TULSA, Okla. — Though several things changed this year on Wednesday at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, one thing remained constant: the driver celebrating in victory lane at night’s end.
Rico Abreu cruised to his sixth Circle City Raceway Qualifying Night win in seven years as the Super Bowl of Midget Racing crossed the halfway point. Abreu led all 30 laps of Wednesday’s preliminary feature.
He started from the pole after securing high-point honors through heat races and qualifiers, and once the green flag waved Abreu never looked back, eventually winning by a stout 3.588-second margin.
It was his fourth victory in a row during the midweek Chili Bowl preliminary night.
Carrying a pair of new sponsors onboard his Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports No. 97 in Pit Pay and Rowdy Energy, and with a new sponsor backing the Wednesday program, Abreu’s dominance felt comfortably familiar.
He was never seriously challenged and said in victory lane he was never really worried about pressure from behind.
“I always judge my pace off of lapped traffic, so once I started catching the back of the field and knew there was an opportunity for someone to pressure me, I picked my pace up a little bit more,” Abreu noted. “I felt like I could judge my pace off of them pretty well and still made time on everyone behind me, so I knew that if anyone was going to beat me, they were going to have to really minimize their mistakes.
“I felt like my car was pretty flawless and we ended up right where we should have tonight.”
Abreu’s score marked the 31st overall win for car owner Keith Kunz at Tulsa Expo Raceway.
Only two caution flags slowed the pace during Wednesday’s feature. One came with 16 laps scored, when teenagers Emerson Axsom and Chase Randall spun between turns one and two.
The second – which waved with seven laps left after Robert Dalby went flipping courtesy of a slide job attempt gone wrong from Parker Price-Miller – sparked an all-out war for the final lock-in position.
Double World of Outlaws sprint car champion Brad Sweet blitzed Alex Bright from behind on the restart, sliding to second briefly before Bright countered and retook the position coming to five to go.
Once Bright reclaimed second, the die was cast, as Sweet was forced to play defense from a fast-closing Kevin Thomas Jr. over the final handful of circuits.
Bright claimed the runner-up honors and secured a place in his third career Chili Bowl A Main, while Sweet filled out the Wednesday podium and will start near the front of a B Main on Saturday.
“Just to come here and lock into the show is awesome,” Bright said after the race. “This (car) was good tonight. We weren’t good enough to beat Rico, but to be able to hold on and keep Sweet behind me … we’ll take that and I feel like it’s a statement for us. Now, I can just relax the rest of the week.”
POWRi champion Jake Neuman made a late run to fourth and California’s Colby Copeland was fifth.
Thomas Jr., Jake Swanson, Daniel Robinson, Price-Miller and Gio Scelzi closed the top 10.
Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, making his Chili Bowl debut, spun early in a B Main and finished eighth after rallying back from the rear of the field. He’ll be in an F Main on Saturday.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.
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