Chili Bowl: Rico Abreu locks himself into main event in racing return
Rico Abreu held off Tyler Thomas to win the preliminary night feature in the Chili Bowl Nationals on Wednesday.
For Abreu, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino qualifying Night at Tulsa Expo Raceway marked the first time he competed since suffering a vicious wreck during the 4-Crown Nationals at Eldora Speedway on September 23.
The two-time Chili Bowl Nationals victor won his third qualifying feature to transfer to the A-Main for the sixth-time in his career.
“Wow, that’s intense shit right there,” Abreu said as he climbed from his car. “The track got really treacherous at the end. (Turns) one and two had a big ledge there. I just tried to hit my marks there at the end.”
Kevin Thomas Jr., finished third and advanced to the finale with Abreu and Thomas. Swindell and Windom rounded out the top-five.
Parker Price-Miller, who transferred from the first B Feature, stopped on the track with a flat tire on Lap 6 and was pulled behind the wall. Abreu passed Tyler Thomas for the lead on Lap 8. Thomas put a slide job on Abreu and moved back to the point on Lap 11.
David Prickett spun to bring out the second caution on Lap 13. Thomas controlled the restart followed by Abreu and Kevin Thomas Jr. Abreu moved up to the lead on Lap 15 followed by Thomas, Thomas Jr.,
Austin Liggett flipped between Turns 3 and 4 to ignite Caution 3 with seven laps to go. Abreu held the point on the restart with Thomas challenging.
The leaders completed Lap 20 when Ryan Smith flipped in Turn 3. Chase Stockton, Donny Schatz and Brady Bacon were also collected in the incident which stopped action for the fourth time. Abreu remained in the lead with five laps to decide the contest. Thomas, Thomas Jr., Sammy Swindell and Chris Windom rounded out the top five.
On Lap 23, Jake Swansen, Brian Shirley and David Prickett piled-up in Turn 1 for Caution 5. The accident set up a two-lap shootout with Abreu in control. Thomas slid to the inside of the No. 97 midget, but Abreu held the lead to the checkers.
“These are the toughest points of the week,” Abreu said. “We had a solid night. We raced well in our heat race, the qualifier and the feature. I kind of didn’t know what decisions to make there at the end. You get so many cautions. A couple of years ago I had a race like that. You don’t know where guys are running behind you, and I just kept doing what I was doing—just race the race track.
“This is a place where the track surface changes throughout an A-main. You don’t know which lane to be in at which time. That’s why you’ve got to move around. That’s what makes great race car drivers great. (I could have used) just a little more forward drive. I just felt like we lacked that compared to him (Tyler Thomas). I don’t know if he let his front shocks out quite a bit more than I did. I get so nervous messing with my shocks, that I’m going to hurt my car. Keith (Kunz) has always told us that his cars are good enough you don’t have to touch the shocks. You just drive ’em as hard as you can.”