Sun Prairie, Wisconsin…….It took a final corner slidejob for Rico Abreu to win the “Pepsi Nationals” on Sunday night at the Angell Park Speedway as the reigning Honda National Midget champion added another big midget win to his list, as he edged out teammate Tanner Thorson by just .093 seconds for the tenth win in his National Midget career.
Thorson got the jump from outside the front row and led throughout. Behind him, ProSource “Fast Qualifier” Bryan Clauson quickly moved into second, but he slowed on lap five with a right-rear wheel packed with mud. He visited the work area but was able to restart.
Thorson led Kevin Thomas, Jr. from there, as Abreu slipped to third when Darren Hagen slapped the big cushion in turn-four and darted up the track. After another yellow, Hagen went to the extreme high side in one and two and came with a full head of steam just as Abreu bobbled in the middle of the corner, with the two making contact that slowed Hagen and put him well back in the field before he regained speed.
The Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports team ran 1-4 as the race hit halfway, but the red flag flew on lap 18 for Tracy Hines, who flipped in turn-four while running in the fifth spot.
The race went green from there, as Thorson and Abreu pulled away from their teammate Thomas, while Clauson and Hagen fought back through the pack. With a few laps to go, Thorson hesitated with a lapped car, allowing Abreu to draw near. At the white flag, Abreu was not close enough for a pass, so he went to the extreme high side and gathered momentum as he exited turn-two.
With a full head of steam down the backstretch, he dove to the bottom and swept past Thorson for the top spot, leaving Thorson to cross back underneath him and try to beat him back to the line. It wasn’t enough, though, as Abreu finished it off by just a nose in the Toyota TRD – Curb Records #97 Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“I don’t know how it looked from the stands, but that was just a hell of a race from my seat. The last lap was one of those laps where you have to tell yourself ‘Go Big or Go Home.’ I got above the cushion and kept my car straight on exit to get all the speed I could and was able to pull the trigger on him at the other end. You cherish moments like that, winning on the final lap in front of a great crowd. It’s special to win the Pepsi Nationals and knock another big race off my bucket list. I’m having a lot of fun right now just getting to do this,” Abreu said.
Thorson came home in the runner-up spot in the first race since his spectacular crash during “Indiana Midget Week” at Lincoln Park Speedway on June 11th. Still sporting some blood in his eyes, the Minden, Nevada driver returned to the seat with a strong finish aboard the Toyota TRD – Abreu Vineyards #67 Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“It’s good to be back in the car, and I felt great from the start. I could hear one of them back there working something, and I figured it was Rico after hearing him above me a few times. My teammates are out there trying everything imaginable to find a way by me while I’m leading, so it’s tough to be out front the entire time. This is a new car, and we got my confidence back quickly to be able to run hard with these guys after being out for a few weeks,” Thorson said.
Kevin Thomas, Jr. joined his teammates on the podium and put himself atop the series point standings with the Toyota TRD – Bakken Concrete #67K Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“You never want to come home third, but these guys are good and it’s a solid night for us to end up on the podium. In the big picture, we gave ourselves another good finish towards the season-long goal,” Thomas said.
Clauson cleared Andrew Felker in the final laps to take home fourth in the Curb Records – Dooling Machine #63 Spike/Stanton Mopar, and Hagen also slipped into the top-five at the finish aboard the KBR Performance – Great Clips #17 Boss/Esslinger.
HONDA USAC NATIONAL MIDGET RACE RESULTS: July 5, 2015 – Sun Prairie, Wisconsin – Angell Park Speedway – 34th “Pepsi Nationals” – Co-sanctioned by POWRi and Badger
QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Bryan Clauson, 63, RKR/Curb-Agajanian-14.316 (NTR); 2. Rico Abreu, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.333; 3. Kevin Thomas Jr., 67k, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.372; 4. Bill Balog, 57, Ecker-14.467; 5. Austin Brown, 7, Brown-14.539; 6. Davey Ray, 33, Team RAY-14.600; 7. Tanner Thorson, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.606; 8. Ryan Robinson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.620; 9. Jimi Quinn, 8, Quinn-14.647; 10. Tracy Hines, 24, Parker-14.677; 11. Tyler Thomas, 91T, Thomas-14.699; 12. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 27, Klaasmeyer-14.724; 13. Darren Hagen, 17, Brown-14.727; 14. Andrew Felker, 11a, Felker-14.776; 15. Kyle Schuett, 9k, Schuett-14.821; 16. Spencer Bayston, 39, Clauson-14.960; 17. David Budres, 31, Manic-15.061; 18. Katlynn Leer, 77, Leer-15.107; 19. Eric Johnson, 82, Johnson-15.345; 20. Brandon Waelti, 19, Triple H-15.552; 21. Kurt Mayhew, 21k, Mayhew-16.003; 22. Scott Zane, 77x, Zane-16.790; 23. Isaac Chapple, 52, Chapple-32.487; 24. Cody Weisensel, 20, Weisensel-NT.
FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Bayston, 2. Hagen, 3. Clauson, 4. Thorson, 5. Hines, 6. Balog, 7. Johnson. 2:29.80
SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. T.Thomas, 2. Felker, 3. Brown, 4. Robinson, 5. Abreu, 6. Chapple, 7. Budres. 2:30.56
THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Quinn, 2. K.Thomas, 3. Schuett, 4. Klaasmeyer, 5. Leer, 6. Mayhew, 7. Ray, 8. Weisensel. 2:33.07
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Rico Abreu, 2. Tanner Thorson, 3. Kevin Thomas Jr., 4. Bryan Clauson, 5. Darren Hagen, 6. Andrew Felker, 7. Spencer Bayston, 8. Ryan Robinson, 9. Tyler Thomas, 10. Kyle Schuett, 11. Isaac Chapple, 12. Kurt Mayhew, 13. Austin Brown, 14. Tracy Hines, 15. Katlynn Leer, 16. Eric Johnson, 17. Jimi Quinn, 18. Bill Balog, 19. David Budres, 20. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 21. Cody Weisensel NT
**Hines flipped on lap 17 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-29 Thorson, Lap 30 Abreu.
NEW HONDA NATIONAL MIDGET POINTS: 1-K.Thomas-360, 2-T.Thomas-339, 3-Hines-333, 4-Abreu-326, 5-Hagen-321, 6-Bayston-300, 7-Jerry Coons Jr.-287, 8-Thorson-280, 9-Dave Darland-159, 10-Christopher Bell-152.
NEXT HONDA NATIONAL MIDGET RACE: July 28 – Beloit, KS – Solomon Valley Raceway – “Chad McDaniel Memorial”