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

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.