A look at NASCAR drivers competing in 2021 Chili Bowl


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.


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)

Dr. Diandra: How level is the playing field after 50 Next Gen races?


Last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 marks 50 Next Gen races. The 2022 season produced 19 different winners, including a few first-career wins. Let’s see what the data say about how level the playing field is now.

I’m comparing the first 50 Next Gen races (the 2022 season plus the first 14 races of 2023) to the 2020 season and the first 14 races of 2021. I selected those two sets of races to produce roughly the same types of tracks. I focus on top-10 finishes as a metric for performance. Below, I show the top-10 finishes for the 13 drivers who ran for the same team over the periods in question.

A table comparing top-10 rates for drivers in the Gen-6 and Next Gen cars, limited to drivers who ran for the same team the entire time.

Because some drivers missed races, I compare top-10 rates: the number of top-10 finishes divided by the number of races run. The graph below shows changes in top-10 rates for the drivers who fared the worst with the Next Gen car.

A graph showing drivers who have done better in the next-gen car than the Gen-6 car.

Six drivers had double-digit losses in their top-10 rates. Kevin Harvick had the largest drop, with 74% top-10 finishes in the Gen-6 sample but only 46% top-10 finishes in the first 50 Next Gen races.

Kyle Larson didn’t qualify for the graph because he ran only four races in 2020. I thought it notable, however, that despite moving from the now-defunct Chip Ganassi NASCAR team to Hendrick Motorsports, Larson’s top-10 rate fell from 66.7% to 48.0%.

The next graph shows the corresponding data for drivers who improved their finishes in the Next Gen car. This graph again includes only drivers who stayed with the same team.

A graph showing the drivers who have fewer top-10 finishes in the Next Gen car than the Gen-6 car

Alex Bowman had a marginal gain, but he missed six races this year. Therefore, his percent change value is less robust than other drivers’ numbers.

Expanding the field

I added drivers who changed teams to the dataset and highlighted them in gray.

A table comparing top-10 rates for drivers in the Gen-6 and Next Gen cars

A couple notes on the new additions:

  • Brad Keselowski had the largest loss in top-10 rate of any driver, but that may be more attributable to his move from Team Penske to RFK Motorsports rather than to the Next Gen car.
  • Christopher Bell moved from Leavine Family Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021. His improvement is likely overestimated due to equipment quality differences.
  • Erik Jones stayed even, but that’s after moving from JGR (13 top-10 finishes in 2020) to Richard Petty Motorsports (six top 10s in 2021.) I view that change as a net positive.

At the end of last season, I presented the tentative hypothesis that older drivers had a harder time adapting to the Next Gen car. Less practice time mitigated their experience dialing in a car so that it was to their liking given specific track conditions.

But something else leaps out from this analysis.

Is the playing field tilting again?

Michael McDowell is not Harvick-level old, but he will turn 39 this year. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is 35. Both have improved with the Next Gen Car. Chase Elliott (27 years old) and William Byron (25) aren’t old, either, but their top-10 rates have gone down.

Drivers running for the best-funded teams earned fewer top-10 finishes while drivers from less-funded teams (mostly) gained those finishes.

Trackhouse Racing and 23XI — two of the newest teams — account for much of the gains in top-10 finishes. Ross Chastain isn’t listed in the table because he didn’t have full-time Cup Series rides in 2020 or 2021. His 9.1% top-10 rate in that period is with lower-level equipment. He earned 27 top-10 finishes in the first 50 races (54%) with the Next Gen car.

This analysis suggests that age isn’t the only relevant variable. One interpretation of the data thus far is that the Next Gen (and its associated rules changes) eliminated the advantage well-funded teams built up over years of racing the Gen-5 and Gen-6 cars.

The question now is whether that leveling effect is wearing off. Even though parts are the same, more money means being able to hire the best people and buying more expensive computers for engineering simulations.

Compare the first 14 races of 2022 to the first 14 of 2023.

  • Last year at this time, 23XI and Trackhouse Racing had each won two races. This year, they combine for one win.
  • It took Byron eight races to win his second race of the year in 2022. This year, he won the third and fourth races of the year. Plus, he’s already won his third race this year.
  • Aside from Stenhouse’s Daytona 500 win, this year’s surprise winners — Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney — are both from major teams.

We’re only 14 races into the 2023 season. There’s not enough data to determine the relative importance of age versus building a notebook for predicting success in the Next Gen car.

But this is perhaps the most important question. The Next Gen car leveled the playing field last year.

Will it stay level?

NASCAR weekend schedule at World Wide Technology Raceway, Portland


NASCAR’s top three series are racing this weekend in two different locations. Cup and Craftsman Truck teams will compete at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, and the Xfinity Series will compete at Portland International Raceway.

World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Cup and Trucks)

Weekend weather

Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 87 degrees during Truck qualifying.

Saturday: Sunny. Temperatures will be around 80 degrees for the start of Cup practice and climb to 88 degrees by the end of Cup qualifying. Forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 93 degrees around the start of the Truck race.

Sunday: Mostly sunny with a high of 92 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the Cup race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 1 – 8 p.m. Craftsman Truck Series
  • 4 – 9 p.m. Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 6:30 p.m. — Truck practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. — Truck qualifying (FS1)

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  — Cup Series
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:45 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 10:45 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Cup qualifying  (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (160 laps, 200 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, June 4

Garage open

  • 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (240 laps, 300 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)


Portland International Raceway (Xfinity Series)

Weekend weather

Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of 77 degrees.

Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high of 73 degrees and no chance of rain around the start of the Xfinity race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 6-11 p.m. Xfinity Series

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 10 a.m.  — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Xfinity practice (No TV)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 4:30 p.m. — Xfinity race (75 laps, 147.75 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.