Bell, vying for a record-tying fourth consecutive win in the country’s premier midget race, finished second in the 24-car field at the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Cannon McIntosh, 17 years old, finished third. NASCAR Xfinity driver Justin Allgaier placed 21st.
A year ago, Larson lost this race on the last lap to Bell. Larson had a large enough lead late in Saturday night’s race that Bell wasn’t close enough to make a move.
“Its a pretty different range of emotions 365 days later,” Larson said on the MavTV broadcast. “I feel like I’m going to pass out.
“I’m sorry NASCAR, I’m sorry Daytona, but this is the biggest (expletive) race I’ve ever won. I hope to win Daytona in a few weeks but this is bad ass.”
Here’s how other NASCAR competitors did in the various races Saturday that led to the A main that Larson won:
You can’t even fully dream of moments like this. I thought I might know what it’d feel like to finally win this thing but after what I experienced tonight I had no clue! I’m so blessed to be with great people. Loved… https://t.co/G6kONqvk9e
Three-time defending Chili Bowl Nationals champion Christopher Bell won his preliminary feature race Thursday to advance to Saturday night’s feature event.
The victory was his fifth consecutive preliminary night feature win at the Chili Bowl. Bell continued his strong week. He won the event’s race of champions earlier this week.
Thomas Meseraull finished second to also advance to Saturday’s main event.
The other preliminary feature winners this week have been Cannon McIntosh (Monday), Kyle Larson (Tuesday) and Rico Abreu (Wednesday). Abreu won back-to-back Chili Bowl titles before Bell’s run of three in a row.
“You know (Larson) is going to be there at the end,” Bell said in the press conference about Saturday night’s feature. “Rico is on kill mode. The champ is back. I think Rico is going to be really strong. Aaron Reutzel, my teammate, was outstanding at the end of the race Monday night. I think there are a ton of guys that will show up. I think we’re in for a treat Saturday.”
Giovanni Scelzi grew up the son of a four-time National Hot Rod Association champion, and has been making a significant name of his own racing dirt midgets and sprints, particularly in the World of Outlaws series.
But there’s another race series that the 18-year-old Scelzi – “Gio” for short – has his sights set upon: NASCAR.
If all goes well, Scelzi hopes to begin climbing the NASCAR ladder – perhaps as early as this year.
Once the Chili Bowl concludes Saturday night, Scelzi, son of four-time NHRA champion Gary Scelzi, and younger brother of fellow sprint/midget car racer Dominic Scelzi, will then travel with Larson to Australia, where they’ll compete in several races, most notably the biggest event of the Australian sprint car season, The Classic, on Jan. 23-24.
Needless to say, all the time together with Larson will give the youngest Scelzi a chance to further pick his fellow Californian’s mind about how to reach and race in NASCAR.
“I love sprint car racing, that’s always where my heart will be,” Scelzi told NBC Sports last week. “It’s obviously what I grew up doing, dirt racing.
“I’ll still race sprint cars as much as I can, but in the next 5-10 years, I hope to get into Trucks and Xfinity to get towards NASCAR (Cup).”
Scelzi and his father have been working on getting Gio some seat time this year in the ARCA Menards Series West (formerly K&N Pro Series West).
“Hopefully this year or next year I’ll transition over to ARCA, which is a good stepping stone, do something along those lines and get my feet wet on pavement,” Gio Scelzi said. “I’ve done some testing the last year, just trying to see if that’s the direction I want to go.
“Nothing’s been announced yet, but I think something will be announced here pretty soon to hopefully go down that path.”
Even though their father was one of the most prolific drivers in NHRA history, Gio and his brother Dominic went in a different direction when they first started racing themselves.
Instead of the straight and narrow, they chose round and dirty, you might say.
“The hardest part of drag racing, there really is no way for a kid that can race anything before you’re 16,” Scelzi said. “That’s kind of the age where you can earn a license and are allowed to race under power and really learn how to race.
“But in dirt racing, there’s micro-sprints, outlaw karts, you name it, there’s all kind of kids classes you could do to learn how to race. My dad went to dirt races a lot in California and really enjoyed it, was good friends with (NASCAR Hall of Famer) Tony Stewart and (sprint car racer) Danny Lasoski, so he always had a friend base in dirt racing and that was a way to get me and my brother in a race car when we were really young.”
Dominic began racing go-karts at five years old and Gio began racing micro-sprints at 6 at their home track, Plaza Park Raceway in Visalia, Calif., about 30 miles from Fresno.
“I think sprint car racing is so unique from other forms of racing,” Gio Scelzi said. “With a 410 sprint car, around the United States, you have the World of Outlaws, the All-Stars (All Star Circuit of Champions), IRA (Sprint Series), Knoxville (Nationals), I mean there’s probably 20 or 30 race tracks racing on a given weekend, with the same rules package, the same kind of cars and there are very good race car drivers in their own region.
“With a sprint car, what I’ve done the last two years, I’ve been based in Indianapolis and race wherever we want. If we want to race in an All-Star race in Ohio, we can go there. If we want to race an Outlaw race in North Dakota, we can go there.
“There are so many different options with that same rules package that is such a simple, powerful, exciting race car, I don’t think there’s no other kind of professional racing where you can make a living at it that has that kind of atmosphere.
“If you’ve got the money and the motors to race, you can race every weekend. Just the World of Outlaws schedule is 95 races. Or you can race the All-Stars, which is 50 races, and then maybe 20 races in Outlaws when you want to. There’s so much freedom with a team where you want to go and where you want to race, I think that’s what makes it unique.”
The youngest Scelzi has steadily been making a name for himself in the sprint car dirt racing world. At the age of 16 in 2018, he became the youngest winner in World of Outlaws history. He also won his first USAC Midget race in just his sixth career start in the series.
And at 17 last season, he was the youngest winner in the Knoxville Raceway’s history when he won an All Star Circuit of Champions race there, one of the most notable outings in a season that saw Scelzi make 71 starts across several dirt racing series, earning nine wins, 23 top-five and 40 top-10 finishes.
This week is the second Chili Bowl for Scelzi. He did well in his first start in 2018, finishing sixth in his preliminary race, was second in the B Main and then was running in the top 10 in the week’s main event – until the motor in his midget car blew halfway through the race and he finished last in the 24-car field.
Scelzi is racing at the Chili Bowl — his first race of the week is this evening, which kicks off the Nationals’ six-night run at the Tulsa Expo Center — as part of the Toyota Development program with Chad Boat (son of former IndyCar driver Billy Boat). His teammates include Christopher Bell and NBC Sports reporter Dillon Welch.
“I’m excited for it,” Gio Scelzi told NBC Sports. “The Chili Bowl as an event is huge and keeps growing and growing and attracting more attention through NASCAR and all kinds of racing fans.
“There’s a lot of good race cars, it seems like every year more and more guys and good race car drivers all-around get a ride and want to participate.”
Here’s a video of Scelzi getting ready and then taking to the track for his first practice session Monday (video courtesy Toyota Racing Development):
– Advancement from heat races to features is based upon passing points earned in heat race and qualifying races. Passing points are based upon car starting position when the yellow light goes out prior to the initial start of the heat or qualifying race.
– The 40 drivers earning the most passing points advance to four “A” qualifying races; drivers in passing points positions 41-68 will go to two C Main races. The two C Main races will have 16 cars, 12 laps in length.
– The top four cars in each C Main race will advance to the back of the B Main races, going 15 laps. (Top four from first C Main to back of first B Main, top four from second C Main to back of second B main)
– The lineup of each “A” Qualifying race will include an inversion of six cars. The top 24 cars in passing points will make the inversion. (The top point driver will start on row three of the first qualifying race, the No. 2 driver on row 3 of the second qualifying race, etc.)
– The four qualifying races will have 10 cars each with the top 16 in combined passing points from the heats and qualifying races advancing to the A Main.
– The balance of the cars (24) from the “A” qualifying races will advance to two 16 car B Mains. The top four in each B Main will advance to the A Main, going 30 laps.
– There will be 24 drivers in each preliminary night A feature
– The top two drivers in the preliminary A qualify for Saturday’s A Main.
Here’s what the table looks like for the Cup Series heading into 2020.
New Era, New Names
After serving in the role for three years, Monster Energy is no longer the entitlement sponsor of the Cup Series. With its departure also comes the end of the Cup Series’ entitlement sponsor model that had been in place since 1971 beginning with Winston.
After five decades of being the Winston, Nextel, Sprint and finally the Monster Energy Cup Series, the premier series will simply be called the NASCAR Cup Series.
There’s a lot of expectations for what the Cup Series schedule will look like in 2021 after the end of NASCAR’s current five-year agreement with tracks.
But 2020 also has plenty of groundbreaking schedule developments.
– Martinsville Speedway will host its first official Cup night race on May 9. The short track also will host the final playoff elimination race for all three national series, with the Cup race held Nov. 1.
– Pocono Raceway will be the site of the Cup Series’ first ever doubleheader weekend June 27-28. Saturday’s race will be preceded by a Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series event and Sunday begins with a Xfinity Series race.
– Daytona International Speedway will host the Cup regular season finale, moving its second date from the traditional July 4 weekend to Aug. 29. The July 4 weekend race is now held by Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Cup races there July 5).
– Darlington Raceway and the Southern 500 will open the Cup playoffs on Sept. 6. It’s joined in the opening round by Richmond Raceway and in the playoffs for the first time, Bristol Motor Speedway, which will be the first elimination race.
– After being the site of the first elimination race the last two seasons, the Charlotte Roval will be the Round of 12 elimination race (Oct. 11) and be preceded by Talladega Superspeedway.
– After a nearly two-decade run, Homestead-Miami Speedway is no longer the site of the championship weekend. Its place is now held by Phoenix Raceway, with the Cup championship race scheduled for Nov. 8. Miami’s Cup race will be March 22.
– Other notable changes: The Xfinity Series will compete at Martinsville (Oct. 31) for the first time since 2004. The Truck Series returns to Richmond Raceway (April 18) for the first time since 2005.
Chevrolet Cup teams will appear in Daytona with a slightly different look to their cars.
When the full Cup Series starting grid forms for the first time at the Daytona 500, there will be a lot familiar faces sporting new numbers with new teams. That includes a rather accomplished rookie class.
– Matt DiBenedetto debuts with Wood Brothers Racing in the No. 21 Ford, moving over from Leavine Family Racing and taking over for Paul Menard, who retired from full-time racing.
– Cole Custer and crew chief Mike Shiplett were promoted by Stewart-Haas Racing to take over its No. 41 Cup car, taking the place of Daniel Suarez. Suarez has not announced his plans for this season. SHR has not announced plans for its Xfinity program in 2020.