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If the Daytona 500 is the Super Bowl of NASCAR, then the Chili Bowl Nationals qualify as the Super Bowl of the midget cars racing circuit. The quarter-mile oval at Tulsa Expo Raceway attracts big-name talent like Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, who have combined for the last five championships, and the best of the full-time dirt-track competitors.

Larson and Bell are back for more at the annual event, which kicks off Monday and culminates on Jan. 15. They’ll have plenty of company.

The Chili Bowl Nationals heat up the offseason

Golden Driller statue in Tulsa, Oklahoma. | R. Krubner/ClassicStock/Getty Images
Golden Driller statue in Tulsa, Oklahoma. | R. Krubner/ClassicStock/Getty Images

The 36th annual Chili Bowl has set a record with nearly 400 entries, setting up five jam-packed days of qualifying at Tulsa’s Expo Square in Oklahoma. The prize is the Golden Driller Trophy, the most cherished prize in dirt-track motorsports. It’s a replica of the nearby 76-foot, 22-ton statue.

The Tulsa Shootout began in 1986, the Chili Bowl Nationals event made its debut the following year, and organizers began handing out the iconic trophy shortly before the turn of the century.

It’s a coveted prize because of the significance of the event itself. The Chili Bowl Nationals sit roughly midway between the end of one season and the start of another for major racing outfits like NASCAR and IndyCar. As such, the dirt-track stars have the big stage to themselves. Ironically, that showcase attracts some of those big NASCAR names like Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell.

Bell became just the second Oklahoman to win the Chili Bowl in 2017, which was the start of his three-peat. Larson captured the top Chili Bowl honor in 2020 in his 13th try and arrives next week as the two-time defending champion.

Which NASCAR Cup Series drivers have signed up for the Chili Bowl?

Kyle Larson celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on Aug. 8, 2021. | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

As of the beginning of this week, multiple NASCAR drivers were scheduled to compete at the Chili Bowl Nationals when qualifying opens, reported.

The action begins Monday, Jan. 10. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman will join fellow Cup Series driver Chase Briscoe from Stewart-Haas Racing. The night’s schedule also includes Christopher Bell competing in the invitation-only Race of Champions.

All eyes during Tuesday qualifying will be on Kyle Larson, the two-time defending champion, but the field also includes Tim McCreadie, the 2006 Chili Bowl titlist as well as the reigning Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champ.

Wednesday’s qualifying won’t include any major NASCAR names, but Rico Abreu, a two-time Chili Bowl winner with a history of dominating in qualifying, will take to the track against 2008 Chili Bowl champ Damion Gardner.

On Thursday, Bell and J.J. Yeley, a veteran of 720 NASCAR starts and 26 Chili Bowls, highlight the qualifying. Aside from his three overall championships at the Chili Bowl Nationals, Bell has won his qualifying round seven times in eight years.

The Friday qualifying field includes well-known NASCAR names Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kasey Kahne, and Ryan Newman, as well as part-timer Ryan Ellis. Kahne is prepping for a full-time World of Outlaws schedule in 2022. Getting to Saturday’s championship race would jump-start his year.

Where to watch Kyle Larson and the 2022 Chili Bowl Nationals?

The top two finishers in qualifying each night automatically move on to the main event of the Chili Bowl Nationals on Saturday, Jan. 15. Everyone else goes into multiple second-chance races all day Saturday in pursuit of spots to fill out the field.

Most of this year’s Chili Bowl Nationals action is being carried by Saturday night’s action, including the championship race, switches over to MAVTV Motorsports Network beginning at 7 p.m. ET.

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