Roger Diez: Locals entered in Midget racing Chili Bowl
The 2019 racing season has begun. The Chili Bowl, Midget racing’s Daytona and Indy 500, Super Bowl, World Series, Wimbledon, Stanley Cup, and Masters all rolled into one, got underway earlier in the week with qualifying races. Getting down to today’s A Main takes a while, as 344 teams and drivers have converged on Tulsa, Okla., for the event. Local drivers Tanner Thorson of Minden and Reno’s Sean Dodenhoff are entered, along with a number of familiar names from the NASCAR ranks and IndyCar driver Conor Daly. NASCAR entrants include 2017 and 2018 Chili Bowl winner Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kasey Kahne, Landon Cassill, Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, and Tanner Berryhill. Larson won his qualifying race early in the week, and is hoping to take the overall win that eluded him a year ago when he suffered a blown engine. You can catch all the action on Lucas Oil Racing TV and MAVTV starting at 5:30 this evening.
After their holiday in Tulsa, the NASCAR drivers will be gearing up for the 2019 season that begins the first weekend of February with the Advance Auto Parts Clash and Daytona 500 practice. I’ll be writing lots more about this as we get closer to the big date.
Next weekend is the beginning of the endurance racing season, with qualifying for the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Thursday. It will air on NBC Sports Network for two hours starting at noon. The race will start on Saturday with coverage on both NBC and NBC Sports, and I’ll share broadcast times in next week’s column.
Although its racing season is still on the horizon, the NTT IndyCar series had a test at Sebring last week, with James Hinchcliffe setting fast time in the shakedown leading up to the series’ March 10 season opener. Did you notice I wrote “NTT IndyCar series” rather than “Verizon IndyCar series?” Yes, the Japanese international tech giant that has sponsored Ganassi team cars the last few years has stepped up to be series sponsor. One of the things it brings to the table is an app that will give unprecedented access to the inner workings of the series and teams. I’m looking forward to seeing what other changes are in store for IndyCar in 2019 and beyond.
The Formula One season opener is also two months away. The series will begin its 21-race 2019 season in Australia on March 17. There are lots of changes to the F1 grid this year. McLaren, after a miserable season with Honda engines, will switch to Renault power for 2019. Red Bull, following a mixed season with Renault, will have Honda power units this year. McLaren also has a new driver lineup, with F1 veteran Carlos Sainz joined by rookie Lando Norris. At Red Bull, Max Verstappen will be joined by Pierre Gasly, who moves up from Toro Rosso. Daniel Ricciardo moves on from Red Bull to join Nico Hulkenberg at Renault. Lance Stroll is leaving Williams to join Sergio Perez at Force India, while Kimi Raikkonen is out at Ferrari and in at Sauber. Daniil Kvyat returns to Toro Rosso, teamed with rookie Alexander Albon, and Williams has a completely new lineup with Robert Kubica and rookie George Russell. Kubica had been Williams’ reserve driver in 2018. Sebastian Vettel returns to Ferrari with new teammate Charles Leclerc. The team also has its fourth manager in five seasons, as Mattio Binotti takes the reins from Maurizio Arrivabene. The only unchanged driver lineups are five-time constructors’ champion Mercedes with defending drivers’ champion Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, and the American-owned Haas F1 team of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.