Photos courtesy Patrick Grant Photography

Dig In: 31st annual Chili Bowl ready to feed winter hunger for speed, action in Tulsa

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There’s no beans, meat, green peppers or hot sauce in this Chili Bowl.

But the menu of action will still be plenty spicy to leave fans who attend the 31st Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma hungry for more over the next five nights, starting with Tuesday’s opening round of qualifying (practice takes place Monday).

Action continues Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and culminates with the A Main final event on Saturday night at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds River Spirit Expo Center.

A record 400-plus teams and nearly 55 drivers are entered in the event that is the Super Bowl of indoor Midget racing on a quarter-mile indoor track.

Budding NASCAR star Rico Abreu, who completed his first full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2016, is the two-time defending champ of the Chili Bowl and is looking to make it three in a row this year.

Abreu is hoping to close in on Kevin Swindell’s Chili Bowl record of four consecutive wins from 2010 through 2013.

Other NASCAR drivers that are entered for the event include Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Justin Allgaier, J.J. Yeley and Chase Briscoe (K&N Pro Series).

Some of the other notable short-track veteran other key names entered include Sammy Swindell, Davey Hamilton Jr., Paul McMahan, Jerry Coons Jr., Dave Darland, Donny Schatz (a Chili Bowl rookie), Chris Dyson, Joey Saldana, Daryn Pittman, Cory Kruseman, Kody Swanson, Kyle O’Gara, Damion Gardner, Jac Haudenschild and Chad Boat, among others.

A full entry list is linked here.

holly-shelton

One of the biggest storylines for fans to keep an eye on is 21-year-old Toyota-sponsored driver Holly Shelton, who is seeking to become the first woman in history to reach Saturday’s A Main feature.

Shelton (pictured) also hopes to become the first female driver to reach the B semifinal round since Bev Griffis did so 28 years ago in 1989.

Shelton finished in the top 10 in both the USAC and POWRi national Midget Series standings last season.

Two years ago, at the age of 19, Shelton defeated both Larson and Stenhouse in a Winged Outlaw Kart race at CycleLand Speedway in Sacramento, California.

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”