Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Stars Face Trials Instead of Triumphs at Chili Bowl

A week of thrills resulted in numerous spills for the NASCAR national series stars in Tulsa, Okla., for the 2024 Chili Bowl Nationals. 

Five NASCAR drivers, representing the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series, made a run at the famous Golden Driller Saturday (Jan. 13), with a sixth attempting to lock in a spot during a preliminary.

Kyle Larson stole headlines Tuesday (Jan. 9) evening when he announced intentions to try a dirt double. Already in Vado, N.M., for the Wild West Shootout, Larson claimed a Keith Kunz car for Thursday (Jan. 11) after making a phone call. In order to have a shot to complete both races, Larson needed to finish in the top two positions on Thursday to secure an A-main start for Saturday.

During his heat race, Larson made contact with another car and flipped. The car remained durable, though, and Larson finished the heat, relegated to the front row one of Thursday’s C-features.

Following in the footsteps of his 2015 Chili Bowl preliminary, Larson drove through the B-main to secure a spot in the Thursday main event. 

A long green flag run to start the A-main left Larson running out of time, and then he went upside down again. This second somersault broke the front of Larson’s car, relegating the No. 98K to the E-main on Saturday and ending Larson’s Chili Bowl two days early.

“Hate that I tore up their equipment,” Larson said, “but I had a good time getting to race with Keith again. That was a lot of fun.”

Josh Bilicki took a tumble during his heat race on Friday (Jan. 12), setting him back into O-main early Saturday morning.

“I need more time in these cars” Bilicki said Friday night. “This is my eighth weekend on dirt. I’m really frustrated at this point in myself, but we’re at the Chili Bowl. It’s still cool to be here.”

Bilicki advanced into the P-main out of the first race on Saturday, but a narrow groove and yet another incident buried Bilicki at the back, ending his day.

JJ Yeley flipped in his heat race Thursday and joined his crew in making repairs to the car.

Yeley climbed through the field in his qualifier and drove his way into the G-main for the weekend. On Saturday, Yeley rocketed away and beat his competitors but could not overcome the lack of track position to advance further in the following race.

Defending Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. threw his name in the ring Wednesday, following Larson’s footsteps and making a call to Kunz. Stenhouse showed speed in his first two races, earning enough passing points to lock into Friday’s A-main. 

Stenhouse brought out the first yellow after an accident broke something in the front end of his car, placing him in Saturday’s first E-main.

After a rough start, Stenhouse drove to the front to move into the D-main. A hard charge through the field led Stenhouse into the C-main, but misfortune struck when the right front shock of the No. 71R broke, ending his run through the alphabet soup.

Upcoming Xfinity rookie Jesse Love flashed to the front in his heat race Thursday evening until a wheelstand went wrong and another car ran into him, upending Love’s machine.

With the car broken and leaking fluid, Love thought his night had prematurely ended. However, the CB Industries team worked furiously to repair the car, and Love got out just in the nick of time to compete again. Love fell just one spot short of transferring out of the B-main, earning him last in Saturday’s second E-main.

Love later noted that he hoped to “make a cool soup run,” but he did not advance through the alphabet any on Saturday.

The only NASCAR star who did not crash in his preliminary night was Chase Briscoe. The Cup driver nearly finished in the top two Tuesday night, ultimately earning a spot near the front of the first B-main Saturday night. 

Briscoe ran the entire B-main inside the transfer positions and qualified for the Chili Bowl main event.

The A-main did not turn out as well for Briscoe. His No. 5 seemed stuck on the bottom – before the bottom rubbered in – and the leaders lapped Briscoe about halfway through the 55-lap event. 

Despite the 21st-place effort, Briscoe still carried the banner for the active NASCAR guys.

“Cool to represent the NASCAR bunch,” Briscoe said. “We definitely need to do a little bit better.”

About the author

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via