Reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Christopher Bell won his second straight Chili Bowl Nationals midget race Saturday night in Tulsa, Okla.
Bell, who grew up in nearby Norman, benefited from NASCAR Monstery Energy Series star Kyle Larson’s misfortune. The Elk Grove driver, who made waves this week by saying a Chili Bowl victory would mean more to him than winning the Daytona 500, was leading the race when his engine let go on lap 44 of the 55-lap race, handing the lead to Bell.
Another two-time champion, Rico Abreu of Rutherford in the Napa Valley, finished second.
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The Chili Bowl, celebrating its 32nd year of racing on a temporary quarter-mile dirt track built inside the River Spirit Expo Center, has become one of the country’s premier motor sports events. Nearly 360 drivers competed this year including many stars from California.
Larson and Bell have both moved into NASCAR’s pavement ranks for their full-time jobs, but routinely return to their roots in dirt track racing. Last season, for instance, Larson raced in the Knoxville Nationals sprint car race, finishing second on a Saturday night in Iowa before zipping back to Michigan where he won the NASCAR Monster Energy race.
Scelzi makes feature
One driver who might be on that kind of career arc is 16-year-old Fresno racer Giovanni Scelzi, who notably made the Chili Bowl feature in his rookie season.
Scelzi started 16th in the main event and was one of the few drivers working the outside of the track to move forward early. He had reached 11th when he suffered an engine failure on lap 4, coasting to a stop on the front stretch to end his night.
Scelzi, son of former four-time NHRA national champion Gary Scelzi, was runner-up in the Northern Auto Racing Club/King of the West winged sprint car series last season and is planning to barnstorm the Midwest this summer.
Scelzi advanced to Saturday’s main event by finishing second in his B main. He started fifth; the top six transferred.
Hanford’s D.J. Netto was 13th in the same B main, after advancing out of a C main with a fifth-place finish.
The field is split into four weeknights of racing where drivers earn points that set their place in one of Saturday’s 27 races.
Other central San Joaquin Valley results Saturday: Hanford’s Michael Faccinto, 11th in a D main after a fourth in his E main; Fresno’s David Prickett, 12th behind Faccinto in a D main; Hanford’s Chad Boespflug, ninth in an F main after a second in his G main; Kingsburg’s Kody Swanson, fifth in an H feature after winning an I feature; and Tipton’s Danny Faria Jr., 15th in an I feature after winning a J feature.