BELLEVILLE, Kan. — official release — Rico Abreu made it very clear after his runner-up performance on Thursday that he was tired of finishing second in the Saturday finale of the “Belleville Midget Nationals” after ending up there the last two years.
The St. Helena, Calif., pilot used a mid-race slider for the lead and was flawless riding the rim of the legendary half-mile for the emotional victory in the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – Toyota TRD No. 97 Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“It’s hard to tell everyone how this one feels. I got pretty emotional in victory lane in that moment,” Abreu said. “I told myself that I wasn’t running second this year. I realized I wasn’t gaining on him and I was running the same line as him, so it was time to move up a bit higher and got it going up there. It was as far on the fence as it could be, and I almost hung from it a couple times. It was right up my alley, for sure. This is special for me – I’ve wanted to win here since I showed up here.”
Daum, who won Friday’s 25-lap preliminary feature, got the jump from the pole. An caution for Chris Windom, who had been running eighth, slowed the early going. He changed his right-rear tire and rejoined the field.
From there, the race went green, and Daum actually pulled away from Abreu after the restart and through the ten-lap mark. Abreu then got going, cutting big chunks out of Daum’s lead until he caught him at the completion of lap thirteen and fired a long, sweeping slider through turns one and two for the lead.
With the pass made, Abreu continued to trace the outside rail of Belleville, opening up his lead as Daum also enjoyed a comfortable advantage over the battle heating up for third between Tracy Hines and Christopher Bell.
Abreu had a close call in traffic, and then could not complete a slide-job with about 15 to go, allowing Daum to close in a bit. Daum could not draw close enough to make a move, however, and Abreu carried on.
With nine laps to go, the second and final caution appeared, giving Daum another chance to go after Abreu. The Honda National Midget point leader was again on his game, though, and nailed the restart to gain himself a large advantage. He took his fourth win of the season and eighth of his young career.
Daum finished a fine week that never saw him worse than second, which is where he finished in the Belleville finale aboard the Daum Crop Insurance – Weld Wheels No. 5d Eagle/Stanton Toyota.
“You know Rico is gonna go good, especially when the track moves up that high,” Daum said. “I knew he’d be coming at that point. He slid me and there was nothing I was gonna do about it. I didn’t know how close second was, so I was making sure I didn’t give anything away at the end. It was obvious there was no catching him without a major mistake or a problem. I’m really happy with our week.”
Hines fended off Bell’s last-turn slider for the final podium position in the Parker Machinery – Turbines, Inc. No. 24 Spike/Stanton Toyota.
“I messed up a little off two on the last lap and knew he was coming, but I just turned back under him and was able to beat him to the line,” Hines said. “I think we proved between Zach and myself that our Stanton engines were every bit as strong as the others, and we’re happy with our week. We didn’t blow any up and we kept it up front.”
Bell, the defending race winner, came home fourth in the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – Toyota TRD No. 97 Bullet/Speedway Toyota, and Windom rebounded all the way to fifth.
RESULTS: USAC Honda National Midget Series; August 2, 2014; Belleville, Kansas; Belleville High Banks; “Belleville Midget Nationals”
FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Rico Abreu, 2. Zach Daum, 3. Tracy Hines, 4. Christoper Bell, 5. Chris Windom, 6. Dave Darland, 7. Bryan Clauson, 8. Jerry Coons Jr., 9. Michael Pickens, 10. Cody Brewer, 11. Stu Snyder, 12. Jeff Stasa, 13. Matt Johnson, 14. Isaac Chapple, 15. Garrett Hood, 16. Johnny Murdock, 17. Robert Bell, 18, Tyler Dunkle, 19. Don Droud Jr., 20. Ty Williams. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-13 Daum, Laps 14-40 Abreu.