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January 8, 2024

‘My favorite week of the year’: Chase Briscoe explains why the Chili Bowl keeps him coming back for more

Chase Briscoe
(Photo: Nick Oxford/NASCAR)

Every year since 2015, Chase Briscoe has started his racing season in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the Chili Bowl Nationals.

The annual, week-long midget car racing extravaganza, which typically draws more than 350 entries from across the country and the world to compete inside Tulsa’s SageNet Center on a temporary quarter-mile dirt oval, is one of the most challenging motorsports events on the planet.

Briscoe’s Chili Bowl tradition is important to him for a variety of reasons, the biggest being that it’s an opportunity to reconnect with friends from his early years in racing.

“It’s just kind of my way of getting the season going,” said Briscoe, who is entering his fourth year as the driver of the No. 14 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. “For me, the biggest reason is I get to go back and see a lot of my buddies that I grew up racing with that I don’t get to see hardly anytime the rest of the year.

“It just such a great event. It’s honestly probably my favorite week of the year for a lot of reasons. I love watching racing. I love hanging out with buddies that I don’t get to really see anymore. Just seeing a lot of the people, and I get to go race the guys that helped me on my car, the guys who helped me when I was racing sprint cars. It’s just a fun time to go hang out with my dad and check off a lot of boxes.”

WATCH: All the 2024 Chili Bowl action live on FloRacing

Chase Briscoe at the Chili Bowl
Chase Briscoe in action during the 2023 Chili Bowl Nationals on Jan. 14, 2023. (Photo: Nick Oxford/NASCAR)

The size and scale of the Chili Bowl are a couple of the factors that make it among the world’s most difficult motorsports events.

Because of the massive entry list, which includes the best dirt racing has to offer in addition to interlopers from other forms of motorsports, the format is unique. Beginning Monday and running through Friday, five qualifying nights are held with the massive field split between the five days. Each night, preliminary events and a feature race is held. The top two finishers from each feature race lock into Saturday’s Chili Bowl finale.

Saturday also features what’s known as the alphabet soup, with all the drivers who failed to qualify for the main event Monday through Friday forced to work their way through preliminary events. The lower the letter of the alphabet with which a driver’s race starts, the longer his or her the road is to qualify for the championship feature.

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In all, 24 drivers will qualify for Saturday night’s Chili Bowl championship feature, with two provisionals set aside for the defending winner and the victor of Monday night’s annual Race of Champions. That means more than 300 drivers will leave Tulsa disappointed.

Briscoe has been one of those disappointed drivers in all but one of his Chili Bowl attempts. To make it even more agonizing, he’s been only a few positions short of qualifying for the championship feature in four of the last five years.

While Briscoe admits the Chili Bowl heartbreak has been a bitter pill to swallow, the experience also gives him reason to be optimistic.

“When I made it [in 2017], I got upside down within the first 10 laps of the race, so I didn’t really get to experience it,” Briscoe said. “I think there were three years in a row [2019-21] I missed the race by one spot. Nobody had even done that two years in a row. Every year you come back, you have to wait a whole year after missing it by one spot.

“Being the 25th best guy in the building out of 400 is definitely a frustrating thing. Last year it was the same thing. I was in the final transfer with two to go, and I lost a spot, and I ended up losing a couple more. It was kind of that same thing, I’m always right on that bubble spot.

“It’s definitely frustrating, but it does keep you coming back and wanting more.”

FLORACING: 2024 Chili Bowl drivers with NASCAR ties

Chase Briscoe at the Chili Bowl
Chase Briscoe in action during the Chili Bowl Nationals on Jan. 14, 2023. (Photo: Nick Oxford/NASCAR)

This year, Briscoe is back in Tulsa with a full squadron of cars and drivers. Not only will he field a car for himself, but he’ll also field cars for drivers Kyle Strickler and Karter Sarff.

Strickler is a veteran dirt late model and modified driver who will make his first appearance at the Chili Bowl. Sarff, the reigning champion of the midwestern POWRi National Midget League, is back in Tulsa for his fifth Chili Bowl attempt.

Briscoe is hoping his three-car effort will yield big results by the time Saturday’s championship feature arrives. With a little hard work and some luck, Briscoe believes his team could put multiple cars in the 55-lap finale.

“With how my last five years have gone, I’d love to make the race myself,” said Briscoe, who will begin his 2024 Chili Bowl journey during Monday’s preliminary night. “As I’ve done this car ownership thing the last couple of years, I’ve truthfully gotten way more enjoyment out of watching my car on the race track than myself.

“I just love trying to go and give back to kids I feel are deserving of opportunities that haven’t really gotten a good car and had the top-tier equipment. I’ve been blessed to do that for a couple drivers. I really enjoy watching them. I’d love to be able to be racing with them on Saturday in the A-Main, for sure.

“Hopefully we can just lock one in. If we can lock one in, that’s a hard thing to do.”