The 2019 NASCAR season won’t get off to its official start until the Feb. 15-17 tripleheader weekend at Daytona International Speedway, culminating in the annual fan-favorite Daytona 500. But several NASCAR drivers will begin their 2019 racing seasons later this month at the Chili Bowl Nationals, dubbed the Super Bowl of dirt midget car racing, Jan. 14-20 at the Tulsa Expo Center in Oklahoma.
Among the 300-plus entrants in the event that includes heat and feature races across its week-long schedule are NASCAR Cup Series drivers Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, and Landon Cassill. The 2019 Chili Bowl will be Cassill’s first in the yearly event. They’ll be joined this year by Kasey Kahne, who retired from NASCAR competition before the close of 2018 due to a health issue.
“The Chili Bowl is, gosh, like I said it’s up there with the top races I want to win,” Larson said in an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio in 2018. “Everybody knows I love dirt track racing. For me, the Chili Bowl is bigger than the Daytona 500. I know some fans, that might bum them out or think I have some bad attitude when it comes to NASCAR racing, but I love it. There’s some special dirt races I want to win and Chili Bowl is one of them.”
Several other NASCAR professionals from other national series also are expected to compete in this year’s Chili Bowl Nationals, including Xfinity Series drivers Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, and Christopher Bell as well as Truck Series pilot Tanner Thorson. Also on the entry list is J.J. Yeley who competes regularly in both the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity series.
NASCAR drivers have fared well in the Chili Bowl as of late, thanks to Bell. He enters the 2019 edition of the event as the two-time reigning winner following consecutive victories by former Truck Series driver Rico Abreu in 2015 and 2016. Abreu also will participate in the 2019 Chili Bowl, where he and Bell will be teammates.
Bell and Larson have already competed against each other in midget racers and sprint cars in 2019, both having claimed wins at an event in New Zealand.