Rico Abreu earns first career Chili Bowl victory

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Early on, it looked like no one would have an answer for Bryan Clauson in Saturday night’s Chili Bowl Nationals main event in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

But as it turned out, someone did.

That someone was reigning USAC National Midget Series champion Rico Abreu, who got by the defending Chili Bowl champ just before the halfway mark of the A-Feature.

Clauson would get collected in an accident later on, and Abreu held the point for the rest of the race to capture his first win in one of dirt track racing’s biggest events.

As Abreu emerged through the “roof” of his midget racer to celebrate, the sell-out crowd at the River Spirit Expo Center was heard chanting his name in appreciation of his efforts.

“I just tried to stay as patient as I could,” Abreu said. “You know the race is a not a long race, but it is a long race. For a few laps, I just kind of got after it just to see where we were at and I hung with [Clauson] pretty good.

“I don’t know how hard he was racing but when the time was right, I pulled the trigger and gave him a slide job and was waiting for him to slide me back. We dragged raced each other into [Turn] 3 and I came out with the lead.”

Four-time Chili Bowl champion Kevin Swindell survived involvement in a six-car pileup early in the A-Feature and made a late run to second place.

Rounding out the podium was Damion Gardner, who came from the last row of the grid to finish third.

Clauson maintained second position for a while after losing his battle for the lead to Abreu, and still had hope of a second consecutive victory in Tulsa.

But that was dashed at Lap 39, when he was forced to stop after Daryn Pittman had spun in front of him in T3. They avoided a big crash, but were sent to the rear of the field. Both impressively recovered for Top-10 finishes – Pittman in sixth, Clauson in 10th.

Also among the big names to fall out of contention during the 55-lapper was NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie of the year Kyle Larson. He started the main event in fourth place but spun out unassisted – not once, but twice. Nonetheless, he carried on and came home a respectable seventh.

Other NASCAR drivers involved in the A-Feature were J.J. Yeley, who finished 17th, and Chad Boat, who ran within the Top 5 before he tagged the cushion and flipped in the air. Boat landed right-side up, but he had to swallow a 21st-place result.

Another NASCAR driver, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., advanced into the preceding B-Mains but could not get to the A-Feature with a ninth-place finish. He needed a Top 6 finish to move on.

29th Annual Chili Bowl Nationals – River Spirit Expo Center, Tulsa, Okla.
A-Feature – 55 laps
Finishing Position/No./Driver/[Starting Position]

1. 97-Rico Abreu [3]
2. 39-Kevin Swindell [10]
3. 71L-Damion Gardner[23]
4. 67-Tanner Thorson [18]
5. 1-Sammy Swindell [16]
6. 21-Daryn Pittman [8]
7. 71K-Kyle Larson [4]
8. 15D-Andrew Deal [6]
9. 5D-Zach Daum [20]
10. 63-Bryan Clauson [2]
11. 8K-Blake Hahn[15]
12. 05-Brad Loyet [7]
13. 5-Jerry Coons Jr [1]
14. 7A-Darren Hagen [22]
15. 2B-Ryan Bernal [17]
16. 17C-Casey Shuman [25]
17. 1ST-J.J. Yeley[12]
18. 39B-Spencer Bayston [11]
19. 63K-Chris Windom [5]
20. 17RW-Dave Darland [24]
21. 15X-Chad Boat [9]
22. 5C-Colten Cottle [21]
23. 71-Christopher Bell [14]
24. 88B-Terry Babb [13]
Lap Leader(s): Clauson, 1-26; Abreu 27-55

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.