Rico Abreu didn’t grow up racing at 81 Speedway. He doesn’t have many laps at the Kansas racetrack. But he continues to feel right at home at the 3/8-mile.

Two times Abreu has joined the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars for a night of racing at 81 Speedway. And two times he’s ended the night parked in Victory Lane. A year ago, the St. Helena, CA native debuted at the facility and led all 30 laps of the Feature on his path to victory. Nearly a year later to the date, Abreu again led The Greatest Show on Dirt for all 30 circuits to claim an 81 triumph in front of the largest crowd in track history.

This year’s win created a historic occasion. Abreu became the ninth different winner in the first nine races of the 2024 World of Outlaws season. The record heading into this year was eight different in 2015. The nation’s top Sprint Car Series has seen unprecedented parity in 2024 courtesy of Abreu’s victory. Oddly enough, Abreu was the eighth different winner in 2015 from the previous high mark.

“These are just very memorable wins,” Abreu said. “Back-to-back years. Nine winners in nine races. I think I was the eighth winner in the eighth race back in 2015 when that was going on. It just shows how hard we work at this stuff. We put in a lot of effort to this team on both the performance side and the marketing side. We just want to really elevate everything. It’s really good for the sport. It’s amazing to see this World of Outlaws race tonight sold out.”

Abreu is now up to 16 career World of Outlaws checkered flags. He joined Sammy Swindell (six wins) and Donny Schatz (two wins) as the only multi-time Series winners at 81 Speedway through 15 visits. The track also became the fifth in which Abreu owns multiple victories at joining Eldora Speedway, Thunderbowl Raceway, Silver Dollar Speedway, and Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55.

The race began with Abreu leading the field to green courtesy of topping the Toyota Racing Dash. Abreu faced an early challenge in the form of Michael “Buddy” Kofoid who started the main event in second. Abreu opted for the low line in the opening laps as Kofoid built momentum up top. Right when it looked like Kofoid might drive by Abreu he shifted his line to the cushion. The two nearly made contact but avoided trouble as Abreu maintained the top spot.

An early restart allowed Abreu the opportunity to give himself a bit of breathing room as a battle for second broke out. David Gravel began to challenge Kofoid and managed to slide him for the spot before Kofoid countered with a crossover. Another early caution interrupted their battle.

On the ensuing restart Logan Schuchart emerged as a contender as he ripped by Gravel for third and quickly started to catch Kofoid. On Lap 8 Schuchart threw a successful slider on Kofoid to grab second.

A restart with 19 laps remaining brought a scary moment as Giovanni Scelzi and Carson Macedo clipped wheels sending Scelzi on a wild tumble down the front straightaway. Scelzi hopped out of the car unharmed, but the moment caused a major shift in points as he went into the night tied for the lead and left third in the standings and 38 markers out of first.

Macedo managed to make it back out for the next restart after repairs were made to the rear end of the Jason Johnson Racing #41. Abreu continued to excel on restarts by pulling ahead yet again following the red flag. Gravel slid Kofoid for third, but Kofoid managed to cross him over before another yellow flag again put a stop to the battles.

Buddy Kofoid races side by side with Rico Abreu
Rico Abreu held off a handful of challengers for the win on Friday including Buddy Kofoid (Trent Gower pHoto)

The slider fest continued on the following restart when Gravel slid Schuchart to take the runner-up spot. Shortly after, Schuchart climbed the fence in Turns 1 and 2 but miraculously saved it before his car slowed to a stop and the yellow flew again.

The many cautions seemed to come at the perfect time for Abreu who would continue to be the beneficiary of clean air anytime the yellow flag necessitated a restart. Ultimately, Abreu went on to win by an advantage of nearly two seconds.

“The cautions kind of all fell in place every time we caught traffic, but that’s how some of these races go,” Abreu said. “You can’t give these guys behind you another opportunity to do something better and make a move. I was trying to change my restarts up. On the bottom, the closer I got to the tire, I could get squirt down the front stretch. Ricky (Warner), Zack (Middlebrooks), and Brady (Forbrook), they all just kind of work together on making this car better.”

David Gravel used a last lap pass on Donny Schatz to take the runner-up spot. The result marked back-to-back second place finishes for he and the Big Game Motorsports team. The Watertown, CT native came away happy with the result as he regained sole possession of the points lead.

“I thought he was going to go low or middle there on the last lap,” Gravel said of his late race battle with Schatz. “He went to the top, so I just kind of filled the gap there. I almost tried too hard there a couple restarts, jamming the cushion and getting the car out of shape. If I just followed Rico on the last restart on the top, I think I would’ve been better off.”

Rounding out the top three was Donny Schatz aboard the Tony Stewart/Curb Agajanian Racing #15. He brought home his third podium in the last five World of Outlaws races as his strong start to the season continues. He’s now the only driver with a top 10 in every race to this point. But even though the consistency is nice, Schatz wants to win.

“When you’re trying to win, you’re not really thinking about second or third.” Schatz said. “It’s all the same. All in all, a good night. We salvaged not getting Hot Laps. We ended up Qualiying well and just kind of battled a few gremlins all night long. My guys got a new race car built, so you’re going to have that. But past that, they did a great job.”

Sheldon Haudenschild and Buddy Kofoid completed the top five.

A 22nd to eighth driver gave Brock Zearfoss the KSE Racing Hard Charger.

Carson Macedo toppled 81 Speedway’s 20-year-old track record in Sea Foam Qualifying to take Simpson Quick Time for the second race in a row.

NOS Energy Drink Heats One, Three, and Four went to Buddy Kofoid (18th Heat Race win of career), Giovanni Scelzi (41st of career), and Landon Crawley (first of career). Milton Hershey Heat Two belonged to David Gravel (244th of career).

Jace Park won the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown.

UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars head to Missouri for the first time in 2024 where Osborn’s US 36 Raceway will host the Series along with the Xtreme Outlaw Midgets on Friday, April 5. The following night takes the tour to Colcord, OK’s Arrowhead Speedway for the $20,000-to-win Jason Johnson Classic. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, catch every lap live on DIRTVision.


NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps): 1. 24-Rico Abreu[1]; 2. 2-David Gravel[4]; 3. 15-Donny Schatz[12]; 4. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild[13]; 5. 83-Michael Kofoid[2]; 6. 55-Chris Windom[18]; 7. 23-Garet Williamson[8]; 8. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss[22]; 9. 41-Carson Macedo[7]; 10. 5T-Ryan Timms[16]; 11. 41S-Dominic Scelzi[23]; 12. 1S-Logan Schuchart[3]; 13. 45X-Jace Park[21]; 14. 21-Brian Brown[24]; 15. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[11]; 16. 1-Brenham Crouch[15]; 17. 3-Ayrton Gennetten[17]; 18. 70-Kraig Kinser[19]; 19. 7S-Landon Crawley[6]; 20. 87-Aaron Reutzel[9]; 21. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[5]; 22. 18T-Tanner Holmes[14]; 23. 95-Matt Covington[20]; 24. 17B-Bill Balog[10]