Christopher Bell will be looking to score his third straight win in the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, which kicks off Monday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Bell will once again race for Keith Kunz Motorsports-Curb-Agajanian and is one of over 350 entries for the prestigious 33rd annual event held inside the River Spirit Expo Center at Tulsa’s Expo Square.
In 2017, Bell became the first driver from Oklahoma to win the Chili Bowl in 22 years.
“The 2017 Chili Bowl will probably be my P1 for a very long time, if not the rest of my career,” Bell said. “The thing that made 2017 so special is you could kind of feel it building up from ’14, ’15 and ’16. I started on the front row at least two or three times before I won the race. I feel like the crowd was really into it because an Oklahoma guy hadn’t won it since Andy Hillenburg. You could feel the anticipation building up with me coming close and not winning it. Finally when I won it, it was very special for myself.
“Obviously growing up in Oklahoma the Chili Bowl has been something that’s a part of my racing heritage for a long time. I can’t remember the last year that I didn’t go.”
The first Chili Bowl win meant so much to Bell that he placed the winning car in the dining room of his house.
“So my girlfriend at the time, fiancée now (Morgan Kemenah), she was actually kind of hands on in there helping us take wheels off and move everything inside the house,” Bell said. “She was just excited about it as I was.”
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Bell recently spent the holidays racing in New Zealand along with fellow NASCAR driver Kyle Larson. Larson will also race for KKM at the Chili Bowl. Bell will be driving the No. 71w and Larson will be in the No. 01.
“There’s a lot of talented racecar drivers out there and Kyle is probably the most talented guy that we’ve seen in a long time to say the least,” Bell said. “He’s going to be really tough to beat. The Chili Bowl is really high on his bucket list to check that one off. He’s going to win it one of these years. It’s going to be my number one priority to make sure it’s not going to be this year.”
This year there will be five qualifying nights starting on Monday leading up to Saturday’s 55-lap championship event. Bell will compete on Thursday.
“So the reason on why I’m Thursday is whenever I jumped in at Keith Kunz Motorsports and organization like that where they field cars every night they can assign drivers each night or let the drivers pick.”
Race founder Emmett Hahn is amazed on how the Chili Bowl has grown since the first event in 1987.
“We had 35 cars, which is kind of the norm for any type of race back in the day,” Hahn said. “Gosh, I remember when it got back up to 165 cars. Now we are up there at 350, plus. It’s just unbelievable.”
Motor Racing Network’s hit TV show and podcast Winged Nation is teaming up with the Rip the Fence podcast team and will be on location from the Chili Bowl broadcasting live from 3-4 pm CT on January 17, 18 and from 5-6 pm CT on Saturday January 19.