TULSA, Okla. — official event release — Patrick Grant photo —
It was almost Déjà vu as Rico Abreu came up aces in Wednesday’s River Spirit Qualifying Night, topping action for the second time in as many years in his quest for the Golden Driller in the 30th running of the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire at Tulsa Expo Raceway.
“I believe last year that’s kind of how it went too,” Abreu said. “Started on the front row of my heat and my qualifier and won those. Started sixth in the feature, started sixth this year, so kind of a good spot as long as you win them. I feel like you have to win every time you are on the track here and tonight went really smooth.”
Asked about his confidence of another Driller, Abreu replied, “Anytime you lock into the A-Main on Saturday, you’ve got a lot of confidence. It’s a long race for midget racing, just because we are used to 25-30 lap races so you have to kind of pace yourself throughout that feature and just be there at the last 10 laps.”
Gridding sixth, the California native wasted little time working to the front of the racing order, advancing to the runner-up spot by the second lap. Chasing Oklahoma’s Tyler Thomas, the pair swapped lines at both ends of the Tulsa Expo Raceway several times, Thomas was successful holding Abreu at bay as Thomas Meseraull trailed closely in third.
Slowed on lap 12, the restart was the opportunity Abreu was looking for. Diving the bottom of turn one, the slide through turn two ended with the Keith Kunz Motorsports No. 97 on point.
Leaving Tyler Thomas to contend with Meseraull for the silver position, the pair dropped sliders on each other with neither giving an inch. Working silently into contention during all of this, 17th-starting Parker Price-Miller joined the fight on lap 19, taking the third spot away from Meseraull the following Lap.
Slowed on lap 21 for a three-car pileup, the restart saw Thomas glued to the back bumper of Abreu.
Side by side at the white flag, Thomas was close enough to take it, but the high side was where the run was for Rico. Rounding turn four however, the caution waved again as Colby Copeland and Sammy Swindell tangled at the start/finish line.
Abreu controlled the restart and beat Thomas to the finish by .0845 seconds.
Even with a runner-up finish, Thomas was pleased.
“I’m almost speechless. You know, fourth try at the Chili Bowl and we had a really good car all night and got plenty of passing points early on,” Thomas explained. “I think we were just too good, too early in the feature. I felt like we were on a string the first 10 laps or so and it just got tight there midway to the end on the cushion. I had to try the bottom out, but Rico drove a great race on the top.”
Taking full advantage of the final restart, Thomas Meseraull reclaimed the final transfer into Saturday’s A-Feature.
Without a ride a week ago, and in Australia; Meseraull was a last minute addition for Mark Bush Motorsports.
“Mark Bush’s cars are awesome,” Meseraull explained. “He’s my buddy and the last two times I drove it, I’d just went through a divorce and didn’t give in my best and turned it over on the berm. It was pretty awesome to come back and give him my best and actually get up on the wheel.”
Parker Price-Miller was the night’s hard charger with a fourth place finish, and Austin Brown completed the top-five.
The 30th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire continues on Thursday, January 14, 2016 with John Christner Trucking serving as the title sponsor of the day’s festivities.
Complete driver roster, times, and other information can be found at www.chilibowl.com.
RESULTS: 30th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals; River Spirit Qualifying Night; River Spirit Expo Center; Jan. 13, 2016
A Feature (25 Laps): 1. 97-Rico Abreu; 2. 91T-Tyler Thomas; 3. 2X-Thomas Meseraull; 4. 9P-Parker Price-Miller; 5. 7B-Austin Brown; 6. 5S-Chase Stockon; 7. 8K-Blake Hahn; 8. 68W-Jake Swanson; 9. 92-Brenden Bright; 10. 8-Alex Sewell; 11. 50-Daniel Adler; 12. 25-Steve Buckwalter; 13. 17D-Alex DeCamp; 14. 6K-Josh Lakatos; 15. 57D-Daniel Robinson; 16. 05T-Gary Taylor; 17. 69-A.J. Fike; 18. 1-Sammy Swindell; 19. (DNF) 51X-Colby Copeland; 20. (DNF) 11-Tyler Courtney; 21. (DNF) 73-Jason McDougal; 22. (DNF) 39C-Payton Pierce; 23. (DNF) 99W-Larry Wight; 24. (DNF) 9$-Kyle Clark
Lap Leaders: T. Thomas 1-12; Abreu 13-25
Hard Charger: Parker Price-Miller (+15)
CREDIT: Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals