With another record number of entrants expected for the 2018 Chili Bowl Nationals, drivers with a number of racing backgrounds will be heading to Oklahoma and the Tulsa Expo Center in just a few weeks. This includes New England pavement Modified star Anthony Nocella who will be making his third trip to the Chili Bowl. While Nocella has now become a Modified champion with the Valenti Modified Racing Series, it has not diminished his high opinion of the mecca of Dirt Midget racing.
“It’s been a fun time the last couple of years. It’s an awesome race, one of the biggest I’ve ever run,” Nocella told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “There’s a lot of people and a lot of cars, almost 400 cars going for 24 starting spots; it’s very tough.”
While Nocella has learned much in his first two trips, he knows that much of what happens is out of the driver’s hands. As for what is in the driver’s control, it involves running hard all the time, especially during your weeknight appearance.
“The last couple of years we’ve learned that it takes a lot of luck,” Nocella admitted. “Trying to get a good finish in the heat race is the biggest thing. You run good in your heat race it’s going to help you the rest of the week. You’ve got to be aggressive for the most part and run hard during the heat race and make it into a qualifier, run good in the two of those and qualify for the A-Main.”
While running in Modifieds the majority of the time, primarily in the Valenti Modified Racing Series where he is the 2017 champion, Nocella has spent time in Midgets, winning in the Northeast based NEMA and NEMA Lites. But the two series are asphalt based with winged Midgets.
Although the majority of Nocella’s Midget experience has come in winged cars on asphalt surfaces, he has made a handful of starts at Northeast and Southeast dirt tracks. He has also gained experience with the ever-changing track surface at Tulsa in his past two appearances.
“I’ve learned how the track changes somewhat. It’s different all the time but the way it changes is one of the biggest things that we’ve learned the last couple of years,’ Nocella explained. “I’m getting more comfortable on the track; this will be my third time there this year, that’s another key just having experience.”
For Nocella, who hails from Massachusetts, he heads to the Midwest with a familiar group, which is also based in New England and led by veteran Midget owner Bobby Seymour.
“Those guys are a bunch of good guys, the Seymour’s, racing with them on and off for a while now. We do a lot of different races, not as many lately, been kind of off and on lately. So it’s cool to go out there and run with them. We’ve been pretty good over the last couple of years, especially for the little amount of dirt racing we’ve done, especially me.
“They got to run a couple of dirt races this year with other people in the car. This is only my third or fourth dirt race this year, so it would be nice to run well against guys that run a hundred dirt races a year.”
While Nocella feels that he has some momentum on his side after claiming the MRS title in October, he knows that he will have to create new momentum if he wants to get as far or further than he did in his first Chili Bowl in 2016 when he made it to the Saturday B-Main.
“We’d like to get further than that, but again you need a lot of luck. There’s a lot of great guys that won’t get far; it just shows how tough the competition is. But we have a goal to go as far as we can, it would be cool to get to a B (Main), you never know I guess.”
Stay with Speed51.com in the coming days and weeks for more coverage of the Chili Bowl Nationals.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Anthony Nocella