Race Weekend Central

Daytona to Dirt: NASCAR Regulars Shut Out of Chili Bowl, Victory Lane Out West

Say hello to our newest feature for 2023, which will keep tabs on NASCAR’s past and present regulars and their dirt racing exploits.

Josh Bilicki

The frequent Cup Series competitor made his Chili Bowl debut Tuesday (Jan. 10) from the pole of the second heat race and struggled from the get go, visibly holding up the field with a slow start to the race. To his credit, Bilicki got through the heat race without incident, finishing fifth and sneaking into the back of a qualifier. Bilicki put up a credible effort in his B-main but failed finish and transfer to the day’s prelim feature.

Saturday, Bilicki started in the second J-main but was sent to the rear prior to the green flag for requiring a second push start. Bilicki ran the race without incident but was never a threat to transfer. 

Alex Bowman

One night after racing in the Race of Champions on a promoter invitation, the Cup Series regular scored a Chili Bowl heat race win Tuesday night courtesy of a Red Sea parting moment that allowed him to go from fifth to first in half a lap.

Bowman’s luck on the start was all used up though, as during his qualifier Bowman was involved in a first-lap incident that sent Jeb Sessums flipping and Bowman to the tail for a spin. 

Saturday, Bowman put together a convincing drive, maintaining the final transfer spot in the first E-main despite steady pressure from behind and making multiple lane changes. Bowman never cracked the top 15 and was eliminated in his D-main.

Chase Briscoe

Saturday, the Cup Series regular started seventh in his Chili Bowl B-main and put on a pitched battle with Jonathan Beason and Ryan Timms, getting as high as sixth in the running order, However, a late restart saw Briscoe bike the berm in turns 3 and 4, falling to 10th and failing to transfer.

Matt Crafton

The three-time Truck Series champion had a better second week in the IMCA Winter Nationals at Cocopah Speedway, qualifying for the final two features on Friday and Saturday after failing to transfer from a modified B-main Thursday.

Friday saw Crafton win his heat race and run in the top 10 for the first half of the feature, only to fall from eighth to 18th after getting forced off track to avoid a collision on the backstretch with 11 laps to go. Saturday Crafton made the final A-main of the weekend but finished off the lead lap.

Carson Hocevar

The Truck Series regular scored his first career Tulsa checkered flag with a win in a chaotic Chili Bowl C-main that saw Sam Hafertepe Jr. described by some as a “dart without feathers,” creating chaos that likely helped Hocevar up front (this writer has no way of knowing, as his C-main occurred during a nine-minute Flo Racing blackout). Hocevar failed to transfer from his B-main, though he did make some headlines that evening.

Hocevar fared well in his G-main, moving forward and threatening for a transfer spot before losing the final transfer to Parker Price-Miller in a photo finish.

Mikey Kile

The former ARCA Racing Series regular made his dirt late model debut at Vado on Wednesday night, falling in his heat race and finishing at the back of his B-main, though he completed both events without incident. Kile was driving for fellow Louisianan Cade Dillard.

Friday night saw marked improvement, with Kile finishing second in his qualifying group and easily transferring to Friday’s A-main, where he ran the full feature but finished off the lead lap. Saturday was more of the same, with Kile qualifying well and nearly winning his B-main, finishing off the lead lap of the feature after getting roughed up by Mike Marlar as part of the ferocious battle for the win between Marlar, Kyle Larson and Bobby Pierce.

See also
This Weekend in Dirt: Bobby Pierce Holds Off Kyle Larson in Race of Year at Vado

Todd Kluever

The former Truck Series regular had an early wheel-hop prove costly in his Chili Bowl heat race, as Kluever never improved from his starting spot and lost a crucial spot late after a pitched battle with Santino Ferrucci. Buried, Kluever failed to advance from Friday’s C-main.

Saturday was more of the same. Kluever got stuck in a lap 1 tangle in the first L-main and dropped to the rear, eventually missing a transfer by one spot.

Bobby Labonte

The 2000 Cup Series champion had a strong debut as an IMCA stock car driver at Cocopah on Thursday, going plus-four in his first heat race and scoring a convincing top-10 finish in the A-main glued to the bottom of the racetrack.

That luck wore off on Friday, with Labonte suffering front end damage in his heat race after hitting a spinning Jerry Flippo and failing to transfer from his B-main after repairs. More bad luck followed Labonte on Saturday, failing to finish his B-main after suffering a flat tire. Still, Labonte appeared to be granted a promoter’s provisional, as he started the A-main and won hard charger honors, moving forward from 29th to 12th.

Kyle Larson

The 2021 Cup Series champion scored top-10 finishes in all four Wild West Shootout features in Vado this week, finishing sixth on Wednesday, fourth on Friday and second on both Saturday and Sunday. Sunday’s feature, an instant classic, saw Larson all smiles after his race despite falling short to Pierce in the final running order. Larson also made waves Sunday night post-race with the announcement that he intends to return to the Wild West Shootout in 2024.

Ken Schrader

The former Cup Series regular made a splash in his first IMCA modified race of the year at Cocopah on Thursday, winning his heat race and finishing sixth in the A-main. 

That was the high point of Schrader’s trip out West though. Friday saw the No. 9 car fail to advance beyond heat racing with an unspecified mechanical malady. 

Saturday, Schrader finished runner-up in his heat race and started the A-main, but opted to withdraw after a rain delay struck early in the race. 

Kenny Wallace

The former Cup Series regular followed fellow NASCAR veteran Labonte through the field of the IMCA stock car feature Thursday night, finishing in the top 10 after narrowly transferring from the first B-main. Wallace ended his residency at Cocopah Speedway after Thursday’s race.

JJ Yeley

The former Cup Series regular had a strong decisive run in the fourth Chili Bowl qualifier Thursday night, allowing him a front-row start in the B-main that saw Yeley prove excellent in defense, holding off traffic to finish third and transfer to the A-main, where he finished 13th.

On Saturday, Yeley made a little forward progress in the second C-main, but never contended for a transfer. Of note, Yeley saw the record that he held with four other drivers for alphabet soup runs in the Chili Bowl Nationals go out the window, with Kris Carroll earning seven transfers as he went from an N-main to an H-main. Yeley went from a F-main to the Chili Bowl feature in 2004.

About the author

Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.

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