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

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.