Rico Abreu passed Brad Sweet for the lead on lap 15 and never relinquished it on the way to winning the Hard Rock Casino Qualifying Night to advance directly to Saturday’s A Main feature at the 34th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals at the Tulsa Expo Center.
The victory is the fifth preliminary night win for Abreu in the last six years as he pursues his third Chili Bowl title after previously winning in 2015 and 2016. He becomes the third consecutive Toyota-powered driver to win his qualifying night this week and the seventh in the last eight races over the past two events.
Starting from the outside of the front row, Abreu fell in behind fellow Toyota driver Sweet in the early going. By lap 13, Abreu had closed on Sweet and the two traded the lead multiple times over the next two two laps before Abreu was eventually able to overtake him for the lead.
As Abreu moved out to a comfortable margin, the action heated up behind him throughout much of the second half of the race with five cars all battling for the second position. Colby Copeland was able to get past Sweet for second and with a handful of laps remaining, Blake Hahn and Sweet got together as Hahn made a move for the third position and Hahn would come out on top, with Sweet’s night coming to an early.
At the checkered flag, it was Abreu leading Copeland, with Hahn making it two Toyotas in the top three. Chase Johnson was fourth, Tyler Thomas placed sixth, David Gravel was seventh and Gio Scelzi made it seven Toyotas in the top-10 with a tenth-place showing.
“These Keith Kunz Motorsports cars really come in during the last 10 laps,” said Abreu. “That’s when races are won. Once we caught traffic, that’s where our advantage was. Then after I was able to get past Brad, we just tried some different lines towards the end. I moved back down and that’s where the line was for us. This win is for Keith Kunz, Pete Willoughby, Toyota and Safelite. This track suits my driving style and I’m in such great race cars. I’m really thankful every time I come here.”
Nine of the ten Toyota-powered cars racing on Wednesday advanced to the A Main as Tom Harris (13th), Sweet (19th) and Karsyn Elledge (22nd) rounded out the Toyota contingent.
This year’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals feature more than 350 entries – each fighting for one of the 24 openings in Saturday night’s “A Main” feature event. After three nights of competition, four Toyota drivers from three different teams have earned their way into Saturday’s final.
Qualifying continues for each of the next two nights with ten more Toyota-powered drivers, including three-time Chili Bowl champion Christopher Bell, expected to attempt to qualify on Thursday.
|Toyota Wednesday Results||Finished|
|Rico Abreu||A Main – 1st|
|Blake Hahn||A Main – 3rd|
|Chase Johnson||A Main – 4th|
|Tyler Thomas||A Main – 6th|
|David Gravel||A Main – 7th|
|Gio Scelzi||A Main – 10th|
|Tom Harris||A Main – 13th|
|Brad Sweet||A Main – 19th|
|Karsyn Elledge||A Main – 22nd|
|Harley Hollan||B Main – 8th|
Toyota Racing PR