The #LetsRaceTwo World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car weekend at Eldora Speedway proved to be a tale of two nights for Rico Abreu.
During Friday’s opener, Abreu was the hunter. In Saturday’s finale, he was being hunted.
Friday resulted in a near-miss at the Rossburg, OH oval. After running second a majority of the race, Abreu took the lead from Logan Schuchart coming to the white flag but relinquished the top spot on the final circuit. The next night it was Abreu who held the lead when a challenger in the form of Donny Schatz arose late in the going to try and steal the win.
But after victory slipped away the first night, Abreu would not be denied on night two. The St. Helena, CA native survived a Schatz slider by slipping back by with 12 laps to go and powering to the checkered flag. Redemption for Friday’s heartbreak came only 24 hours later.
“I knew he (Schatz) was there,” Abreu said. “I was just searching. It’s hard leading to know where to run. I got up in (Turns) 3 and 4, and I knew that my car had a ton more grip. On the restarts, with the lower tire pressures, I could rip the bottom pretty good.
I just really focused on hitting my marks. You can get a little excited when someone like that pressures you, and it takes away from the drivability of your car just by applying that much more throttle. You’ve just got to cool everything back down and run your own race.”
The triumph marked Abreu’s third of the season, 12th of his career with The Greatest Show on Dirt, and his second in his last three starts at The House that Earl Built after topping last September’s BeFour The Crowns Showdown. The 31-year-old moved into a tie with Tim Green and Tyler Walker for the sixth most winningest World of Outlaws driver from California.
With Abreu’s history at Eldora and the big stage that The Big E presents for Sprint Car drivers, Abreu felt moved to be standing in the coveted Victory Lane once again.
“It’s a special place for me to race at,” Abreu said. “I have a lot of ups and downs here and a lot of respect for this place. When you line up next to guys like (David) Gravel, Schatz, (Brad) Sweet, Sheldon (Haudenschild), and everybody. Those are the best in the business. That’s what they do for a living. It’s just an unbelievable job by my team.”
Abreu didn’t start from the pole position, but he wasted no time claiming lead from his second starting spot. When the green flag waved on the 30 lap Feature, the race’s pole sitter – Sheldon Haudenschild – slid ahead of Abreu in Turns 1 and 2. Abreu answered by using his momentum on the top to turn under the Stenhouse Jr./Marshall Racing #17 coming down the backstretch and take command in Turns 3 and 4.
From there, Abreu maintained a solid advantage while working through a handful of early caution periods.
As Abreu paced the field, Schatz was charging through it. In signature Schatz style, the 10 time Series champion had the Tony Stewart/Curb Agajanian Racing #15 rolling through the slick as he advanced from 11th into the top five less than 10 laps into the Feature. By halfway, Schatz was second. On lap 18, he pounced for the lead.
Schatz capitalized on a massive run out of Turn 2 to pull alongside Abreu then slide ahead in Turns 3 and 4. Like Schuchart did to him the night before, Abreu found enough speed to crossover the leader and reclaim the top spot with a slide job in the next set of corners.
Once Abreu reclaimed the lead, he began to pull away amid traffic. Schatz made one final run, closing in as the laps waned, but was unable to mount enough of a charge to make a true attempt at a pass. Abreu won with slightly more than a half second advantage.
With Ricky Warner leading the way on the wrenches along with a solid supporting cast, Abreu and his #24 team continued to show they’re one of the best in the country early this year.
“Ricky just made great decisions,” Abreu said. “He bounces things off Zack (Middlebrooks) and Brady (Forbrook) that help educate them quickly, and that comes with experience. It’s been a pleasure for me to understand his (Warner’s) concepts. I’m really lucky to race with such an experienced crew chief.”
Claiming the second spot on the podium was Schatz. The result marked his best finish of the season and second straight podium effort aboard the Carquest #15. After a tough recent stretch, the pair of top threes were a welcome boost for him and the team.
“This is a decent weekend – third and second,” Schatz said. “Hopefully we can get a win here soon. Things were feeling pretty decent here this weekend. We’ve always had pretty decent finishes here at Eldora.
You’ve got to get going and get momentum. On my end, I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve been kicked in the head a lot. I’ve been kicked in the guts a lot. I’m used to it. That’s what drivers do. That’s what gets you to win championships. These guys work hard. My guys needed this – to get a good finish and get that momentum back going and the confidence back and everything.”
Completing the top three aboard the Big Game Motorsports #2 was David Gravel. The effort marked his eighth podium of the season (tied for the Series lead in 2023) as he continues to try to gain ground on the two above him in points.
“We had an awesome car there early on, definitely had the most maneuverable car and were really good early on,” Gravel said. “Wherever they went, I kind of did the opposite and passed guys. It was a solid weekend.”
Completing the top five was Brian Brown (from 13th) and Justin Peck (from 15th).
Brad Sweet slipped back to eighth from fifth, but the points leader – Carson Macedo – had an even tougher outing with a third to 13th showing. The top spot in the championship standings changed hands as Sweet moved ahead but only by two points.
With a 23rd to 12th charge, Hunter Schuerenberg was the night’s KSE Racing Hard Charger.
To begin the night, David Gravel claimed his third Simpson QuickTime Award of the season and a milestone 100th of his career.
CASE #No1EngineOil Heat One was topped by Carson Macedo (86th Heat win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were claimed by Anthony Macri (sixth of career), David Gravel (210th of career), and Logan Schuchart (106th of career).
Robbie Price won the night’s MicroLite Last Chance Showdown.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars head to “They Keystone State” to take on the PA Posse on Wednesday, May 10 at Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA) and May 12-13 at Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA). For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action on DIRTVision.
A Feature (30 Laps): 1. 24-Rico Abreu; 2. 15-Donny Schatz; 3. 2-David Gravel; 4. 21-Brian Brown; 5. 13-Justin Peck; 6. 1A-Jacob Allen; 7. 5-Spencer Bayston; 8. 49-Brad Sweet; 9. 7BC-Tyler Courtney; 10. 71-Cory Eliason; 11. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 12. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg; 13. 41-Carson Macedo; 14. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 15. 39M-Anthony Macri; 16. 42-Sye Lynch; 17. 19-Brent Marks; 18. 69K-Lance Dewease; 19. 49X-Cale Thomas; 20. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 21. 21H-Brady Bacon; 22. 20G-Noah Gass; 23. 4-Chris Windom; 24. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 25. 7S-Robbie Price