TULSA, Okla. — The biggest short track race in America officially kicks off Tuesday night, with Warren CAT Night set to take center stage inside the River Spirit Expo Center as the opening night of the 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals gets underway.
375 cars over four days will attempt to race for 24 starting spots in Saturday night’s championship A-main, which pays $10,000 to the winner of the event.
The Tuesday night preliminary night will feature a full racing program, complete with heat races and a full slate of E, D, C and B-Main races leading into the night’s 25-lap A-Main. The top three finishers in each preliminary night A-Main are locked into Saturday’s championship feature.
Among those hoping to taste Chili Bowl glory and leading the charge for the Tuesday qualifiers is Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Larson, driving the No. 71K ParkerStore/Cartwheel by Target-Bullet for Keith Kunz Motorsports.
Larson, who is seeking his first Chili Bowl victory after watching KKM teammate Rico Abreu taste the spoils of victory the last two years, won the Turkey Night Grand Prix in November at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway, his last appearance in a midget prior to this week.
The Elk Grove, Calif. native also won a USAC midget appearance at Montpelier Motor Speedway during Indiana Midget Week this past June. Larson topped the preliminary A-Feature on Warren CAT Night two years ago.
Other heavy-hitters from Tuesday’s qualifying night entry list include Brad Loyet, Chase Briscoe, Zach Daum, Aaron Reutzel, Tyler Courtney, Joe B. Miller, Joey Saldana, Kevin Thomas Jr., Alex Bright and Spencer Bayston.
Loyet, a three-time POWRi National Midget Series champion, is driving the No. 05 Loyet Motorsports Spike-Esslinger and is looking for his first victory in the Chili Bowl. His best finish of 10th came in his first A-Main start in 2009.
Briscoe, the 2016 ARCA Racing Series champion for Cunningham Motorsports, is driving a self-owned No. 5CB Big Tine Spike/Honda and has never made the 55-lap finale.
Daum, also a three-time POWRi National Midget champion, is driving for his family-owned team in the No. 5D Eagle/Toyota. He finished a career-best third in last year’s Chili Bowl finale.
Reutzel won the Lucas Oil ASCS National Tour championship in 2015 and is looking to make his first championship A-Main start at the Chili Bowl. He drives the No. 5H Hall Racing Spike/Esslinger.
Courtney is piloting one of the potent Clauson-Marshall Racing midgets at this year’s Chili Bowl, driving the No. 7BC Spike/Stanton Mopar entry in honor of the late Bryan Clauson, who won the Chili Bowl in 2014.
Miller is looking to win the Chili Bowl after coming from last to win the Speedway Motors Tulsa Shootout, held inside the Expo Center on New Year’s weekend. He will drive the No. 7U Spike/Esslinger for Trifecta Motorsports.
Saldana, a 99-time World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series winner, brings one of his own Spike/Esslinger midgets back to this year’s Chili Bowl and looks to better his 10th place finish from last year’s Chili Bowl.
Thomas will drive for Blazin’ Racin’ in his first full season in a winged sprint car this year, but comes to the Chili Bowl in a potent Amati Racing entry. He will aim to make the championship A-Main for the first time in 2017, after driving Kevin Swindell’s famed No. 39 in last year’s Chili Bowl en route to an 11th-place finish in his B-Main.
Bright, driving the No. 77 Degree Engineering Elite/Fontana, is the defending winner of Warren CAT Night and parlayed his surprise opening night victory last year into a 15th-place finish in the Saturday finale. His career-best of fourth came in his A-Main debut, back in 2014.
Bayston, driving one of nine Keith Kunz-owned entries at this year’s Chili Bowl, will look to make his second-career Saturday A-Main in the No. 97K Curb Records/Bullet-Toyota. Last year’s USAC National Midget Series runner-up made his only prior start in the finale in 2015, when he finished 18th.
Click here to view the full entry list.