Roger Diez: Chili Bowl spices things up Saturday
If you’re craving a racing fix, Saturday’s your night. MAVTV will air the finals from the Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Okla., this evening, so grab a chair, a snack, and a beverage and get ready to watch some fantastic racing. The Chili Bowl is famous as the Super Bowl of Midget Racing, with around 250 drivers coming from nearly every state in the country as well as Australia and New Zealand. A couple of local drivers, Tanner Thorson of Minden and Sean Dodenhoff of Reno are entered, as well as a number of NASCAR stars. Kyle Larson won a qualifying event earlier in the week, automatically putting him into tonight’s A-Feature. It was Larson’s fourth time to win a Chili Bowl prelim. Rico Abreu, former NASCAR Truck series racer, also qualified for the main and has won overall twice. Christopher Bell, one of NASCAR’s future superstars, won the whole thing a year ago, and NASCAR veterans Kasey Kahne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Justin Allgaier are also racing in this year’s event. TV coverage begins this morning at 8:30 with a reprise of the 2016 and 2017 events, and live coverage of the 2018 Chili Bowl Nationals starts at 5:30 p.m. on MAVTV.
In just two weeks the green flag will fly for the first big race of the season, the Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance race. Last week the cars that will run the twice-around-the-clock classic took to the track for the “Roar Before the 24” test and qualifying session. Cadillacs were the fastest things on the track, with Cadillac DPi prototypes qualifying first through fourth, followed by the two Penske DPi Acura prototypes. A Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT led the GTLM division followed by a Corvette, and the fastest GTD qualifier was a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 with an Audi R8 LMS GT3 second quick. In addition to those four, the GT fields include entries from Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, and Acura. As I wrote a week ago, the field is sprinkled with stars from other racing series, particularly IndyCar. A couple of entries I missed last week were Formula 1 driver Lance Stroll, who will co-drive an ORECA LMP2 prototype, and NASCAR up-and-coming driver Austin Cindric, who will pilot a similar car. There are also a few familiar names like Lauda and Senna in the field, relatives of racing legends like Niki Lauda and Ayrton Senna. Racing is definitely a family business in some families.
Last week four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup drivers participated in a two-day closed Goodyear tire test at Texas Motor Speedway. It was the debut of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, which will be the weapon Chevy teams will bring to the fight in 2018. Chase Elliott in the Hendrick Racing Camaro joined Ryan Blaney in his Penske Ford, Aric Almirola aboard the Stewart-Haas Ford, and Martin Truex Jr. driving his Furniture Row Toyota Camry for the test. While generally happy with the car, Elliott said the test really doesn’t indicate how much different the Camaro will be in an actual race situation. Performance aside, Elliott was impressed with the way the Chevrolet people had maintained the similarity of the race car to the street version. “I don’t know how you could not identify the (racing) Camaro with the Camaro on the street,” he said. “It looks the same. I think that is something to be very proud of from Chevrolet.”