Chili Bowl Midget Nationals

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Podcast: Christopher Bell on Chili Bowl, unique rivalry with Kyle Larson

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Christopher Bell‘s trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for this week’s Chili Bowl Nationals has a different feel compared to the last two years when he won the midget racing event.

“I have a lot of media obligations going into (the) week,” Bell said on the latest episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “Even last year or two years ago, I didn’t really have anything, I was just going for fun. Now I have a couple of autograph sessions and interviews and stuff like that where I actually have a PR person going next week which is a little bit different.”

That’s what happens when you combine the growing presence of NASCAR drivers in the event and Bell’s growing stature in NASCAR. The latter escalated last year as he won a rookie record seven Xfinity Series races and made it to the Championship 4.

Bell, fresh off a series of midget and sprint car races in New Zealand with Kyle Larson, will join more than 350 drivers competing in the six-night event that culminates with the championship race on Saturday. Bell is among 13 drivers with NASCAR or IndyCar connections – including Larson, Kasey Kahne and Alex Bowman – entered in the event.

Bell, a native of Norman, Oklahoma, first competed in the event in 2012 but has been attending it for roughly 20 years.

“I still get just as excited right now as I was 20 years ago, whenever I first went,” Bell said. “I guess the biggest change I’ve seen …  is the NASCAR attendance and the NASCAR commitment to the sport or just being a part of it. … It’s cool because it’s helping the Chili Bowl get more to a national level.”

Bell said he expects Larson to be his biggest obstacle in getting a third straight Chili Bowl win.

“He’s the most talented guy probably any of us have probably seen,” Bell said. “I’d say he’s No. 1 on that list.”

Bell’s preliminary race takes place Thursday, two days after Larson’s.

Bell also discussed his unique animosity-free rivalry with Larson, which came to fruition in the Xfinity Series in 2018. In Larson’s six starts, Bell placed second to Larson twice and third another time.

“Me and Kyle were talking about this the other day … It’s kind of weird. It seems like if Kyle and I are in the same race together we seem to elevate each other,” Bell said. “Kyle has been my No. 1 supporter and it all started at Little Rock, Arkansas, at the Short Track Nationals back in, I think, 2012. … That was my first time I got on the national scene and Kyle was on Twitter saying this kid’s the next big thing. Basically since day one, Kyle has been trying to promote me and telling people I’m good and stuff like that.”

You can listen to the full podcast below.

Jimmie Johnson hopes to compete in Chili Bowl ‘one of these years’

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Jimmie Johnson‘s car swap with Formula One driver Fernando Alonso last week in Bahrain got people’s imaginations running in high gear.

What else could the seven-time Cup champion try his hand at?

“I’d look at anything,” Johnson said after the car swap. “Anything is open. I’m far from done. I want to keep driving and hopefully I can find some good opportunities.”

Johnson’s contract with Hendrick Motorsports goes through 2020. Then the 43-year-old driver could have a lot more time on his hands if he doesn’t renew with the the only team he has ever raced for in Cup.

Johnson, who mentioned his interest in IndyCar road course races, also has had his eye on possibly competing in the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, a six-night event held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in January.

The subject was broached by a fan on Twitter.

In the immediate wake of the car swap, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson, NASCAR drivers with dirt racing backgrounds, expressed their desire to get Johnson behind the wheel of a sprint car.

NASCAR drivers have a rich history in the Chili Bowl. Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell is the two-time defending winner of the event. Former Camping World Truck Series driver Rico Abreu won the two years before that.

Three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart won it in 2007 and 2002 and former Cup driver Dave Blaney won it in 1993.

Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have competed in the event every year since 2011 and Larson said earlier this year that “the Chili Bowl is bigger than the Daytona 500” for him.

NASCAR’s presence in the Chili Bowl will continue in 2019.

Alex Bowman, Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, is the only full-time NASCAR driver currently on the early entry list for the event.

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Kyle Busch applauds Christopher Bell’s Chili Bowl win

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It’s no secret Kyle Busch loves winning races.

The next best thing is when one of his drivers takes a checkered flag.

The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion is celebrating in a big way after one of his drivers, Christopher Bell, won the legendary Chili Bowl Midget Nationals Saturday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Bell drives in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports – co-owned by Kyle and wife Samantha – including finishing third in the Truck standings this past season.

And while he’s won two Truck races in his young career, the 22-year-old Bell has always hoped to win the Chili Bowl.

Not only is it arguably the most prestigious midget car race in the sport, the Chili Bowl is also held in Oklahoma, Bell’s home state.

While the Chili Bowl takes place on a unique indoor track in Tulsa, Bell is a native of Norman, about 115 miles southwest, just south of Oklahoma City. He’s been going to the annual mid-January classic for most of his life, first as a spectator and in recent years as a competitor.

The younger Busch brother took to Twitter following his young protégé’s big win Saturday night. Here’s a couple of the more interesting tweets.

Saturday was Bell’s fourth time in the Chili Bowl’s A-Feature main event. Now that he is a Chili Bowl champion, he plans to return for next year’s 32nd edition to try for back-to-back wins, much like Rico Abreu did in 2015 and 2016.

And even though Busch hasn’t said anything, one might wonder that now with Bell having the highly coveted Golden Driller trophy for winning Saturday night, might his NASCAR Trucks team owner start thinking about climbing behind the wheel and potentially joining Bell in the Chili Bowl fun next year?

Follow @JerryBonkowski