Chili Bowl

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Christopher Bell wins Thursday night’s A main at Chili Bowl Nationals

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Reigning Camping World Truck Series champion Christopher Bell won the A main Thursday night to advance to Saturday night’s feature event and continue his bid to win back-to-back Chili Bowl National titles.

Shane Golobic finished second and Chase Johnson placed third. Each also advanced to Saturday night’s feature. Tanner Thorson finished 11th. He drives for a partnership of Richard Childress Racing and Dooling Hayward Motorsports. C.J. Leary, driving a car owned by Cup driver Alex Bowman, finished 18th in the 24-car field.

Among those Bell will be racing for the Chili Bowl National title Saturday will be Kyle Larson and Rico Abreu, who each won their qualifying events earlier this week.

Racing continues Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Among those scheduled to compete are Kasey Kahne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Chase Briscoe.

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Kyle Larson covets Chili Bowl over Daytona 500, but still wants to win ‘Great American Race’

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Kyle Larson was “heartbroken” when he lost the 2017 Daytona 500.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver declared that Thursday morning on Twitter, clarifying comments he made Wednesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “SiriusXM Speedway.”

Larson, who is competing in the 32nd annual Chili Bowl Midget Nationals this week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said the Chili Bowl meant more to him than the Daytona 500.

“The Chili Bowl is, gosh, like I said it’s up there with the top races I want to win,” Larson said. “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.”

Larson said this a day after winning the Chili Bowl’s A main on Tuesday night. He’ll race in the 55-lap main event Saturday. He is also fresh off winning three midget races during a tour of New Zealand to start the year.

On Thursday, Larson responded to a fan on Twitter to make sure everyone knows winning the Feb. 18 Daytona 500 would be a big deal for the fifth-year driver.

Larson took the white flag of the Daytona 500 while in the lead. He ran out of gas in Turn 2 and finished 12th.

Larson’s expression of love for a dirt racing event over the “Great American Race” comes after comments he made last month about what he considered his ultimate career goal. Appearing on the official World of Outlaws podcast, the 25-year-old driver said competing full-time in World of Outlaws is his aim.

“NASCAR is where I wanted to make it, but I would have been perfectly fine if I didn’t make it either,” Larson said. “I’d probably be on the Outlaw (sprint car) tour probably right now, racing and loving life … I would say racing on the World of Outlaws tour full-time is my main goal; NASCAR’s just the step to get there.”

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Kyle Larson wins A main on opening night of Chili Bowl Nationals

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Kyle Larson continued his winning ways in a midget car, capturing the A main on the opening night of the Chili Bowl Nationals and qualifying for Saturday night’s feature race.

Larson recently returned from New Zealand where he won three of four midget races.

Tuesday night, Larson finished ahead of brother-in-law Brad Sweet and Tyler Courtney. All three advance to Saturday night’s A main on the quarter-mile clay oval inside the River Spirit Expo Center at Tulsa’s Expo Square.

Justin Allgaier finished 12th in Tuesday night’s race.

Racing continues Wednesday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Among those scheduled to compete are Rico Abreu, who has made 26 career Camping World Truck Series starts, and Donny Schatz, who competes in the World of Outlaws for Tony Stewart Racing.

Earlier in the night, Chad Boat won the Race of Champions exhibition race. Larson was second and Tanner Thorson was third. Sweet finished fifth. Also in the race, Abreu was 10th, reigning Chili Bowl champion Christopher Bell placed 11th, Kasey Kahne 14th and JJ Yeley was last in the 19-car field.

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Kyle Larson highlights NASCAR drivers entered into Chili Bowl Nationals

Chili Bowl Nationals
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The first major auto racing event of 2018 is the 32nd annual Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The midget car event will be held Jan. 9-13 at the River Spirit Expo Center and feature multiple NASCAR drivers, including Kyle Larson.

Larson will be joined by Kasey Kahne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., defending Chili Bowl and Truck Series champion Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe and Justin Allgaier.

The entry list for the five-night event has been released and also the roster for all four nights of qualifying races.

The week culminates with the 55-lap championship event on Jan. 13.

Here’s when each NASCAR driver and other notable drivers will compete in a qualifying race.

Tuesday, Jan. 9

Kyle Larson

Chase Briscoe (former Brad Keselowski Racing driver)

Justin Allgaier (JR Motorsports driver in Xfinity Series)

Brad Sweet (competes for Kasey Kahne Racing)

Wednesday, Jan. 10

Rico Abreu (former Camping World Truck Series driver, two-time Chili Bowl winner)

Sammy Swindell (five-time Chili Bowl winner)

Donny Schatz (2017 World of Outlaws champion, competes for Tony Stewart Racing)

Thursday, Jan. 11

Christopher Bell

C.J. Leary (competing in entry owned by Alex Bowman)

Friday, Jan. 12

Kasey Kahne

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

J.J. Yeley

Daryn Pittman (competes for Kasey Kahne Racing)

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‘Old dog’ Matt Crafton preparing to make USAC Midget debut Saturday night

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Matt Crafton is proving it’s never too late for to try new things in auto racing.

Crafton, the 41-year-old driver for ThorSport Racing in the Camping World Truck Series, will break new ground Saturday night.

It all started a few months ago over dinner with Jack Irving, the director of team and support services at Toyota Racing Development.

“We were just sitting down, having dinner one night a couple of months ago and thought it would be a great idea for me to drive a midget,” Crafton said last Saturday during the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series awards banquet.

“I didn’t think it was too crazy when (Irving) brought it up,” Crafton said. “At that point, it was just casual conversation. I said ‘Yeah, let’s do it’ and he texted (Keith) Kunz to see if it was okay. Two days later, he told me, ‘Okay, pick where you want to go.’”

Crafton chose Saturday night’s USAC Indoor Junior Knepper 55 in DuQuoin, Illinois, as the place to make his midget debut.

He will make it in a car owned by Keith Kunz Motorsports.

On Dec. 6, the two-time Truck Series champion found himself sitting in a midget for the first time, getting fitted for the dirt car.

“About to find out if you can teach an old dog new tricks,” Crafton later tweeted.

But Crafton has already been fine tuning his dirt racing skills over the last five years. Since 2013, the Truck Series has visited Eldora Speedway, the Tony Stewart-owned dirt track in Rossburg, Ohio.

Crafton has been in every Eldora race, but before 2017 his best finish was eighth in the inaugural event.

Before this season, Crafton decided to really figure out dirt racing.

He and his father worked together to rebuild a Modified dirt car and in the downtime between Truck races, Crafton took it racing.

It worked out quickly, with Crafton coming in second in an event at Volusia Speedway Park in February.

Then in July, Crafton triumphed over Stewart Friesen to win the fifth Eldora Dirt Derby.

“It helped a lot,” Crafton said after the race. “Just learning what the track does. In the years past, I didn’t know what I was looking at to be totally honest. Just kept studying and kept studying.”

That Eldora win was the only victory for the No. 88 ThorSport Racing team in 2017, but it put Crafton in the Truck playoffs.

When the prospect of a midget race was raised to him by Irving, the pursuit of a third Truck title kept Crafton from it until the offseason.

“I wouldn’t say the Eldora win propelled any of this … but it’s definitely opened up some more doors,” Crafton said last weekend. “Now, everyone realizes how much I enjoy it and how much of a racer I am and that I love to race.

“I’ll say it again: I’m a racer. There’s a reason why I race dirt races and do everything that I do, and it’s because I want to go out and race anything and everything I possibly can. That’s why I got my own dirt modified, that’s why I got a go-kart … to be able to perfect road courses and that style of racing as well.”

One of Crafton’s teammates in Saturday’s race will be the defending Truck Series champion and dirt veteran Christopher Bell. Crafton’s also received advice from Chase Briscoe, who drove for Brad Keselowski Racing this season.

“(Briscoe) won’t be my teammate, but he sent me some in-car footage of him racing at DuQuoin and I’ve watched it 10 times, just to see what I can learn,” Crafton said. “I mean, you get about four laps, and then you try to race your way into the main event. There’s gonna be a lot of cars there, so it won’t be easy.”

“I talked to Bell this week, and he has a simulator with the midget on it, so I may go over to his house and run the simulator a little bit and see if I can figure out anything there.”

Crafton said he keeps getting pressured to take his dirt experience one step further and compete in January’s Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. But Saturday’s 55-lap race comes first.

“I’d love to give (the Chili Bowl) a shot in the future. But we’ll see,” Crafton said. “I’m going out to DuQuoin to have fun; that’s the main goal.”