Last year Rico Abreu stood on top of his right rear tire and stared into the future after winning the 29th annual Chili Bowl.
That victory contributed to an invitation to join HScott Motorsports in the K&N East series and propelled him into the NASCAR ranks where he won his first race in Columbus, Ohio in July.
Last Friday, Abreu became the latest of six current NASCAR drivers to toss his name into contention to defend his title in the 30th running of the Chili Bowl, according to a press release from the track.
Abreu will join fellow NASCAR drivers Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson as they head back from the Winter Heat series held at Cocopah Speedway in Somerton, Arizona. This year’s Chili Bowl will begin on January 12th, three days after the five-day Winter Heat series wraps up.
Located near Yuma, Arizona, Cocopah is a natural place to race during the winter, but the Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Oklahoma takes a little more preparation. This 1/4th-mile oval is constructed inside the Tulsa Expo Center and last year had one of the most expensive tractor operators of all time contributing to its creation.
Long-time Chili Bowl participant Tony Stewart essentially traded in his sprint car and instead spent the weekend aboard an earth-moving machine.
Stewart was the winner of the 2007 edition of the Chili Bowl and is part of an 11-year streak of NASCAR-related winners of this race. Former developmental drivers Tracy Hines, Tim McCreadie, Kevin Swindell, Sammy Swindell, and Bryan Clauson have won recent editions of the Chili Bowl. Hines started the streak in 2005. Damion Gardner won in 2008 and while he does not have any NASCAR starts, his car was owned by Jason Leffler that year.
Stewart also won in 2002.
The odds are good that a NASCAR connection will find its way into the A-Main again this year. Joining Abreu, Kahne, and Larson will be current NASCAR drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier, and Alex Bowman.
Even with that stout lineup of stock car stars, it will not be an easy path to the finale: More than 200 drivers are currently entered to take a bite out of the Chili Bowl.