Rico Abreu can't hold off more experienced racer.
In front of a packed house at Friday night's Bad Boy Buggies World of Outlaws World Finals at the Dirt Track at Charlotte, Rico Abreu tried to hold off an insurgent Daryn Pittman, but the past champion's push proved too much for the young driver.
With seven to go, Pittman got around the 22-year-old Abreu and scored his 14th World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series victory of the season.
"Hats off to my crew. (Crew Chief) Kale Kahne - he's just been working really hard to try to get us that next little step that we need to win more races and win races from not on the front row," said Pittman who started the A main in sixth. "We've been creeping up on it. We had a really good car."
"(Crew members) Kale, Kolten and David - I just couldn't do it without them…. I'm only as good as the people around me and I've got some of the best. It's just a lot of fun to come out here and try to finish the year off on a good note."
Pittman entered the night with the quick time award under his belt, but after the dash inversion left him in eighth, he set to work. In the Dash he advanced his No. 9 Great Clips car up to sixth. When the green flag fell on the feature, Pittman quickly advanced through the field, challenging for third by lap two. He eventually passed Terry McCarl for the position on lap seven.
Working the low-side of the track, Pittman got around Danny Lasoski following a mid-race restart and quickly reeled in Abreu, who worked the high side of the track much of the night.
As the two drivers rounded the .4 mile oval into turns three and four with just eight laps to go, Pittman rode the bottom and was able to take over the lead from Abreu on the front stretch.
Even as the race extended beyond the scheduled distance due to a late race caution, Pittman was never seriously challenged for the lead again.
Pittman said by the end of the night that he and his Kasey Kahne Racing with Mike Curb crew were surprised by the track conditions.
Good track conditions
"Everybody was pretty much banking that it was going to lay rubber and went with harder tires, and we went with harder tires also and it just didn't lay rubber," said Pittman, an Owasso, Okla. native. "Hats off to the track crew for this to run this many cars and this many laps, and start when the sun was up and they never touched the track and they never went out and did any track prep at all."
Pittman maintained his second place position in the championship standings.
Abreu, who is making his first appearance at the Dirt Track at Charlotte this weekend, started on the front row with polesitter McCarl. Before the field could make a full lap, Abreu had charged to the lead in his No. 24R Abreu Vineyards car. Through lapped traffic, Abreu held off challenges from Lasoski and then Pittman.
Ultimately though, Pittman proved too strong. Abreu finished the night in second.
"The bottom just got really clean there at the end and I knew (Pittman) was going to be there at some point, I just wasn't sure when," Abreu said. "I was trying to watch and judge off of lap cars. I thought I did really good running in lap traffic… I thought I had a really good car tonight. I felt like I just needed to make some better decisions just judging cars.
Abreu said a season of success, good equipment and his strong faith in his crew members has given him the confidence to come into a place like Charlotte with no-experience and finish on the podium.
"I'm so confident in my cars this year so I feel like everywhere we go we've got a good baseline and we just roll out of the trailer good," said Abreu, who has one World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series win this season. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow night… obviously this race wasn't won from the front row so if you've got a good car you're going to go to the front."
Brad Sweet, Pittman's Kasey Kahne Racing teammate, had one of the more impressive performances of the night. After a heat race run that left him outside of the transfer, Sweet raced his No. 49 Surepoint Medical car into the A main from the Last Chance Showdown and took home a podium finish.
After starting in 12th, Sweet was able to use the high line on the track to gain the spots he needed to advance through the field. Through restart after restart, Sweet was able to make strong runs off of turns one and two onto the backstretch that gave him the momentum he needed. In the closing laps it helped propel him past Danny Lasoski, who spent the whole night up front, and put him in position to battle Abreu for the second spot.
On the final lap Sweet tried to get around Abreu for second, but Abreu closed the door.
"Yeah, we'll take (third)," Sweet said. "Hats off to my guys. They gave me a great car. You can't run that close to the wall without a good racecar. I made a lot of mistakes and I still ran third. That just shows you how good our car was."
"I've got to thank my guys - Mike Carber is my new crew chief, so it was nice to come out here and run top-three. We've got a new guy, Austin, and George has been with us all year long. It just shows with Daryn winning and us running third, (Kasey Kahne Racing is) real strong."
David Gravel was the KSE Hard Charger recipient of the night. After being forced to use a provisional to start the feature, Gravel advanced 16 positions to finish in ninth.
The World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series returns to action on Saturday night at The Dirt Track at Charlotte for the Bad Boy Buggies World of Outlaws World Finals, the final race of the season.