A pair of NASCAR stars once again battled for the 2021 Golden Driller trophy at this year’s Chili Bowl, the annual Midget racing extravaganza. After six days of hard-fought racing, last Saturday’s A feature came down to Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, who between them have won the last five Chili Bowl top honors. Battling for the lead, Bell made a mistake two laps from the end and ended his night with a series of barrel rolls. Larson went on to take the win with Justin Grant second and our own Minden native Tanner Thorson third. Thorson also won the first B feature in a series of alphabet mains that went from B to M, two rounds short of last year’s prelims that went to O features. After the race Larson issued a mock apology to NASCAR, favorably comparing the Chili Bowl win to victory in the Daytona 500. With a new ride in the Hendrick stable’s no. 5 Chevrolet this season, Larson has a realistic chance to add NASCAR’s biggest race to his resume’ this year as well.
If you weren’t able to watch last Saturday’s action on MAVTV or Lucas Oil TV, you can see IMSA’s WeatherTech Championship Motul Pole Award 100 for the Rolex 24 at Daytona on NBCSN at 1:30 p.m. It’s the final event of the “Roar Before the 24” warmup prior to next weekend’s Rolex 24. The start and finish of the twice-around-the-clock endurance race itself can be seen on NBC with coverage in between on NBCSN. I’ll publish detailed information in next week’s column.
Although the Indianapolis 500 is still four months away (provided the IndyCar schedule doesn’t change) there’s some big news this week about the race. Last year’s Indy 500 was an all-male event after several years with one or more female participants. That’s about to change with the announcement that former IndyCar driver Simona De Silvestro will compete in this year’s classic. Beth Paretta, long-time motorsports manager with both Aston Martin and Dodge, has formed a race team to field de Silvestro’s car with support from Penske Racing. The effort is part of Penske’s Race For Equality and Change Program, which is dedicated to encouraging more diversity in motorsports and in IndyCar racing in particular. Paretta was the first female director to lead an original equipment manufacturer’s performance brand and motorsports operation, Dodge’s SRT program. The program earned three national championships, the NASCAR Cup with Team Penske in 2012, the IMSA GTLM title with Viper, and the Trans Am championship with the Dodge Challenger, both in 2014.
De Silvestro has five previous Indy 500 starts on her résumé between 2010 and 2015 and is currently a factory driver for Porsche. None of her previous IndyCar rides have had the potential of this year’s Penske-backed entry. The 32-year-old Swiss driver will pilot the No. 15 Paretta Autosport Chevrolet-powered entry on the Memorial Day weekend. Team principal Beth Paretta is determined to add more races to the Indy 500 this season, with the goal of running a full-season effort in 2022. Although a number of highly qualified women drivers applied for the opportunity, De Silvestro was chosen because of her prior IndyCar experience as well as her versatility. Since her last IndyCar outing, she has raced in Formula E, IMSA, and Australian V8 Supercars. Simona considers herself a racing driver who just happens to be a woman, and her talent, work ethic, and level of physical fitness are on a par with top drivers. Hopefully, she won’t be the only female racing at Indy in the month of May.