Story By: ALEX NIETEN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – ROSSBURG, OH – 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 seal a win in the BeFour the Crowns Showdown as the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars kicked off Four Crown weekend.
The victory moved Abreu up to six with The Greatest Show on Dirt in 2023. He’s now at four triumphs in his last 10 Sprint Car starts at the half mile. The other three are last year’s BeFour the Crowns Showdown, another World of Outlaws win this past May, and an Eldora Million prelim in July. As the World of Outlaws closed out their 2023 slate at Eldora, Abreu became the first and only to notch multiple Series victories at “The House that Earl Built.”
“Just more seat time around this track,” Abreu said of his recent Eldora success. “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 drop of 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 1 and 2. Right after snagging second, Scelzi went to work tracking down Abreu.
While the pilot of the Rico Abreu Racing #24 ripped the thin cushion all around Eldora, Scelzi made up ground tip-toeing the low line in Turns 3 and 4. The Fresno, CA native rolled tightly along the inside fence to close in. On the seventh lap, Scelzi used a strong run out of Turn 4 to attack. He threw a massive slider at Abreu heading into Turn 1 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 #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 as the St. Helena, CA native expertly sliced 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 1 and 2 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 #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 3 and 4, 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 3 but barely missed clearing Abreu as the exited Turn 4.
“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) 3 and 4. 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.”
Abreu surviving Gravel’s last gasp allowed him to reach the finish line first to lock up another Eldora victory to continue his recent tear at the Rossburg, OH facility.
“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 as he narrowly missed making the trip to Victory Lane. The runner-up result marked Gravel’s Series-high 28th World of Outlaws podium of the season. Gravel left feeling satisfied with the strong run but also wished the Feature could’ve been slightly longer with how his machine came alive late.
“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) 3 and 4. And in (Turns) 1 and 2 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) 1 and 2, 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 #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.
With Brad Sweet finishing ninth, Gravel’s runner-up helped him trim Sweet’s point lead down from 90 markers to 76.
Donny Schatz collected the KSE Racing Hard Charger with a 15th to 6th drive.
David Gravel earned the Simpson Racing QuickTime Award for the 11th time in 2023 and 108th time in his career.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to David Gravel (234th Heat Race win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were topped by Giovanni Scelzi (34th of career), Logan Schuchart (119th of career), and Justin Peck (ninth of career).
Kerry Madsen won the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown.
After an incident with less than 10 laps to go ended a potential top 10 run, James McFadden was given the Smith Titanium Brake Systems Break of the Race.
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars make their last appearance in the state of Ohio on Saturday, September 23 at Sharon Speedway for the Federated Auto Parts Showdown.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps): 1. 24-Rico Abreu; 2. 2-David Gravel; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 4. 41-Carson Macedo; 5. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 6. 15-Donny Schatz; 7. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 8. 13-Justin Peck; 9. 49-Brad Sweet; 10. 26-Zeb Wise; 11. 7BC-Tyler Courtney; 12. 8-Aaron Reutzel; 13. 9R-Chase Randall; 14. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 15. 21H-Brady Bacon; 16. 11-Cory Eliason; 17. 88-Austin McCarl; 18. 42-Sye Lynch; 19. 4-Chris Windom; 20. 7S-Robbie Price; 21. 9-Kasey Kahne; 22. 1T-Tanner Holmes; 23. (DNF) 5-Spencer Bayston; 24. (DNF) 83-James McFadden; 25. (DNF) 55-Kerry Madsen; 26. (DNF) 9P-Parker Price Miller