15 Drivers Set For Chili Bowl Race Of Champions

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15 Drivers Set
The field for the Vacuworx Invitational Race of Champions has been finalized. (Brendon Bauman photo)

TULSA, Okla. – One of the headlining parts of the annual schedule for the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, the 13th edition of the Vacuworx Invitational Race of Champions will take place Tuesday, Jan. 13, inside the River Spirit Expo Center.

The annual Chili Bowl “all-star” event brings together some of the best drivers in recent years to turn a lap at Tulsa Expo Raceway, as well as some of the stars from touring sprint car and midget series across the United States.

VIROC XIII will go 25 laps in distance, taking place prior to the Tuesday night preliminary feature and paying $2,500 to the winner.

This year’s lineup is comprised of a mix of fan favorites and new talent, made up of the Saturday podium finishers from the last five Chili Bowls (2016-20), the top-two finishers from the last five VIROC features (2016-20), preliminary night winners from the 2020 Chili Bowl Nationals and series champions from the World of Outlaws, All Star Circuit of Champions, ASCS National Tour, USAC National Midget Series, USAC National Sprint Car Series and POWRi National Midget League.

Sixteen drivers are eligible for VIROC XIII under those provisions, including:

  • Aaron Reutzel – All Star Circuit of Champions Titlist
  • Brad Sweet – World of Outlaws Champion
  • Brady Bacon – USAC Sprint Car Champion
  • Cannon McIntosh – 2020 Monday Night Winner
  • Chad Boat – 2018 VIROC Winner
  • Chris Windom – USAC Midget Champion
  • Christopher Bell – 2017-19 Chili Bowl Champion
  • Daryn Pittman – 2017 Chili Bowl Runner-up
  • Jake Neuman – POWRi Midget Champion
  • Justin Grant – 2019 Chili Bowl Third Place
  • Kyle Larson – 2020 Chili Bowl Champion
  • Rico Abreu – 2016 Chili Bowl Champion
  • Sam Hafertepe, Jr. – ASCS National Tour Champion
  • Spencer Bayston – 2018 Chili Bowl Runner-up
  • Tanner Thorson – 2019 VIROC Winner
  • Zach Daum – 2016 Chili Bowl Third Place

Of that group, 15 drivers have rides for next week’s Chili Bowl and are expected to compete in the VIROC.

Boat confirmed by text Friday evening that he will not take part in the VIROC, adding that “three cars (Reutzel, Windom and Bell) in it should keep me plenty busy!”

The eligibility provisions used to set the field for VIROC XIII are the same ones instituted for the 2020 edition of the event, which was won by Christopher Bell.

Most notably, it locks out five-time Chili Bowl winner Sammy Swindell from the VIROC for the first time. In addition to his five Golden Drillers, Swindell also has four VIROC wins.

“We were pleased with how the field turned out last year,” said Chili Bowl co-founder Emmett Hahn. “It rewards the guys who have been running well at the Chili Bowl, and it gives these drivers on these national tours something to run for throughout the year.”

The starting lineup for the VIROC will be set by group qualifying. Drivers will draw for their qualifying position, then qualify in groups of three to four. Drivers will get two warmup laps, then three green-flag laps to set their time.

The eight fastest drivers from group qualifying will be inverted, with ninth fastest on back lined up straight up by their qualifying times. Bell won the VIROC from seventh in 2020.

This year marks the second year lap times have officially counted in qualifying since 2001. The current Tulsa Expo Raceway track record is held by Kasey Kahne at 11.168 seconds.

Last year’s fastest time of 11.667 seconds was posted by Larson.

“For a special race like the VIROC, qualifying works,” noted Chili Bowl director Matt Ward. “With the overall night of racing, passing points through heats and qualifiers really allows the cream to rise, while giving the smaller teams a better shot at making the show so for that, the draw works out better and also doesn’t wear the track out.”

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