golden Driller, a replica of the 76-foot statue located outside the venue.
At the top of that elite list of powerhouse drivers are a few of NASCAR’s finest talents.
NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell goes into this year’s Chili Bowl searching for his third consecutive victory. In 2017, the Norman, Okla., native became only the second Oklahoman to win the event, beating out World of Outlaws driver Daryn Pittman for his first triumph. In 2018, Bell took advantage of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson’s misfortunate after engine issues parked Larson in the waning laps. Bell out-dueled two-time Chili Bowl champion and former Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver Rico Abreu for the victory.
— Chili Bowl Nationals (@cbnationals) January 13, 2019
Bell, 24, will need to get past the usual suspects in order to become just the third driver to win three or more Chili Bowls behind four-time winner Kevin Swindell (2010-13) and five-time winner Sammy Swindell (1989, ’92, ’96, ’98, 2009). Bell feels his stiffest competition is none other than Larson as both will compete under the Keith Kunz Motorsports umbrella.
“He’s the most talented guy that probably any of us have ever seen,” Bell said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “So, I would say he’s number one on that list.”
Monday kicked off a week of action-packed racing, including practice rounds that began at 9 a.m. local time, followed by the first night of preliminary racing. The entry list is divided into sections for each qualifying night, which includes a series of heat races, followed by a 25-lap feature event. The top-four finishers in each qualifying night feature event lock themselves into the 24-car A-Main event, along with the top four in two B-Main races that proceed Saturday night’s marquee show.
Former and current NASCAR drivers participating this year include:
- Christopher Bell
- Kyle Larson
- Alex Bowman
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Kasey Kahne
- Landon Cassill
- Tanner Berryhill
- Justin Allgaier
- Chase Briscoe
- J.J. Yeley
Along with the list of NASCAR national series regulars includes Karsyn Elledge, the niece of NASCAR on NBC race analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. and daughter of Earnhardt’s sister and co-owner of JR Motorsports, Kelley Earnhardt Miller. The 18-year-old rising dirt-racing driver is competing in her first Chili Bowl Nationals.