When there are 340-plus cars at an event, you never know who or what you will see.  At an event like the Chili Bowl Nationals, there are always the usual suspects like Rico Abreu, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson and Sammy Swindell.  Then there are the Sprint Car regulars and NASCAR drivers like Kasey Kahne and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.  Then there’s Anthony Nocella.


Chances are you haven’t heard of Anthony Nocella unless you live in New England.  The 23-year-old driver calls Woburn, Massachusetts home, and typically can be found wheeling a Tour-Type Modified on the pavement in New England and New York.


pfc-anim1This weekend, however, he is in Tulsa, Oklahoma attempting to race the 30th Chili Bowl Nationals in a Midget on dirt.


“It’s definitely a lot different,” Nocella told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.  “There’s definitely two different styles.  These are more fun, I think.  It’s a lot more about the driver.  Even if the car isn’t great you can make up for that.”


Nocella has run Midgets before in the New England area and in Pennsylvania.  He’s even won some races on asphalt, but he’s never attempted the Chili Bowl before.  He ran the Tulsa Shootout a week ago here just to try to get used to the race track before he had to drive out there for hot laps on his preliminary night.


Even though the cars are completely different and the driving styles are completely different, Nocella said he thinks that racing the Midget helps his Tour-type Modified skills.  Since there are no radios in Midget racing, Nocella said racing these types of events helps his awareness on the race track.


“I think it helps a lot.  I know myself sometimes you just kind of know you’re clear because you just get used to it,” he said.  “But even with the car control in these you have to try so hard to keep the car straight and that helps with your feel even in a Modified.  When the car gets loose you’re a little more comfortable with it.”


He said that he has watched enough racing from the Chili Bowl to know just how tough it is going to be for him to make his A-Main on Thursday night, and he said he knows it will be even tougher to make the main event on Saturday night.


“I’d like to hopefully make the A-Main on Thursday night since that’s our preliminary night,” said Nocella.  “I’d like to at least make that and hopefully get to at least a D or C-Main on Saturday.  I hope.  I would like to think we could at least get somewhat close.  It’s my first time so it’ll be tough.”


Even if Nocella doesn’t achieve his goals this week, he said it’s all about having fun and that’s what he and his team are doing.


“It’s pretty exciting,” he said.  “You’re running right up against the wall or on the bottom and there’s people sliding around everywhere.  Here there’s a lot of power on a small track.  You definitely just have to be smooth on the throttle and have a lot of car control.  Whether you’re on the berm or up top, you’re going to have a lot of fun.  It’s pretty amazing here. The amount of cars, all good cars, and it’s got awesome racing.”


As for Nocella’s pavement Modified ventures, he said he is currently without a ride for this year’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour campaign after running 11 of the 15 races last year with one top-10 finish.


“Right now all I’ve got is some Tri-Track Modified Series stuff in my own car and some Modified Racing Series races planned,” Nocella said.  “I’m trying to work some stuff out and see if we can get something.  Or maybe I’ll change some things around on my car and see if we can get to some shows.”


If Nocella doesn’t get to run many Tour-Type Modified races this year, he said if you go to your local dirt track in the Northeast there’s still a good chance you’ll find him there.


“We’re supposed to run this car in some USAC races, so we’ll see how that goes,” Nocella said.  “I’d definitely like to keep doing it.  I have a lot of fun doing it.”


-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount

-Photo Credit: Speed51.com

Pavement Modified Driver Trying His Hand at Chili Bowl