CONCORD, N.C. – Off season? Not this week.
With the NASCAR Cup Series on hiatus before its season kicks off Feb. 6 with the Clash at the L.A. Coliseum, Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman have made their way to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to compete in the 36th annual Chili Bowl Nationals.
Beginning tonight, heat and qualifying races will be held each evening leading up to the championship feature race on Saturday, Jan. 15.
Tonight’s schedule also includes the Invitational Race of Champions, which Elliott and Larson will compete in. Elliott’s 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship qualifies him for the event while Larson’s 2021 NASCAR Cup Series title and two Chili Bowl wins earn him a spot.
Bowman and Elliott will qualify tonight at 6 p.m. ET, and Larson will qualify Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET. All qualifying and heat races will be streamed live on FloRacing.com/events.
Elliott, who is driving for Hendrick Motorsports teammate Larson in the No. 9E A SHOC Performance Energy entry, made his Chili Bowl debut last year. A spin in qualifying placed the Dawsonville, Georgia, native at the tail end of the F-Main where he missed out on advancing into the E-Main by two spots.
“(Last year) it was all very new to me,” Elliott said. “I had been there once before as a spectator but only on Saturday night just for the A-Main.
"I’ve always admired it and kept up with it for probably the past six or seven years. I got to a point where I was like, ‘Hey, I really like this. Why not go give it a shot?’ So I have had a couple of opportunities to do that, and I am trying to make the most of them and have some fun. I am trying to get a little better and make some progress. It’s a great event, super exciting and very different from the norm for us. And going to support that type of racing, too, I think is important.”
Bowman, who fields his own No. 55X adorned with Ally colors, is competing in his sixth Chili Bowl. He won a heat race in 2016 and came close to advancing to the A-Main in 2020 before falling short in the B-Main with a 12th-place finish.
“It’s been different this year, preparation-wise,” Bowman said. “We just changed a lot on our race cars and how we have approached the midget races this off season. There has been a lot of hard work, but I’m excited to get back in the seat, especially with Ally on board. They were on our cars for the sprint car program and decided they wanted to do Chili Bowl, too. I think it’s great, and I think they’re really going to enjoy it, too.”
Larson, who is no stranger to midget racing, is a two-time Chili Bowl champ after winning back-to-back 2020 and 2021. He dominated last year’s main event, leading all 55 laps, and is looking to become the second consecutive driver to win three straight Chili Bowl events. Christopher Bell won it 2017-2019.
“It’s cool that I’ll be going for three in a row,” Larson said. “Kevin Swindell won four in a row, and I think Christopher Bell won three. Rico Abreu won two, and I’m at two now. It’s just a tough event. I was happy to win one, and really happy to win two. I’d be ecstatic to win three in a row.”
Saturday’s feature races – the Alphabet Soup – begin at 10 a.m. ET and will be streamed live on FloRacing.com/events. Opening ceremonies for the final features and main event, which kick off at 7 p.m. ET, will be broadcast live on MAVTV and online with MAVTV Plus.
Be sure to keep up with how all three Hendrick Motorsports are running in Tulsa by following @TeamHendrick on Twitter.