Saturday night at the Chili Bowl was one for the record books, as California’s Rico Abreu raced to his first triumph in the finale of the 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire, delivering car owner, Keith Kunz, his first Golden Driller since 2002.
“I just tried to stay as patient as I could. You know the race is a not a long race, but it is a long race. For a few laps I just kind of got after it just to see where we were at and I hung with him [Bryan Clauson] pretty good,” commented Abreu about his pass for the lead. “I don’t know how hard he was racing, but when the time was right I pulled the trigger and gave him a slide job and was waiting for him to slide me back. We dragged raced each other into three and I came out with the lead.”
Gridding the Toyota / Abreu Vineyards No. 97 third, Abreu slipped back to fifth as Bryan Clauson jumped to the lead over Jerry Coons, Jr. with Kyle Larson in tow. Jumping to a sizable advantage on the restart, Coons and Larson raced for runner-up until Larson spun in turn two on the 15th round.
Using restarts to his advantage, Rico jumped past Coons for second on a Lap 20 restart. Slowed again on Lap 22, green laps saw Abreu on the back bumper of Clauson for the lead.
Setting up the pass, Rico bolted the bottom line entering the first turn. Sliding clear of Clauson, the 2014 winner turned low in a drag race to turn three. Railing the cushion, the advantage was to Rico on the 26th lap. Leaving the field to battle, caution flew again on Lap 39 as Daryn Pittman tangled with Bryan Clauson in turn four battling for second; sending the pair to the tail of the field.
Picking his way through the field from the tail after being involved in a crash on Lap 13 that involved five other drivers, Kevin Swindell moved to third on Lap 40 after contact with Father, Sammy, sent the No. 1 back several spots.
Finding traffic in the final laps, Kevin closed quickly but time would run out as Rico grabbed the win.
“You come here four years in a row and leave here as the winner, and sit in that middle chair, it’s no fun to even run second anymore. Last year was kind of depressing and pretty much the same thing of just being a couple laps too late,” commented Swindell. “We had a great car, but somebody else’s mistake really put me behind the eight-ball at the beginning. I did all I could to get back, but Rico was really good at the end.”