T.J.’s Takeaways From Wednesday at the Chili Bowl Nationals

(l to r) Third place Blake Hahn, winner Rico Abreu, and second place Colby Copeland. (Serean Dalhamer photo)

With three nights in the books here are T.J.’s Takeaways from Wednesday at the Chili Bowl Nationals.

• This year at the Chili Bowl Nationals are we seeing Rico Abreu taking a more cerebral approach? After calming Cannon McIntosh in route to winning his preliminary night feature Abreu stalked Brad Sweet in the early stages of the feature, waiting for the perfect opportunity to pounce in slower traffic. Abreu was on his game every restart mixing up his approach on every attempt, often catching the pack sleeping.

I’ve seen Abreu run some great races over the years, but Wednesday’s performance showed Abreu’s still has plenty of ceiling to hone his talent. This could bode well for Abreu’s summer in the sprint car.

• Extensive work done by the track crew at the Chili Bowl Nationals to alter turns one and two (well documented by Matt Weaver) paid off on Wednesday with arguably the best racing so far this week. At one point during the main event the race for second on back involving six or seven cars exchanging slide jobs (I lost track of how many cars involved at one point). Its great to see people that care that much have their hard work pay off when they could have just left the status quo.

Its effort like this that produces the great racing we saw on Wednesday.

• Colby Copeland finishing second after having to monster truck the stopped car of fellow Californian Ronnie Gardner was nothing short of remarkable. Copeland managed to hang to Abreu’s back bumper to keep him honest while holding off stars from the World of Outlaws, ASCS, and fellow Californian Chase Johnson.

While Abreu has established awareness nationally among race fans Copeland and Johnson are largely known on the west coast, but over the past two years have started to come into their own. Three of the top five finishers were California born, proving the pipeline of great young talent from the west coast is intact.

• After a long layoff from midget car racing Ryan Newman has impressed with strong showings in both events he has competed in this winter. After knocking the rust off in St. Louis, Newman managed to put his car in the preliminary feature. Unfortunately for Newman he was involved in a couple of incidents that eventually ended his run early.

With Newman’s open wheel starts limited to a handful of Silver Crown appearances over the past decade, its nice having him back in the fold this winter.

• After two long days at the Chili Bowl that involved practice early in the day on Monday before the preliminary program and the VIROC Race of Champions on Tuesday, the Wednesday program ran quickly with the checkered flag falling at 9:47 p.m. central time. This was welcomed by this onlooker burning both ends at my job doing the day and writing about the Chili Bowl at night.

Bonus Takeaway: Earlier today the story broke about a young driver that lost his prime opportunity at the Chili Bowl due to a phrase used in a post-race interview. I hope that instead of only listening to people that enable things like saying its not a big deal the young man gets a perspective from someone that was offended or had to deal with remarks like this their entire life. I frequently stress with my son the decisions he makes and words he uses have consequences. Hopefully the young man learns from this and can make wiser choices in the future and hopefully removes that phrase from his vernacular.