TULARE, Calif. — Rico Abreu earned the biggest victory of his career Saturday night when he powered to the checkered flag at Thunderbowl Raceway for his first World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series victory.
Abreu took the lead from Terry McCarl on lap eight and held off veterans McCarl and Joey Saldana to earn the victory.
Rookie Logan Schuchart followed up a strong run on Friday night by eventually finishing second after making a daring late pass to the outside of McCarl on the banked one-third mile dirt oval.
McCarl, who set quick time and then became the first driver to benefit from the “0” being pulled in the dash draw, settled for third after coming back from a near wreck on a restart. Sammy Swindell finished a season-best fourth while two-time event winner in 2014, Brad Sweet, was fifth.
Abreu made the pass on McCarl for the lead on lap 8 in turn one in his Abreu Vineyards No. 24. Abreu then had to defend the position on a restart for the first time on lap 11 after Cody Darrah brought out a red with a wreck in turn one.
Abreu restarted on the inside and has a strong jump while McCarl went high and bicycled the Country Builder No. 88 in turn one and fell to fourth.
The red flew again on lap 13 for a multiple car incident in turn one. McCarl was working to come back through the field on the following restart and was racing Schuchart for third before another stoppage, for the 41 entry of Dominic Scelzi with a flat right rear. On the ensuing restart Abreu surged to a strong advantage followed by Saldana and McCarl with Schuchart falling to fourth.
Saldana continued to run second and was reeling in Abreu when he was collected in a spin in turn four, forcing him to surrender his position on the restart and moving Schuchart into the third.
A final five-lap dash to the checkered flag unfolded with a single-file restart. Abreu again pushed to the lead followed by McCarl, Schuchart, Swindell and Sweet. Swindell tried to slide around Schuchart, but the rookie held his line and maintained the position and went after McCarl.
Schuchart built a run going into turn three to drive the Your Auto Source No. 1s Shark Racing entry around McCarl for the second position coming to the line with two to go, but nobody was going to touch Abreu, who cruised under the checkered flag to win for the first time.
“That was incredible,” said Abreu. “The pressure built up was huge, lining up next to Joey and my restarts this year have been terrible. Those were some pretty damn good starts. You race with the Outlaws so you can’t over think things and that’s what I tend to do. I was getting winded and I started breathing and slowing my arms down and slowing everything down and that was the key to winning this race tonight.”
Schuchart rebounded from a bittersweet finish on Friday night when he led 22 laps before falling outside the top five with an ill-handling car.
“It definitely feels good to come out here run good with these guys,” said Schuchart. “We had doubts in our mind that we could come out here and run good. To come out here and run good and up front with these guys is good for our team. I wish I would have had a couple more laps and been able to race with Rico, but he’s very fast and he’s hard on these types of race tracks.”
McCarl represented the Midwest and fought back from near disaster for a third-place finish.
“I left the same two tires all night long, we just cut them and siped them. I’ve lost a lot more races getting this thing too tight here. I almost dumped it on that restart to come back up and contend for a win was great. I’ve got to congratulate Rico and Paul Silva.”