Some NASCAR drivers won’t have to wait until the opening NASCAR race weekend in February to compete in events with a major spotlight.
The Chili Bowl midget nationals and the Rolex 24 sports-car race are two of the biggest, most well-known races of the January calendar. For those who are keeping to more traditional NASCAR stock cars, the preseason Clash is on the horizon in early February.
Who will be among the drivers in these events? Here’s a primer for NASCAR fans:
Chili Bowl | Tulsa, Oklahoma
The Chili Bowl midget nationals at the Tulsa Expo Center began Tuesday with qualifying nights that run through Friday. The main event is Saturday on the indoor dirt track.
The NASCAR Cup drivers competing are Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. while NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers Christopher Bell (the defending Chili Bowl champion), Justin Allgaier, J.J. Yeley and Chase Briscoe are racing.
Some drivers with recent NASCAR ties include Rico Abreu, Chris Windom, Chad Boat, Brad Sweet and Tanner Berryhill. Alex Bowman, the replacement for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports, isn’t racing, but he’s there as a car owner. Tony Stewart? He handles track preparation.
Rolex 24 | Daytona, Florida
The Rolex 24 sports-car race Jan. 27-28 at Daytona International Speedway will have one NASCAR Cup driver in the field — AJ Allmendinger is back in the race after a one-year absence. He is driving an Acura GT3 for Michael Shank Racing.
Also driving an Acura for Michael Shank Racing will be Justin Marks, who won an Xfinity race in 2016 at Mid-Ohio. Xfinity Series driver Austin Cindric is driving a prototype for JDC-Miller Motorsports.
Scott Pruett, who competed in NASCAR Cup in 2000 and select events from 2001 to 2008, will drive a Lexus GT3 in what will be the final race of his career.
Clash | Daytona, Florida
NASCAR Cup drivers are eligible for the 75-lap exhibition Clash at Daytona if they won a pole in 2017, have been a past Daytona 500 pole-sitter or made the 2017 playoffs.
That means 20 drivers are eligible: Fourteen thanks to poles (Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Larson, Joey Logano, Stenhouse and Martin Truex Jr.), three past Daytona 500 pole-sitters (Austin Dillon, Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick) and three drivers who were in the playoffs: Kahne, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman).
Earnhardt and Kenseth don’t have rides, so that leaves 18 drivers in the field. And if Patrick doesn’t run it, then it will be 17 drivers in the Feb. 11 race.