Ten Rookies to watch in the Chili Bowl

The 2021 Chili Bowl Nationals are bringing together some big names with a Grassroots racing event – as our own Damon Helgevold wrote in his column this week.

Over the entry list, 307 drivers – as of Tuesday night – will take to the dirt in Tulsa next week to capture the most coveted trophy in midget racing.

We took the liberty of singling out 10 drivers that are making their first attempt at capturing the Golden Driller, and the list is full of intrigue.


Sheldon Creed (Left) and Brett Moffitt (Right) walk on pit road during the 2020 NASCAR Truck Series championship. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Brett Moffitt

2018 NASCAR Truck Series Champion
When Brett Moffitt signed with Niece Motorsports for the 2021 racing season, his deal included a lot of flexibility. In that, Moffitt will be running full-time in both the Truck Series as well as NASCAR’s Xfinity tour. On top of that, Niece Motorsports will be behind Moffitt’s Chili Bowl car as the Grimes, IA native pilots the No. 45M in


Jesse Love climbs from his car after winning his second ARCA West race. Photo Courtesy ARCA Racing

Jesse Love

2020 ARCA West Series Champion
Jesse Love captured three victories during his first full year behind a Bill McAnally Racing ARCA car and will go for a repeat season in 2021 with the team. He’s pedaling a Chili Bowl ride – and a rather good one – in the Keith Kunz Motorsports No. 97K. Kunz’ team is bring 10 cars to the weeklong event and has had a good amount of success in past Chili Bowl entries.


Daison Pursley smiles before competing in a USAC Midget Event. Photo by Jacob Seelman.

Daison Pursley

2020 POWRi National Midget Feature Winner
From one Keith Kunz Motorsports entry to another, Daison Pursley is hoping to turn heads some more when he takes to the dirt as part of the 10-car team this year. Pursley ran his first full season with the USAC Midget tour, finishing sixth in the standings as a rookie and only one spot behind Buddy Kofoid in the newcomer standings for the tour. Pursley didn’t capture a win with the tour, but was able to sneak in a win with the POWRi national midget series in 2020.


Emerson Axsom stands in victory lane at Lincoln Speedway. Photo Courtesy USAC Media // Dave Nearpass

Emerson Axsom

2020 Tulsa shootout outlaw wing winner
2020 USAC Midget Jacksonville Feature Runner-up
Axsom is another up-and-coming driver with the USAC midgets and will roll into Tulsa with Petry Motorsports. Axsom finished 12th in points in his rookie year with the USAC Midgets in 2020 and will roll out on his preliminary night on Wednesday evening.


Chase Elliott holds the checkered flag after winning the 2020 Cup Series title. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Chase Elliott

2020 NASCAR Cup Series Champion
Maybe the most intriguing Chili Bowl announcement from the off-season came from the addition of Chase Elliott to the already gigantic entry list. The defending NASCAR Cup Series champion is racing in his own No. 9E midget in the event and looks to impress the skeptical dirt fans. No matter how Elliott does, it will surely be fun to see him go for the driller.


Carson Kvapil poses next to his car after securing his first ARCA Midwest Tour victory of his career. Photo Courtesy ARCA Midwest Tour

Carson Kvapil

CARS Super Late Model Tour 5th-Place Points Finisher
If you’re a NASCAR fan, you have fond memories of Travis Kvapil wheeling the No.6 K&N Filters truck to four victories during the 2007 season – or at least I do. His son, Carson, is headed to Tulsa for the first time this season to give the Chili Bowl a try. Carson ran a full season in the CARS Super Late Model Tour in 2020 and captured three top 5 finishes in eight races this season.


Nick Hoffman makes a pass on Will Krup during the Hell Tour stop in Plymouth. Photo Courtesy DIRTCar Summer Nationals // Terry Page Photo.

Nick Hoffman

3-Time Hell Tour Modified Champion
The king of the summer for the modified division is hopping in a midget this year. After capturing 14 wins during 2020’s Hell Tour, Nick Hoffman will be running Tulsa with RAMS Racing – who’s also rolling with Parker Price-Miller. That tells you he’ll be in good company. He’ll set off to run in Thursday’s Preliminary Night.


Garrett Smithley at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, Florida on February 17, 2018 ahead of the track’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race. Photo Courtesy HMedia//JD Motorsports.

Garrett Smithley

NASCAR Cup Series Driver
Garrett Smithley will replace Cody Ware – who was originally also going to be in this slot of the article – in the No. 17D car for Koontz Racing in Tulsa. Smithley had been a namestay in the NASCAR Xfinity Series through the 2018 season with JD Motorsports and raced 26 NASCAR Cup Series races in 2020 with Spire Motorsports and Rick Ware Racing.


Carson Sousa sits down during Indiana Midget Week in 2020. Photo by Jacob Seelman

Carson Sousa

Carson Sousa picked up three wins with the Red Bluff Outlaws series in 2020 in the season following his USAC Midget debut at Turkey Night in 2019 with Robert Dalby Racing. Coming into Tulsa on a six-car team headed by Jack Yeley is as good of a ride. Sousa will be in a powerful car and will have a chance to catch some eyes. He’ll be a fun watch on Tuesday night of the event.


Anthony Macri races his No. 39M car at Williams Grove Speedway during the 2020 racing season. Photo Courtesy Williams Grove Speedway.

Anthony Macri

Pennsylvania Sprint Car Driver
If you watched the racing this summer at Port Royal Speedway – you got to see a breakout season from the Pennsylvania Posse’s Anthony Macri. If you watched his battle with Kyle Larson then you a saw a helluva show. Macri had a lot of battles in 2020 and proved that he belonged behind the wheel of a car this past year. It should be an exciting time watching him behind the wheel of a midget in Tulsa this week, because if anything showed in 2020 it was that Macri has a tremendous amount of talent.


Trevor Casey

Trevor Casey’s 2C car that will run in the 2021 Chili Bowl Nationals.

Iowa racer, Southeast Polk Graduate

We wrote about Trevor Casey a week ago here, as the youngster sets sails to Tulsa for the first time in his racing career. Casey gave up his senior year of high school to work on cars, make money, and launch his career. He’s jumpstarting his 2021 season in Tulsa in the No. 2C and will roll out on opening night in the Monday Prelims.

The Chili Bowl runs from Monday to Saturday with five preliminary nights of racing leading up to Saturday, where over 300 drivers are trimmed down to 24 to participate in the Chili Bowl Nationals A-Main.

Fans can keep up with coverage of the 2021 Chili Bowl Nationals all week long right here on Always Race Day as well as on social media at @AlwaysRaceDay. The racing action can also be consumed live on FloRacing throughout the week