Kasey Kahne to honor Jason Leffler at Chili Bowl

January 14, 2014, Staff report,

Friend of late Cup driver will pilot No. 71 Jason Leffler Tribute/Chevrolet/Beast at event

Sprint Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne has joined the star-studded field for the 28th annual Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire, Tony Stewart Racing and Beast Enterprises announced Tuesday.

Kahne will pilot the No. 71 Jason Leffler Tribute/Chevrolet/Beast being entered by the late Jason Leffler and Julianna Patterson in the event held Jan. 14-18 at the Tulsa (Okla.) Expo Center.

“Jason Leffler was a good buddy of mine and it’s neat that Bob East and Tony Stewart asked me to drive his tribute car in this year’s Chili Bowl,” Kahne said in a team release. “We came up in USAC together and we both drove the No. 9 Midget for Steve Lewis and Bob East during our careers."

Kahne and Stewart teamed up for this year’s event with the goal of raising money for the Charles Dean Leffler Discretionary Trust with a donation through the Tony Stewart Foundation to benefit the late race car driver’s son.

"Jason was a great person and the support the racing community and fans have shown him and his son Charlie Dean is proof of the type of person he was. It means a lot to be able to sit behind the wheel of the No. 71 and show our support for Charlie. I’m really looking forward to this year’s event and the car giveaway and fundraising programs.”

Race fans will have an opportunity to win the car -- not including the engine -- that Kahne will drive in this year’s Chili Bowl by registering online. Stewart drove the same car in the Chili Bowl in 2012 and 2013. A random drawing following the Chili Bowl will determine one winner who will become the new owner of the race car, built specifically for use indoors. No purchase or donation is necessary to enter.

“This program is a win-win for everyone,” Stewart said. “Not only will a lucky fan be able to win the car that both Kasey and I have driven in the Chili Bowl, but we’ll be able to honor our friend Jason and help support his son Charlie Dean in a very unique way. Jason was a great friend of mine and we both shared a love for open-wheel racing. I’m proud to have not only competed against Jason but to have had the opportunity to call him a friend. While I can’t be in the race car myself for this year’s Chili Bowl, I’m really looking forward to seeing Kasey drive the No. 71 and to work with both him and Bob East again.”

The fundraising and car giveaway website is currently accepting entries and donations, with the contest closing at 9 p.m. ET on Jan. 19. Donations to the Charles Dean Leffler Discretionary Trust will be accepted through Jan. 31.

On a related note, it sure looks like Sprint Cup Series rookie Kyle Larson is ready for the Chili Bowl, too.

NHRA Mello Yello Series Top Fuel driver J.R. Todd also tweeted out one of his Instagram pictures honoring the late Leffler in a previous Chili Bowl.