TULSA, Okla. – Dave Darland has confirmed on social media that he does not plan to compete in the upcoming Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
The crown jewel midget event, set for Jan. 11-16 inside the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, Okla., has featured Darland on the entry list every year dating back to 1998.
Darland’s absence next month will end a run of 23 straight years that he’s attempted to race at the Chili Bowl.
The 54-year-old cited COVID-19 concerns and the impending birth of his fifth grandchild as the main factors leading to his decision to sit this year’s Chili Bowl out.
“At this time, I’m not planning on attending the Chili Bowl,” Darland wrote in a post to his official Facebook page. “We have a daughter who is due to deliver our fifth grandchild and I don’t want to jeopardize their health by bringing something home to them (from the Chili Bowl). I’ve had a few offers for rides but have turned them down. Right now, my main concern is to keep myself and my family healthy, and I hope everyone understands.
“As we all know, things can change, but those are my plans at this point.”
Darland did note that he plans to race at Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park in early February for Winter Dirt Games with USAC, though it’s not confirmed at this time whether that will be for the sprint car portion, midget portion or both ends of the two-week affair.
A 2017 inductee into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, Darland is a career USAC Triple Crown champion. He took the USAC Silver Crown Series crown in 1997, the USAC National Sprint Car Series title in 1999 and back-to-back USAC National Midget Series championships in 2001-02.
When it comes to the Chili Bowl, Darland is one of the best drivers in event history to have never taken home the coveted Golden Driller trophy. He’s a 15-time Saturday feature starter with five top-five and eight top-10 finishes. His best career run of second came nearly 13 years ago in 2008.
Darland’s most recent appearance in the championship A Main field was during the 2015 Chili Bowl.
With Darland not competing in next month’s Chili Bowl, Johnny Murdock will assume sole possession of the record for most consecutive appearances in the historic event.
Murdock’s run in January will mark his 24th Chili Bowl attempt in a row. He was previously tied with Darland for the record at 23 straight Chili Bowl appearances.