2023 09 22 Eldora Woo Rico Abreu Paul Arch Photo (46)a
Rico Abreu in victory lane at Eldora Speedway. (Paul Arch photo)

Abreu Does It Again At Eldora

ROSSBURG, Ohio — Rico Abreu is on a roll at Eldora Speedway.

The high banks and high speeds of “The Big E” seem to suit the Californian perfectly. And on Friday night, Abreu delivered the latest testament to his prowess at the historic facility.

The 31-year-old took the lead on the opening circuit of the 30-lapper and never looked back. Abreu held off early challenges from Giovanni Scelzi and survived a Hail Mary slide job from David Gravel in the final corner to win the BeFour the Crowns Showdown as the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars kicked off 4-Crown Nationals weekend.

It was Abreus sixth victory of the season with the World of Outlaws and his fourth in his last 10 starts at Eldora.

“Just more seat time around this track,” Abreu said. “Ricky Warner and these guys work so hard. They’re so passionate about racing. What I’ve understood in my career is just surround yourself with people that are passionate about this sport and want to see me do good, and that’s how we stand up here in Victory Lane. We all just believe in each other.”

The pole position at the green flag belonged to Logan Schuchart courtesy of topping the Toyota Racing Dash. But it was Abreu blasting around the top side to lead down the back straightaway on Lap 1 and pace the first circuit.

On the second lap, Gio Scelzi quickly began to flex his muscle as he cleared a perfect slide job on Schuchart to take over the runner-up spot in turns one and two. Right after snagging second, Scelzi went to work tracking down Abreu.

While the pilot of the Rico Abreu Racing No. 24 ripped the thin cushion all around Eldora, Scelzi made up ground tip-toeing the low line in turns three and four. The Fresno, Calif., native rolled tightly along the inside fence to close in.

 On the seventh lap, Scelzi used a strong run out of turn four to attack. He threw a massive slider at Abreu heading into turn one in a bid for the lead. But Abreu kept the gas pedal mashed to the floor and motored around Scelzi as the two nearly touched exiting the second turn.

Scelzi’s unsuccessful slider scrubbed momentum from the KCP Racing No. 18 as Abreu pulled ahead down the backstretch. The close call appeared to lift Abreu’s elbows up as he began to distance himself from Scelzi and the rest of the field.

As the race neared the halfway point, Abreu opened up his advantage while slicing through traffic. The gap between he and Scelzi eclipsed two seconds on lap 16, and as the race dwindled to 10 laps to go, Abreu appeared headed to an easy win. But then the yellow lights flashed for the first time as James McFadden got into the fence and spun to a stop.

The race was interrupted one last time as Spencer Bayston had an issue in turns one and two to set up a six-lap dash to the checkered flag. 

On the late restart, Abreu inched ahead as a surging David Gravel began to challenge Scelzi for second. Gravel could comfortably move his Big Game Motorsports No. 2 around the surface, and he used a run to slide by Scelzi for the runner-up spot on Lap 27 before setting his sights on Abreu.

Like Scelzi earlier in the race, Gravel found speed on the bottom of turns three and four, and he trimmed three tenths of a second off Abreu’s lead on the lap after he took over second. The next lap another three tenths were erased as they took the white flag. And as the lead duo rolled down the backstretch one last time, Gravel launched a Hail Mary slider into turn three but barely missed clearing Abreu as the exited turn four.

“I knew,” Abreu said of Gravel’s closing presence. “My pace slowed down on the top. There weren’t too many cars running all the way up on the wall and it was getting crumby. I knew I won a race here a couple years ago just cheating it into (turns) three and four. The sun bakes that end, so it’s the fastest corner to slicken up. You’ve just really got to pay attention. Racing with the Outlaws things happen really quickly.”

49 Sweet & 24 Abreu
Rico Abreu (24) chases Brad Sweet at Eldora Speedway. (Frank Smith photo)

Abreu surviving Gravel’s last gasp allowed him to reach the finish line first to lock up another Eldora victory.

“That’s the best Eldora right there,” Abreu said. “It was just really maneuverable with our race car.”

The slide job that came up a little short caused Gravel to settle for second.

“We definitely needed a 40-lap race there,” Gravel said. “I felt like everybody was getting worse and we were either staying the same or getting better there at the end. I just kind of figured out (turns) three and four. And in (turns) one and two Rico was leaning on the cushion really hard and hitting it and getting tight and wasn’t making a lot of corner speed where I felt like I was. If I was in clean air in front of him through (turns) one and two, we would’ve been really hauling ass through there, but still a solid run for us.”

After challenging for the lead early on, Gio Scelzi brought his No. 18 machine home third to round out the top three. The finish marked his sixth podium of his rookie World of Outlaws campaign. Most importantly, the strong run suppled he and the team with a much needed confidence boost following a rough west coast swing.

“We were fast all night from the drop of the green flag,” Scelzi said. “I felt like every move we made and every change we made really made the car a lot better. It’s been probably the crappiest three weeks I’ve had in my entire racing career. I don’t think people realize whether we suck or whether we win, the same amount of work goes in with my crew guys. This is 100% dedicated to them and all the sponsors that stay behind us.”

Carson Macedo and Logan Schuchart completed the top five.

The finish:

Feature (30 Laps): 1. 24-Rico Abreu[2]; 2. 2-David Gravel[4]; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[3]; 4. 41-Carson Macedo[9]; 5. 1S-Logan Schuchart[1]; 6. 15-Donny Schatz[15]; 7. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild[6]; 8. 13-Justin Peck[7]; 9. 49-Brad Sweet[11]; 10. 26-Zeb Wise[19]; 11. 7BC-Tyler Courtney[13]; 12. 8-Aaron Reutzel[8]; 13. 9R-Chase Randall[12]; 14. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss[17]; 15. 21H-Brady Bacon[10]; 16. 11-Cory Eliason[24]; 17. 88-Austin McCarl[16]; 18. 42-Sye Lynch[22]; 19. 4-Chris Windom[23]; 20. 7S-Robbie Price[26]; 21. 9-Kasey Kahne[18]; 22. 1T-Tanner Holmes[25]; 23. (DNF) 5-Spencer Bayston[14]; 24. (DNF) 83-James McFadden[5]; 25. (DNF) 55-Kerry Madsen[21]; 26. (DNF) 9P-Parker Price Miller[20]