A look at NASCAR drivers competing in 2021 Chili Bowl

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UPDATE (1-8-2021): Garrett Smithley will replace Cody Ware in the No. 17D entry for Koontz Racing in next week’s Chili Bowl Nationals. According to Jacob Seelman of SprintCarAndMidget.com, Ware had to back out of the event due to other obligations.

Smithley ran 26 races last season in the NASCAR Cup Series for several teams, including Rick Ware Racing, Spire Motorsports, B.J. McLeod Motorsports, and Tommy Baldwin Racing.

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Over 300 drivers will compete at the 2021 Chili Bowl Nationals next week in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

One of the country’s top dirt-track events, the Chili Bowl has again drawn big names from other disciplines of motorsport, including NASCAR.

That group is headlined by Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, who makes his Chili Bowl debut.

Also in the group are reigning Chili Bowl champion Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, whose three-year hold on the Golden Driller trophy was broken by Larson in 2020.

Here’s a look at the full-time NASCAR drivers who are set to take part.

00C – Ryan Newman, Clauson-Marshall Racing

Ryan Newman, the 1999 USAC Silver Crown champion, is back with Clauson-Marshall Racing after he made his Chili Bowl debut with the team last year.

Newman won an E-Main race before his run ended with a seventh-place finish in his D-Main race.

01 – Kyle Larson, Kyle Larson Open-Wheel

After a tumultuous 2020, Kyle Larson will go for another Chili Bowl win before making his full-time return to NASCAR with Hendrick Motorsports.

He competed in last month’s Carolina Midget Showdown at Millbridge Speedway in North Carolina, where he split feature wins with incoming Cup rookie Chase Briscoe and claimed the overall event victory.

1A – Justin Allgaier, Team Ripper

Fresh off another strong season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Allgaier leads a four-car Chili Bowl program for the Team Ripper outfit.

Last year, Allgaier made his fourth career start in the Saturday A-Main, but a flat tire and steering problems relegated him to a 21st-place finish.

2G – J.J. Yeley, Glenn Styres/Jack Yeley Racing

One of seven USAC Triple Crown champions in history (Silver Crown, Sprint Car, Midgets), J.J. Yeley is attempting his 26th career Chili Bowl.

Yeley has not made the Saturday A-Main since 2015. Last year, his run ended with a 10th-place finish in his Saturday B-Main race.

His best career Chili Bowl finish came in 2007, when he was runner-up to winner Tony Stewart.

5 – Chase Briscoe, Chase Briscoe Racing

Incoming Cup rookie Chase Briscoe made his Chili Bowl debut in 2015. His lone Saturday A-Main appearance came in 2017, where he was one of six drivers to suffer a DNF.

In each of the past two years, Briscoe’s run in the Chili Bowl has ended with eighth-place finishes in the Saturday B-Main – one spot short of advancing to the A-Main.

9E – Chase Elliott, Paul May – Diaedge Racing

The aforementioned Carolina Midget Showdown was also Chase Elliott’s midget racing debut, but he impressed with third- and fourth-place finishes in the event’s twin features.

Afterwards, Elliott noted the extra aggression on dirt as something he’s had to adjust to.

“You just have to go,” he told SprintCarandMidget.com. “There is no waiting around … The intensity level is up from the get-go and not in just the last 100 miles or so of one of our normal (Cup) events. That’s really cool, though, honestly. If you have an opportunity, you have to take it. I think that’s what makes this type of racing entertaining sometimes, for sure.”

17S – Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Clauson-Marshall Racing

On Christmas Day, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was confirmed as the fifth and final driver for Clauson-Marshall Racing’s Chili Bowl program in 2021.

Stenhouse has made the Saturday A-Main in three of the past five years. Last year, his run ended with a 17th-place finish in his Saturday C-Main.

45M – Brett Moffitt, Bundy Built Motorsports

Brett Moffitt, who is set to run full-time in both the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, will make his Chili Bowl debut for Bundy Built Motorsports.

Moffitt’s team in the Truck Series, Niece Motorsports, will also support his entry.

84X – Christopher Bell, CB Industries

Christopher Bell has already raced in Tulsa this winter. He competed across four classes in last week’s Tulsa Shootout, a major micro-sprint event that runs in the same venue as the Chili Bowl.

Bell made the A-Feature in three of his four classes. His best finish was second in the Stock Non-Wing class behind winner Brian Carber. He also finished sixth in both Non-Wing Outlaw and A-Class.

Owner – Alex Bowman

Alex Bowman is fielding a two-car program for C.J. Leary (No. 55V) and Jake Swanson (No. 55X).

Leary won the 2019 USAC National Sprint Car championship. He has made the Chili Bowl A-Feature in the last two years, finishing 17th in 2020 and eighth in 2019.

Swanson last made the Chili Bowl A-Feature in 2017, finishing fifth.

Other drivers with NASCAR ties at the Chili Bowl include:

  • Kasey Kahne – 15-year Cup Series veteran (2004-18)
  • Brad Sweet – Former part-time driver in Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series (2009-13)
  • David Gravel – Made two Camping World Truck Series starts in 2020 (best finish: 10th at Michigan)
  • Jesse Love – 2020 ARCA Menards Series West champion
  • Rico Abreu – Competed full-time in Camping World Truck Series in 2016
  • Ryan Ellis – 79 career national series starts (2012-19)
  • Tanner Berryhill – 42 career national series starts (2012-14, 2018)