MOORESVILLE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The Chili Bowl Nationals are set to start next week. Despite the name, the event has nothing to do with chefs and spice and everything to do with fast cars and talented drivers. The race is held every January in Tulsa, Oklahoma featuring drivers from across the nation.
There are dozens of drivers on the entry list from the Charlotte area. It includes Mooresville’s Gavan Boschele, who is among the youngest to complete in the race at just 14 years old. Race officials at the Chili Bowl tweaked the rules last year allowing drivers under the age of 16 to race.
“Literally the crowd is electric. You can’t beat the Chili Bowl,” said Boschele.
More than 15,000 fans attend the Chili Bowl every year and they are packed inside one of the largest freestanding buildings in the world. The wheel-to-wheel racing happens at the SageNet Center, which measures 354,000 square feet.
The temporary indoor dirt track is built every winter using the same dirt dating back to the inaugural event in 1987.
“There are no other races during that time of the year. That is the only race and everyone is crammed into that building for a week. There is no other feeling. As soon as you walk into that building you know, ok this is happening,” said Boschele.
For Boschele, the Chili Bowl is the most prestigious event of the year. Hundreds of drivers enter in hopes of taking home the checkered flag. The entry list even includes household names from NASCAR, who are always up for the challenge of racing on dirt.
“I kinda look at it as a normal race, I kinda keep digging and put my head down and not think it’s Christopher Bell or Kyle Larson, but it’s kinda hard,” said Boschele.
While the race isn’t easy, Boschele may have an upper hand. He won the Tulsa Shootout last week. The shootout is a race on the same track, but in a racecar with less horsepower. The extra time on track can earn results.
“You only get one time a year to race there. You are usually on the track four or five times during the week at the most, so it’s very valuable,” said Boschele.
At last check, there are 360 drivers entered for the Chili Bowl Nationals. Racing starts on Monday with qualifying and ends next Saturday, January 14 with the main event.