By Alex Nieten
ABBOTTSTOWN, PA (March 18, 2023) – Rico Abreu made a powerful opening statement for his 2023 Sprint Car season.
On a night that was all about World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars battling the PA Posse, it was a driver not fitting into either category coming out on top.
Making his 2023 World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car season debut, Abreu topped a thriller at Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA) on Saturday night in the Low-E Insulation Spring Showdown finale. The St. Helena, CA native outdueled four-time and defending Series champion, Brad Sweet, in the 35-lap Feature to take home the $10,000 check.
The victory marked his 10th with The Greatest Show on Dirt and first in the state of Pennsylvania. Abreu became the 48th different driver to reach double digit World of Outlaws wins and only the eighth from the state of California.
Needless to say, Abreu was thrilled for he and his #24 crew to come out swinging so forcefully to begin his year.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Abreu said. “It’s incredible for my team. I think that’s the coolest part for me is for my team to experience something like that. Those are definitely difficult wins to come by.”
The majority of the 35 laps proved to be a three-horse race between Abreu, Sweet, and Raymond, WA native turned PA Posse driver, Devon Borden.
Sweet controlled the early portion of the race, taking off from the pole position. The driver of the Kasey Kahne Racing #49 faced an early challenge from Freddie Rahmer as traffic became a factor early on. However, on lap nine Rahmer’s chances vanished as he nosed into Sweet’s tail tank and spun in Turn one.
Rahmer’s misfortune moved Borden into the runner-up spot. On the ensuing restart, it appeared as if Sweet may get away, but lapped traffic again posed an issue for him, allowing Borden to close in. Around the halfway point, Borden made one valiant attempt at the lead as he drew even with Sweet down the front straightaway, but Sweet got his elbows up and pulled away after catching a glimpse of the Shuttlesworth-Stehman #23 to his outside.
“I actually thought there, for a minute, we were going to have a really good shot to win,” Borden said of the battle with Sweet. “We were really fast, had a really good car. I was just trying to stay patient and got to Sweet there a couple of times and was really close to him.”
Only a lap after Sweet put some distance between himself and Borden, Abreu’s car began to come alive as he rolled by Borden and set his sights on Sweet. Shortly after taking the runner-up spot, Abreu closed on “The Big Cat” and tossed a slider on him to take the lead coming to 13 laps to go. Abreu gave plenty of credit to his legendary crew chief, Ricky Warner, and his work on the wrenches for his late race speed.
“Ricky is obviously a very experienced crew chief and understands the ability to adapt quickly when it comes to crew chief decisions on racetracks that develop throughout the night,” Abreu said. “My car was unbelievably fast tonight. I was really lucky to get good track position and not have to fight too hard to get up front. Toward the end of the race, my car just kept getting better and better.”
After Abreu took the lead, there was no looking back as he pulled ahead and ultimately took the checkered flag with nearly a two second advantage over Sweet. A win to kick off his racing season left Abreu feeling especially grateful for his situation.
“I have some great partners,” Abreu said. “Everybody just does an unbelievable job. It’s just really cool to sit back and see it and see everybody involved and how pleasuring it is to me to be in this position. It’s unbelievable.”
Behind Abreu, Sweet finished on the podium for the second time this year, earning the 259th of his illustrious career with the World of Outlaws. The Grass Valley, CA native felt encouraged with the result but also couldn’t help but think of what could’ve been after leading the opening 22 circuits.
“Overall tonight, we were pretty happy with our car, finishing second even though we were leading laps and up front,” Sweet explained. “I just felt we were a little off in the A (main), but this is a tough field of cars. And with new tires and a lot of unknowns, you just don’t know how these nights are going to go, so we’re pretty happy with second with our Napa Auto Parts car.”
Rounding out the podium in just his 14th career World of Outlaws Feature start was Borden, marking his first career Series top-three.
“It honestly means the world just to be running out here in Pennsylvania against the absolute best in the world and running up front and contending for wins, you know,” Borden said. “We’ve come a long way, didn’t think I’d be here this soon. It’s really cool.”
One spot behind Borden was a hard charging Carson Macedo. The Jason Johnson Racing driver moved up from ninth to fourth, enough to make him the Low-E Insulation Spring Showdown champion and pocket an extra $10,000.
“It means a lot to us,” Macedo said. “I think it’s something really cool they put together that hopefully they continue to do in the future. I feel like all the people from Low-E Insulation, that’s a good chunk of change for them to put out.”
David Gravel and Brad Sweet finished second and third in the Spring Showdown standings to take home the remaining portion of the point fund with Gravel taking $6,000 and Sweet claiming $4,000.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars will take on a down south double header as next weekend (March 24-25), Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL) and Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS) host The Greatest Show on Dirt. For tickets, CLICK HERE
If you can’t make it to the track, watch live on DIRTVision.
A Feature (35 Laps): 1. 24-Rico Abreu; 2. 49-Brad Sweet; 3. 23-Devon Borden; 4. 41-Carson Macedo; 5. 13-Justin Peck; 6. 48-Danny Dietrich; 7. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 8. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 9. 19-Brent Marks; 10. 2-David Gravel; 11. 5-Spencer Bayston; 12. 11-Michael Kofoid; 13. 83-James McFadden; 14. 27-Chris Windom; 15. 39M-Anthony Macri; 16. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 17. 16-Matt Campbell; 18. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr; 19. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 20. 15-Donny Schatz; 21. 9-Kasey Kahne; 22. 1A-Jacob Allen; 23. 8D-Billy Dietrich; 24. 69-Tim Glatfelter; 25. 91-Kyle Reinhardt; 26. 99M-Kyle Moody; 27. 5W-Lucas Wolfe; 28. 44-Dylan Norris; 29. 8-Freddie Rahmer; 30. 1M-Landon Myers