36th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals preview, how to watch, full schedule with what NASCAR/INDYCAR drivers are racing on each preliminary night

It seems like Kyle Larson was just being crowned as the most recent NASCAR Cup Series champion last November in Phoenix. Now, he’ll try to earn a third straight victory in the prestigious Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals on Saturday night. Larson, headlines an eye popping 394 drivers attempting to earn a Golden Driller in the 36th annual race on the indoor dirt track in Tulsa.

Event Info:

How To Watch – FloRacing with coverage each night

Entry List – Click Here

Week’s Schedule – Click Here

MAV TV Coverage For Saturday’s Night’s Main Event Starts at 8:30 p.m. ET

How It Works

It’s actually pretty simple, think of each night as you would a normal weeknight dirt show. You have hot laps, heat races and as many mains as it takes to get down to an A-Main feature. the top two finishers in each night’s A-Main get a guaranteed spot into Saturday’s main event, a 55 lap feature for Midget racing’s supremacy.

The only other path to a guaranteed spot into Saturday night’s main show is to win the Race of Champions and that race winner not already have a guaranteed spot via a top two finish on their night of racing.

In theory, we could go to sleep Friday night with 11 drivers guaranteed in with 13 spots available for the remaining 382 drivers. Yes, you read that right. 394 drivers enter, hoping to snag one of the 24 spots to the A-Main on Saturday night.

24 make it, 370 won’t. That’s what makes this event so difficult to win.

Race Of Champions Field

The complete list of drivers invited to compete in the VIROC include:

• Blake Hahn-ASCS National Tour Champion
• Brad Sweet-World of Outlaws Sprint Car Champion
• Brady Bacon-USAC Sprint Car Champion
• Bryant Wiedeman – POWRi National Midget Champion
• Buddy Kofoid-USAC National Midget Champion
• Cannon McIntosh-Monday Night Winner
• Chad Boat-VIROC 2018
• Chase Elliott-2020 NASCAR Champion
• Christopher Bell-Champion – 2017, 2018, & 2019
• Daryn Pittman-2017, Runner-up
• Justin Grant-Friday Night
• Kyle Larson-Champion – 2020 & 2021
• Rico Abreu-2020 VIROC, Runner-up
• Sammy Swindell-Five-Time Chili Bowl Champion
• Spencer Bayston-2018, third
• Tanner Thorson-2021, third
• Tim McCreadie-2021 Lucas Oil Late Model & Chili Bowl Champion
• Tyler Courtney-2021 All Star Circuit of Champions Champion

The standards for an invitation are:

• Drivers finishing in the Top 3 of Saturday night’s A-Feature during the previous five Chili Bowls will be eligible.

• Drivers finishing in the Top 2 of the past five VIROC events will be eligible.

• Preliminary Night Winners from the most recent Chili Bowl will be eligible.

• Series Champions from the most recent calendar year in the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars, American Sprint Car Series National Tour, All-Star Circuit of Champions, USAC National Midgets, USAC National Sprint Cars, and POWRi National Midget League will be invited to compete.

• Champions of other Tours and Series may be added at the Chili Bowl’s discretion.

• No Driver substitutions or alternates from a sanctioning body will be allowed.

• Starting Lineup for the VIROC will be set by Group Qualifying. Drivers will draw for their qualifying position, then qualify in groups of three to four. Drivers will get two warmup laps, then three green flap laps to set their time. The Top 8 fastest will be inverted with the ninth fastest on back lined up straight up by their time.

• VIROC Feature will be 25 Laps.

VIROC Champions: Christopher Bell (2021 and 2020), Tanner Thorson (2019 and 2016)Chad Boat (2018), Kyle Larson (2017 and 2014), Sammy Swindell (2015, 2012, 2011, 2009), Kevin Swindell (2013), Brad Loyet (2010)

Will This Year Look A Lot Like The Last Few?

Last year’s entire week of action looked a lot like 2020. 2020’s full edition looked a lot like 2019 — and so on.

In 2020, Cannon McIntosh (Monday), Kyle Larson (Tuesday), Rico Abreu (Wednesday), Christopher Bell (Thursday) and Tanner Thorson (Friday) won the features on those respective nights.

Last year, most all won again with McIntosh-Larson-Abreu-Bell winning Monday-Thursday respectively. Justin Grant did win the Friday night feature, not Thorson, but it was Grant’s fourth Friday night Chili Bowl feature win in the last five years though.

Larson has now won four straight Tuesday night A-Main features and five in the last seven years as well.

Abreu has won six straight Wednesday night A-Main features himself.

Bell won his sixth straight too on Thursday night and has seven preliminary night wins in the last eight years.

Each of these drivers are back this year on the same nights with the exception of Thorson. He moves to Thursday night instead.

Can Anyone Top Larson, Bell Or Abreu?

Can anyone top Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell or Rico Abreu this year? This trio has combined to win each of the last seven years in the Chili Bowl. Can they make it No. 8 on Saturday night?

If Larson wins, it would be his third straight which is a rare accomplishment. Bell did that feat the three years prior (2017, 2018, 2019) as only he and Kevin Swindell (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) have won at least three in-a-row. Will Larson be the third?

Sammy Swindell’s 5 wins are most all-time with Kevin’s 4 in second. Bell’s three triumphs are the only other ones to have triumphed more than twice. Can Larson join this elite category?

It will honestly take a lot to beat them though. You’ll have to be damned near perfect in fact. They looked great again last year in winning all three of their preliminary night features and also finished 1-2 in three of the past four years at that too. The three man tandem were also each in the top five in 2020 too.

On top of that, they’ve combined to lead 200 out of the last 220 laps (91%) in the A-Main of the Chili Bowl.

Since 2018, only Logan Seavey has led a lap in the Chili Bowl’s A-Main outside of Larson, Bell and Abreu. He led the first 20 laps in 2019 before Bell and Larson took over from there.

Then, if you factor in the late great Bryan Clauson and you see further dominance. Larson, Bell, Abreu and Clauson combined to lead 89% (390-for-440) laps since 2014. Just Seavey (20 laps led in 2019), Justin Grant (25 laps led in 2017) and Caleb Armstrong (5 laps led in 2014) have led laps outside of this great foursome since 2014.

That’s astonishing.

But, can anyone top them is the question?

I’m starting with the last three national Midget Champions with the best shots.

Buddy Kofoid won the national championship last year with KKM and also finished seventh and 19th respectively in his two A-Main’s too. He was also runner-up in his preliminary night run to Christopher Bell last year (Thursday).

What about 2020 Midget Champion Chris Windom. He has five top 10 finishes in eight Chili Bowl tries including a sixth place run last year at that.

2019 Midget Champion, Tyler Courtney, was second on his preliminary night (Monday) last year and made his fifth A-Main feature as a result. He hasn’t scored a top five yet but has alternated sixth place finishes every other year. He was sixth in 2017, 12th in 2018, sixth in 2019, 11th in 2020 but 15th last year.

I also like Courtney’s teammates. I mean it’s hard to count the entire Clauson Marshall Newman Racing group sleepers, but they’ve not yet won the Chili Bowl and are flying under the radar. I mean watch out for rising start Emerson Axsom. He had a hell of a run during the Tulsa Shootout a few weeks ago and coming off nice rookie season in Midgets where he won a couple of races and finished an eye opening fourth in points. He moves up to the Sprint Car ranks this year but the junior in high school first will be back in a Midget again this weekend for Clauson Marshall Newman Racing before competing with them in sprint cars after.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. could make a run. He was seventh last year but it was just his second top 10 in seven A-Main appearances. He was 14th (2009), 19th (2011), 9th (2012), 16th (2016), 16th (2017) and 21st (2019) in his other races.

Ryan Newman and rookie Corey Day fill out their field.

Cannon McIntosh has to be there too. He was third in 2020 and fourth last year. He won his preliminary night feature on Monday night of 2021 and was second in the all-star race a night later.

I also like Justin Grant. He was runner-up last year after being 23rd (2016), third (2017), seventh (2018) and third (2019). He’s won a preliminary night race on Friday night in four of the last five years too.

Don’t discredit Tanner Thorson’s chances either. He has six top 10’s in seven tries including a third last year and four fourth place efforts prior.

Could Brad Sweet amount a charge? He has made six A-Main starts and all have seen him finish in the top 10 in each. His best finish is third in 2013 and he looked stout in his preliminary night march last year on his way to an eighth place run in the Main event.

Logan Seavey is my last sleeper. He finished ninth in 2019, fourth in 2020 and 10th last year.

While Larson, Bell and Abreu are the favorites, any one of these 12 can top them.

Bell Back At KKM Again

At one point, Keith Kunz Motorsports has had a stranglehold on Golden Driller’s. Their trophy case was getting tight. The storied team had a five year reign between 2015 and 2019 of winning this race every single year.

Then Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell left. They went 1-2 away from KKM in 2020 and Larson triumphing again in 2021.

Now, Bell is back.

KKM had a ton of changeover between 2019 and 2020 due to the departure of Bell and Larson. 70% of their driver lineup for last year’s race were teenagers.

The thing is, they return a cast of youngsters, retained Rico Abreu and brought back Bell. They could honestly now challenge for another Chili Bowl triumph again.

Jesse Love, Gavan Boschele and Tanner Carrick each race on Monday night.

Buddy Kofoid, the defending Midget champion, races on Tuesday night with Kaylee Bryson and Steven Snyder Jr.

Wednesday night is Rico Abreu, Taylor Reimer and Jonathan Shafer.

Thursday night is Bell, Brenham Crouch and Mariah Ede with Friday night Bryant Wiedeman, Tom Harris and Tucker Klaasmeyer.

One could make a strong case that Kofoid, Abreu and Bell would win their preliminary nights. Can they turn that into a Saturday night A-Main triumph?

NASCAR/INDYCAR Drivers Schedules – Hendrick Motorsports Headlines The List

Among the 392 entries are NASCAR-INDYCAR stars. Below is a list of when/where they race. In fact, 75% of the Hendrick Motorsports fleet will be here with the only one among the four drivers not being William Byron. 2 of the 3 race on Monday night with the other on Tuesday.

INDYCAR has 2 drivers – Santino Ferrucci and Conor Daly.

Monday – 1D David Gravel, 5 Chase Briscoe, 9E Chase Elliott, 22M Carson Kvapil, 55X Alex Bowman, 97X Jesse Love

Tuesday – 01 Kyle Larson, 16 Santino Ferrucci, 89 Chris Windom

Wednesday – 1R Brad Sweet, 31X Carson Hocevar, 97 Rico Abreu

Thursday – 2G JJ Yeley, 71W Christopher Bell, 81X Dillon Welch

Friday – 19S Kasey Kahne, 47D Conor Daly, 47S Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 75B Ryan Newman

Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals Champions:

Year – Driver (Owner)

2021 – Kyle Larson (Kyle Larson Openwheel)
2020 – Kyle Larson (Kyle Larson Openwheel, LLC-Mike Larson)
2019 – Christopher Bell (Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian)
2018 – Christopher Bell (Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian)
2017 – Christopher Bell (Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian)
2016 – Rico Abreu (Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian)
2015 – Rico Abreu (Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian)
2014 – Bryan Clauson (Joe Dooling/Rusty Kunz/Curb Records)
2013 – Kevin Swindell (Swindell Motorsports/Curb Records)
2012 – Kevin Swindell (Swindell Motorsports/Curb Records)
2011 – Kevin Swindell (Swindell Motorsports/Curb Records)
2010 – Kevin Swindell (Swindell Motorsports/Curb Records)
2009 – Sammy Swindell (Swindell Motorsports/Curb Records)
2008 – Damion Gardner (Jason Leffler)
2007 – Tony Stewart (Tony Stewart Motorsports)
2006 – Tim McCreadie (Steve Smith)
2005 – Tracy Hines (Wilke – Pak)
2004 – Cory Kruseman (Andy Bondio)
2003 – Dan Boorse (Dan Boorse)
2002 – Tony Stewart (Keith Kunz)
2001 – Jay Drake (Keith Kunz)
2000 – Cory Kruseman (Andy Bondio)
1999 – Dan Boorse (Dan Boorse)
1998 – Sammy Swindell (Pete Willoughby)
1997 – Billy Boat (John Lawson)
1996 – Sammy Swindell (Rusty Kunz / Jay McKinnie)
1995 – Donnie Beechler (Zarounian Motorsports)
1994 – Andy Hillenburg (Keith Kunz / Rusty Kunz)
1993 – Dave Blaney (Ralph Potter)
1992 – Sammy Swindell (Dave Ellis)
1991 – Lealand McSpadden (Andy Bondio)
1990 – John Heydenreich (Tony Finley)
1989 – Sammy Swindell (Jack Runyon)
1988 – Scott Hatton (Jerry Hatton)
1987 – Rich Vogler (Bob Lowe)

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