TULSA, Okla. – He’s back.
For the first time in two years, Kyle Larson will return to the SageNet Center to chase a Golden Driller, as he returns to the Chili Bowl Nationals powered by NOS Energy Drink on Thursday night.
Larson will compete in Victory Fuel Qualifying Night during the 38th running of the Super Bowl of Midget Racing, linking up with one of his past car owners to take aim at his third Chili Bowl triumph.
The Elk Grove, Calif., native and 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion will wheel the No. 98K LynK Chassis entry for Keith Kunz Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian – the team that launched Larson’s name into the national spotlight more than a decade ago, before his rise to prominence in stock cars began.
According to Chili Bowl broadcasting outlet FloRacing, Larson called Keith Kunz – who won Monday night’s preliminary feature with Tanner Carrick – before 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, congratulating Kunz and also inquiring if he had an extra car that Larson could race in the event.
Kunz confirmed that he did – a backup car that would have been used for Carrick had he been selected by Chili Bowl officials to race in Monday’s O’Reilly Invitational Race of Champions – and the deal was quickly secured.
The No. 98K that Larson will drive in Thursday's program will carry sponsorship from DH Horton, FloRacing, and HendrickCars.com.
Larson’s first Chili Bowl with KKM came in January of 2012, leading to his second feature start in the event, and he continued with the team in Chili Bowl competition and other select events through 2019.
The 2020 Chili Bowl saw Larson debut his own midget car under the Kyle Larson Open Wheel banner, and he won the Golden Driller outright in 2020 and ’21 before sliding to sixth in a disappointing 2022 Chili Bowl finale.
Larson did not compete in last year’s running of the event, citing concerns over the size of the event purse, which have begun to be alleviated with this year’s 38th edition.
As reported by industry veteran Matt Weaver and confirmed by event promoter Emmett Hahn, the Saturday finale will now pay $20,000 to win – up from $10,000 – as well as $150 per lap led and $50 to the runner-up of each lap in the 55-lap feature at Tulsa Expo Raceway.
Hahn estimated that, overall, the Chili Bowl purse rose by roughly $55,000 from last year to this year.
Now, Larson will attempt to lock into his 11th career Saturday night A-main at the Chili Bowl via a top-two finish in Thursday’s preliminary program. If he is able to do so, he’ll perform a unique version of “The Double” on Saturday.
Larson is already committed to racing at Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park in the Wild West Shootout for dirt late models with Rumley Enterprises Saturday, and following that program, he’ll immediately fly to Tulsa for Saturday’s Chili Bowl finale – which has notoriously started at or after midnight in years past.
Should Larson lock into this year’s Chili Bowl headliner, it will mark the latest accomplishment in his stunning career that is set to add another jewel in May – when he attempts to do the most famous version of “Double Duty” by attempting the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same day on Memorial Day weekend.
As some fans have put it in years past, “it’s just Kyle Larson doing Kyle Larson things.”
Every lap of this year’s Chili Bowl Nationals can be streamed live through FloRacing.
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