MIAMI — When the entry list for the 79th annual Turkey Night Grand Prix hit the presses late Wednesday night, there was a notable omission in the form of reigning event winner Christopher Bell.
As it turns out, that absence wasn’t just a case of Bell waiting to make a late entry into the crown jewel event.
Bell confirmed Thursday during NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 Media Day at the Miami Beach Edition Hotel that he will not head west to Ventura Raceway following the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 300 to defend his Turkey Night victory from one year ago.
The Nov. 28 race will mark the first Turkey Night Grand Prix that won’t feature the previous year’s winner since 2013, when 2012 winner Kyle Larson wasn’t in the field at Perris Auto Speedway.
“I’m sure there’s a car available out there for me,” Bell noted, “but I don’t plan on going to Placerville (Speedway for the Hangtown 100) and I actually won’t defend my Turkey Night win this year either.
“I am disappointed, on one hand, because I love going to Ventura and it’s really fun to go race on a beach. That’s not something you get to do very often,” he added. “But I get to spend Thanksgiving with my family this year for the first time in a very long time, so that will be really enjoyable.”
With Bell not racing Turkey Night this year, it leaves two-time winner Larson as the favorite to win and join the Norman, Okla., native as a three-time champion of the Thanksgiving night event in the process.
All three of Bell’s Turkey Night wins have come after battles with Larson, something he nodded to during his media session.
“Merry Christmas (to him),” Bell said of his longtime rival.
So with Bell ruling out the West Coast USAC swing, when is the next time dirt fans will see him in a midget prior to his quest for a fourth-straight Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals crown?
“Gateway,” Bell confirmed. “That will be the next time I’m in a midget.”
The Gateway Dirt Nationals will be run Dec. 19-21 inside The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis.