Rico Abreu goes back-to-back in Chili Bowl Nationals

Rico Abreu went back for seconds at the Chili Bowl Nationals.

The driver of the No. 97 Keith Kunz Toyota took the lead with 10 laps remaining on Saturday night at Tulsa Expo Raceway to win the Golden Driller for the second straight time

“That’s pretty awesome,” Abreu said after taking a Polish victory lap, then delighting the crowd with donuts in Turn 4 before jumping out of his car and into Bryan Clauson’s arms.

He then proceeded to climb the fence before thanking the fans.

“I told him if I ran second, I would catch him,” Clauson said. “I hate losing but it’s okay if I lose to a guy like Rico." 

A-Main rundown

Abreu started fourth for the A Main feature. Christopher Bell, who started alongside polesitter Clauson, took the lead on the first lap but caught traffic eight laps later and plowed into the back of C.J. Leary. Bell dropped to the back to the field and would eventually recover to 12th.
 
Bell's misfortunes enabled Clauson to take the lead on Lap 10 with Alex Bright, Abreu, Tim McCreadie and Zach Daum running in the top five. The second caution flew 19 circuits later when Justin Grant flipped. Clauson maintained the lead,followed by Daum, Bright, McCreadie and Jerry Coons Jr.
 
Clauson had extended his lead to 1.6-seconds over Daum before Abreu moved back to second and Bright flipped to bring out the third caution. During the yellow, officials warned five-time CBN champ Sammy Swindell to stop hitting the back of Bell's car. When the race went green, Abreu started working the high line and closed in on Daum.
 
Red flag

The action slowed again following an incident with Swindell and Damion Gardner. With 16 to go, Clauson led Daum, Abreu, Coons and McCreadie but officials red-flagged the race when a fan fell out of the stands and had a compound fracture on his left leg. Corporal Dan Ward of the Tulsa Police Dept. described the incident of as “non-threatening”. 

Approximately 20 minutes later, the race returned to green with 15 laps remaining. Clauson led Abreu, Daum, Coons and McCreadie to the line. Two laps later, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Swindle wrecked to ignite the sixth caution. Clauson and Abreu squared off for the final restart. As the field came around to the line, Abreu went high, bounced off the berm in Turn 4 and took the lead from Clauson in Turn 2 for the win. 

“This is one of the toughest tracks to be leading at, to be a leader and set the pace with how much the track changes throughout a feature or a race,” Abreu said. “You can be running second and third and have the advantage of moving around the track surface — then being the leader and running the line that you started running, where you got the lead at.

“I was opening my entry up a lot more in three. I could carry a lot more speed than Bryan exiting. I just made sure I didn’t do anything too crazy when I got to him. I just paced myself throughout the race. That’s the biggest thing. It’s a long race for a midget race and the track changes a lot throughout the feature. You just have to move around at the right time.”

Clauson comes one position short

Clauson finished second, followed by Daum, Coons and Abreu’s KKM teammate Kyle Larson — giving Toyota four of the top five.

While Clauson took the loss in stride, the long red-flag certainly hurt his momentum.

“I got real tight there for a good portion then right there at the end it kind of opened back up where I could rip up on the curb,” Clauson said. “I just tried too hard in (turns) one and two. I gave him enough cushion that it didn’t matter. I was really good early and really good late. It was just the middle portion of the race that it got a little bit curvy and I got a little bit tight.

“He moved off of it a little bit to be safe in traffic. I got to him but I didn’t put the corner together that I needed in one and two to take a shot at him.”

McCreadie came home sixth, followed by Tyler Thomas, Thomas Meseraull, Tanner Thorson and Joey Saldana. 

Two in-a-row a rare accomplishment

Abreu, who will join the Camping World Truck Series full-time starting next month, becomes just the second consecutive winner of the Chili Bowl Nationals. Kevin Swindell accomplished the feat in 2010 and 2012 winning a total of four straight.

“I never thought I would win once let alone twice,” Abreu said. “It’s great this race is so hard to win, but it’s my favorite race of the year -- especially after winning last year. This place has a special place in my heart as anyone who walks into this building they can see how special this place is and being live on TV now. The car count they get now and the people that watch on TV is just incredible. It just keeps growing and growing. It just means a lot to be just to be here."

B Mains

The first B Main stalled after Chad Boespflug’s engine blew up on Lap 3. Polesitter Daryn Pittman relinquished the lead three laps later to Jonathan Beason, who held the point until the second caution on Lap 16. As safety workers cleared the wreckage of Chad Boat and Justin Peck, who was running sixth prior to the wreck, Beason discovered a flat right rear tire and had to pull off the track for repairs. Tracy Hines inherited the lead and held the point to the finish followed by Pittman, Damion Gardner, Blake Hahn, Dillon Welch and Joe B. Miller. 

After transferring into the second B Main, Daniel Adler flipped to bring out the caution on Lap 1. Polesitter C.J. Leary maintained the lead until Ricky Stenhouse Jr. moved into the point at Lap 7. Parker Price-Miller, who started on the front row, hung on to the final transfer spot until he wrecked to bring out the caution on Lap 8. Stenhouse led Leary back to green, but Tanner Thorson mounted a charge passing Shane Golobic and Leary for second on Lap 9. Kyle Larson, who started 12th, advanced to seventh by Lap 11 and moved into a transfer spot on the next circuit. Stenhouse took the checkered flag at Lap 20 followed by Thorson, Leary, Geologic, Larson and Justin Grant.

C Mains

Brady Bacon challenged Cory Cruzeman in the first C Feature and took the lead momentarily — until Danny Sheridan flipped to bring out the second caution. Cruzeman held on to the lead — through a third caution triggered by Chase Johnson. Johnson, who was in the sixth and final transfer spot, flipped to bring out the yellow on Lap 14. Johnson had to be assisted off the track. Cruzeman won followed by Bacon, Matt Westfall, Steve Buckwater, Spencer Bayston and Tucker Klaasmeyer.

After three attempts to go green — and a warning to the front row — the second C Main was underway, but only for two laps before the caution waved for an accident involving Jimmy Light, Danny Faria Jr. and Sheldon Haudenschild. One lap after Tony Bruce Jr. passed Andrew Deal for the lead on Lap 9, Dave Darland, who was sitting sixth and in the final transfer spot, flipped along with Justin Allgaier and Alex DeCamp. Bruce held the point to Lap 15 followed by Kevin Thomas Jr., Ronnie Gardner, Daniel Adler, polesitter Andrew Deal and Daniel Robinson. 

D Mains

While the first D Main was fairly uneventful, the second D Main had its share of fireworks with Justin Allgaier bumping Sammy Swindell out of second-place coming to the checkered flag. The five-time Chili Bowl winner exercised the Champion’s provisional to transfer to the A Main.

Following the D’s, Chili Bowl founders Emmett Hahn, Lanny Edwards and their wives were honored before the 30th running of the feature. World of Outlaws champ Steve Kinser served at the Grand Marshall.

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About this article
Series Midget
Event Chili Bowl
Track Tulsa Expo Raceway
Drivers Bryan Clauson , Rico Abreu
Article type Race report