Rico Abreu Wins Wednesday at Chili Bowl but Challengers Have Emerged

Matt Weaver
·5 min read
Photo credit: Michael Fry
Photo credit: Michael Fry

From Autoweek

If it’s the second Wednesday night of January at the Tulsa Expo Center, it must be Rico Abreu Time.

Right on cue, Abreu captured the Wednesday night Chili Bowl preliminary for the fourth consecutive year and sixth time in seven years.

It continues a trend of trends with Cannon McIntosh winning the Monday prelim for the second year in a row, Kyle Larson winning Tuesday for the fourth year in a row and seven times over the past decade. Christopher Bell is aiming for seven of eight years on the Thursday preliminary after winning his second consecutive Race of Champions on Tuesday.

The stage is pretty much set, as they say, for the anticipated favorites.

Photo credit: DB3 Imaging
Photo credit: DB3 Imaging

"It's just confidence, at the end of the day, and putting yourself in position and you're bound to win a (Golden) Driller," Abreu said.

That's something he accomplished in 2015 and 2016.

"I need to win my third Driller for (Keith Kunz Motorsports) and that's my ultimate goal," he added. "because that's what validates why I'm their guy."

While the preliminary winners have followed the figurative script, it remains something of an open question about who is on that second tier of favorites.

Alex Bright joined Abreu in locking into the main event with a second-place finish on Wednesday, joining Thomas Meseraull and Tyler Courtney.

Reigning USAC national champion Chris Windom, Blake Hahn, Zach Daum and World of Outlaws champion Brad Sweet have all looked capable of mixing it up on Saturday night.

But of course, it remains Larson and Bell’s world until proven otherwise.

Meseraull believes he will be on the mix as one of the handful of drivers who have mastered a coil-bound set-up rear suspension as opposed the bar-bound alternative.

"I think we can (be that team) because there are only a handful of guys that are here on coils," Meseraull said. "We had a really good package last year. I started 10th and was up to 6th, got into some racing deals and got turned over, but that's whatever.

"We came back with coils because we knew there would only be five or six cars here on coils. So if we strike gold, and I’m gambling, right, but we’re going to strike gold big."

So, watch out for TMez, too.

There are, of course, teams that haven’t shown their hands yet, because they haven’t raced this week.

Tanner Thorson with Dave Mac Motorsports is one of the handful of drivers running a coil bound set-up, too. Keith Kunz Motorsports has Daison Pursley set to run his prelim on Friday night.

This will be Bright's third appearance in the Saturday main event after making the pole shuffle in 2016.

He says he has the best car he has ever had here since joining forces with Tom Malloy and Jerome Rodela.

"The first two times we locked in, it was under my grandfather, and now Rodela and Malloy, and they just gave me a good car," Bright said. "That makes It easy for me, and when you have a good car, that goes a long way. We have to pick up some speed but I’m really looking forward to Saturday."

So, all of that is to say, that we’re halfway through the week, but the complexion is starting to come into focus -- even if it’s the familiar set-up from previous years.

Perhaps, the most entertaining moment of Wednesday's races was

Daniel Robinson giving Sammy Swindell the finger during a heat race early in the afternoon.

Photo credit: FloSport Broadcast
Photo credit: FloSport Broadcast

Swindell is the winningest driver in the history in the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals with five wins.

As it turns out, Robinson was just excited to pass one of the greatest dirt racers of all-time.

"I wasn't even mad at him," Robinson said. "I'd just never passed Sammy Swindell before."

Meanwhile, 2018 NASCAR Truck Series champion Brett Moffitt was quietly exceeding expectations in his debut Chili Bowl Midget Nationals appearance.

It didn't start well, however.

Moffitt persevered and advanced into the A-Main and finished it in 18th -- good enough to start in a D on Saturday.

Wednesday Night Prelim Results

A Feature (30 Laps): 1. 97-Rico Abreu[1]; 2. 25X-Alex Bright[2]; 3. 1R-Brad Sweet[9]; 4. 3N-Jake Neuman[7]; 5. 27W-Colby Copeland[8]; 6. 47W-Kevin Thomas Jr[14]; 7. 55X-Jake Swanson[5]; 8. 57K-Daniel Robinson[6]; 9. 4A-Parker Price Miller[4]; 10. 84-Giovanni Scelzi[10]; 11. 1-Sammy Swindell[17]; 12. 71X-Brian Carber[19]; 13. 3W-Brandon Waelti[15]; 14. 15A-Emerson Axsom[13]; 15. 91T-Tyler Thomas[16]; 16. 81-Colten Cottle[22]; 17. 22X-Steven Shebester[18]; 18. 45M-Brett Moffitt[24]; 19. 37-Max Adams[21]; 20. 91-Jeff Stasa[23]; 21. (DNF) 4D-Robert Dalby[3]; 22. (DNF) 19A-Chase Randall[11]; 23. (DNF) 44S-Kameron Key[12]; 24. (DNF) 7R-AJ Hopkins[20]

Flip Count: 29