LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. — Not since 2009 had a Keith Kunz-led team gone winless through the first eight events of the USAC National Midget Series season, but that all changed on Saturday night, courtesy of Rico Abreu.
Just as Clauson-Marshall Racing did one night prior, the Kunz trio of Abreu, Tanner Thorson and Holly Shelton recorded a sweep of the top-three spots in the feature at Lawrenceburg Speedway, setting the stage for a thrilling conclusion to Indiana Midget Week.
After an unforgettable, race-long battle that saw slide-job after slide-job thrown at Shelton by Abreu and Spencer Bayston, Abreu finally prevailed with three laps remaining, earning his 16th career USAC National Midget win and third straight at Lawrenceburg.
“This week has had a lot of ups and downs, but this is when it all pays off,” said Abreu. “We were getting dicey up front and I didn’t know how I was going to get past them, since it was so easy to do a crossover. Once I got my momentum going, I made sure I kept my tires spinning every time I hit the cushion … just to help not bog down the engine. These motors are the best in the business. It’s a lot of fun to drive these cars when they’re on point and tonight, we capitalized on that.”
“We didn’t qualify great, because I changed up my line in qualifying, and that hurt us. I enjoy every moment racing with Keith Kunz and Pete Willoughby, though. They’ve been doing it for a long time. It makes it a lot of fun when we get up here and win.”
All five of the Kunz cars occupied the first five rows of Saturday’s starting lineup, sweeping the front row with Ryan Robinson and Shelton.
The transcendent story of the night was Shelton, who rode the cushion through turns one and two, then split between the cars of Justin Grant and Ryan Robinson off turn two to take the lead on the opening lap.
Action stalled at the conclusion of lap one, as Indiana Midget Week point leader Michael Pickens got sideways at the top of turn one while battling Abreu for ninth.
As Pickens sat idle in the middle of the track, Alex Bright, Jerry Coons, Jr. and Adam Pierson plowed into the fracas, ending the night for all four drivers and throwing a monkey wrench into Pickens’ quest for a first Indiana Midget Week title.
On lap nine, Bayston began his trail to the front, sliding Justin Grant for second entering the first turn. Grant hit the cushion, sending him sideways into a half-spin through the second turn before regaining control. However, Bayston had secured the spot and began making strides towards the race lead.
With Pickens out of the night’s picture, USAC National Midget point leader Brady Bacon was poised to put his stamp on overtaking the Kiwi for the IMW lead. However, misfortune would befall Bacon on the 11th lap, when he slowed to a halt to bring out a yellow, finishing 16th as a result.
Bayston took a run at the lead on the ensuing restart, shooting a turn one slider across the nose of Shelton, but Shelton countered underneath and crossed over to maintain her race lead.
Meanwhile Abreu, the Kunz car that started furthest back in 10th, had moved up to fifth prior to the yellow. On the 13th lap, Abreu poked his nose to the outside on the frontstretch, before tearing apart the two Clauson/Marshall cars of Tyler Courtney and Grant at the entry of one to take third.
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