Kaden Honeycutt hoping to turn heads with solid Chili Bowl performance

TULSA, Okla. — There are a multitude of reasons why drivers compete in the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.

For many, the ultimate goal is to leave the SageNet Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with the Golden Driller trophy that goes to the winner of the Chili Bowl each January. Others travel to Oklahoma for the Chili Bowl hoping to do a little racing and have a lot of fun.

Then there are those who enter the Chili Bowl with something to prove. Kaden Honeycutt fits into that category.

“I’m trying to show people I can race anything no matter what the situation or circumstance,” said Honeycutt, a part-time competitor in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series last season with G2G Racing and On Point Motorsports. “This is what I want to do, and if I have to do different things to show that, then that’s what I’ll do. This is a perfect example.

“That’s kind of the point I’m trying to prove.”

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 15: Kaden Honeycutt, driver of the #30 Rangeline Group Toyota, waits on the grid during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 15, 2022 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 15: Kaden Honeycutt, driver of the #30 Rangeline Group Toyota, waits on the grid during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 15, 2022 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

From Aledo, Texas, Honeycutt is one of a large crop of drivers who have been looking to make names for themselves racing late model stock cars in the Southeast the last few seasons. The 19-year-old has become a regular fixture on the CARS Tour, winning multiple races the last two years.

That helped him secure a few opportunities in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2022, which included a ninth-place finish with On Point Motorsports in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway in November.

Now he’s looking to take the next step in his career by competing full-time in the Truck Series, but so far that opportunity hasn’t developed. That leads us back to the reason he entered the Chili Bowl.

There were, however, a few obstacles for Honeycutt to overcome. Most importantly, he’d never raced a midget. Despite having extensive dirt experience racing dirt late models and modifieds, Honeycutt said nothing prepared him for racing a midget for the first time this week.

“This was a whole new thing,” Honeycutt said. “Other than racing on dirt, there is nothing that compares to these midgets. They are totally different in a great way.”

Then there is the complicated and difficult format of the Chili Bowl. In short, the format rewards passing. The more spots you gain in heat races and qualifiers during your preliminary night, the higher you’ll start in the preliminary A Main that locks just two drivers into Saturday’s finale.

Honeycutt hit the track for his qualifying night Wednesday and held his own. He started and finished third in his heat, which he followed by going from seventh to fifth in his qualifier. That wasn’t enough to qualify him for the preliminary feature, but he rebounded to finish second in the B Main to earn a starting spot at the back of the preliminary feature.

He closed out the night by going from 20th to 14th in Wednesday’s preliminary feature, an impressive performance for someone who’d never raced a midget before showing up at the Chili Bowl.

“My expectation for myself, I definitely set it high enough to make the prelim (feature),” Honeycutt said. “Even if it wasn’t realistic, I still set it there. We had a good heat race, we had a good qualifier, then we worked our way up through the B Main and finished second to a Keith Kunz car, which I didn’t think was bad at all. Then for the feature we gained six or seven spots after going to the back.

“I didn’t think that was bad at all.”

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His experience racing in the Chili Bowl has, like so many before, made Honeycutt want to continue coming to Tulsa, Oklahoma each January. Not only is he having fun racing a midget, he’s also having fun hanging out and taking in the Chili Bowl experience.

“I didn’t put much thought into it because I’d never driven a midget before,” Honeycutt said. “I didn’t have an aspiration. But man, during this week, I have thoroughly enjoyed this. I’ve had so much fun. I’ve learned a lot. It’s only made me want to do this a lot more.”

Honeycutt now waits for Saturday to hit the track again. His strong Wednesday night performance was enough to earn him a spot in a C Main, which gives him a realistic path to making the 55-lap championship finale.

With more than 350 drivers entered this year in the Chili Bowl, that means Honeycutt will be among the top 100 competitors no matter where he ends up Saturday.

Not bad for someone with no midget racing experience.

“I’m here to prove a point, that I can do this,” Honeycutt said. “No matter what type of car or race track, it doesn’t matter.”