The Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire is the official start of the racing season for many people. The 33rd Annual event kicked off earlier this week, and per usual, has plenty of star power. There are more than 350 entries, with a mix of talent from Midgets, Late Model, World of Outlaws, NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA, and USAC.
The world’s largest indoor race will broadcast live on MAVTV on Saturday, January 19 at 8:30 PM ET. The three-hour telecast from Tulsa, Oklahoma will include the C-Main, B-Main, and A-Main races.
There are a number of good ways to follow the action throughout the week, with the official @cbnationals Twitter account, and of course the ChiliBowl.com website. A quick search on Twitter will provide plenty of accounts to follow for updates.
NASCAR driver Christopher Bell is seeking his third consecutive Chili Bowl victory. In 2017, he became only the second Oklahoman to win the event, beating out World of Outlaws driver Daryn Pittman. Last year, Bell took advantage of fellow NASCAR driver Kyle Larson’s misfortunate engine issues. Bell out-dueled two-time Chili Bowl Champion Rico Abreu for the victory. If Bell can win again this year, he will become just the third driver to ever win three Chili Bowls.
The entry list is divided into sections for each qualifying night, which includes a series of heat races and qualifiers, followed by a 25-lap feature event. The top-two finishers in each qualifying night feature event lock themselves into the 24-car A-Feature event on Saturday night.
Drivers who do not finish in the top-two positions in their respective preliminary features will have one more shot to make the field with a series of main events on Saturday, with the top-seven finishers from each of the two B-Mains transferring to make up the full field. It is a busy day, and an even busier week.
Tony Stewart is in charge of track preparation, and the two-time winner has some interesting methods he uses.
Along with Bell, Larson, and Abreu, other popular names like Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Kasey Kahne, JJ Yeley, Landon Cassill, Alex Bowman, Conor Daly, five-time winner Sammy Swindell, Tracy Hines, Tim McCreadie, Brad Sweet, Logan Seavey, Dave Darland, Damion Gardner, and Jerry Coons Jr.
Abreu told AutoWeek’s Matt Weaver earlier this week that he would like to run the Indianapolis 500 with Larson. “I really have to take time and put some serious thought into it. I think it’s a very prestigious event, a lot like the Chili Bowl.” Abreu said he has some friends who could help him run it, saying ‘Chip Ganassi’ under a playful cough to get his point across. “I need to give him a call and see if I can talk him into teaming me and Kyle up to run it.”
The main event on Saturday night will feature 24 cars in a 55-lap race. The winner receives the Golden Driller, a 76-foot tall statue of an oil worker. It’s the sixth tallest statue in the country, and Oklahoma recognizes it as a state monument.
Kyle Larson appeared to have the race in hand, but he left the door open on the final lap, and Christopher Bell seized the opportunity. Both cars touched on the final lap, and Oklahoma native captured his third consecutive Chili Bowl.
Larson started in third and took the lead on Lap 22. He had a big lead over Bell and Justin Grant by running the low line. Bell had been running the top side of the track, but eventually moved to the bottom, allowing him to catch Larson. Bell only led one lap in the 55-lap race, but it was the one that counted the most.
“That’s why we love the Chili Bowl, it never disappoints,” said Bell. “I was struggling on top and didn’t have anything to lose to I headed for the bottom and started making up a little ground. Kyle didn’t stick going into Turn 1 and I got inside him. It was a ton of fun from my seat.”
Larson acknowledged the slight miscalculation, but handled the entire process with pure class. “I missed the bottom, and allowed Christopher to get a run, and I can see the big screen and saw he was close.” I thought about sliding because I didn’t know what he was going to do. I ran 53 1/2 good laps and just didn’t close it out. “It’s just disappointing to be close to winning a race like this, feeling like I did everything I could until the very end. Just gave it away.”
“Larson is the most talented race car driver a lot of us have ever seen,” Bell told reporters after the win. “Yeah, it’s pretty surprising that he did slip.” The contact on the final lap between the two was fair too. “Yeah, yeah, it was fair game,” Larson said. “I tried to squeeze him to the bottom. If anything, I was the dirty one.”
Grant came home in third place, while the BC39 event winner Brady Bacon came from eighth to fourth, and Zach Daum rounded out the top five on Saturday night. Tyler Courtney was putting on a passing clinic. The Indianapolis product spun out on Lap 30, went all the way to the back, then charged to the front, finishing sixth.
In addition to becoming the second driver to win three consecutive Chili Bowls, Bell is just the third to win three overall since the event began in 1987. It was definitely one of the most exciting finishes in the 33-year history of the event.
The final results of the A-Main race are below.
- Christopher Bell
- Kyle Larson
- Justin Grant
- Brady Bacon
- Zach Daum
- Tyler Courtney
- Brad Sweet
- C.J. Leary
- Logan Seavey
- Tanner Thorson
- Danny Stratton
- Jonathan Beason
- Tucker Klaasmeyer
- Colby Copeland
- Rico Abreu
- Michael Faccinto
- Chad Boat
- David Gravel
- Cole Bodine
- Robert Dalby
- Jake Neuman
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr (DNF)
- Shane Golobic (DNF)
- Sean McClelland (DNF)