Rico Abreu defends Chili Bowl title in duel with Bryan Clauson

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The 2016 Chili Bowl Nationals came down to a duel between the race’s last two champions, Rico Abreu and Bryan Clauson, with Abreu coming out on top to defend his 2015 title.

Abreu started fourth in the 55 lap A-Main and after a lengthy red flag period, restarted second with 15 laps left to challenge Clauson for the win. After removing himself from the cockpit of his No. 97 car, he lept into the arms of Clauson in celebration at the Tulsa Expo Raceway.

“I just made sure I was patient,” Abreu told Racinboys.com. “I’m already looking forward to next year. This is my favorite race of the year.”

Clauson started from the pole and led for most of the race until Abreu overtook him.

“Got really tight there for a good portion (of the race) and then right there at the end it widened back up so I could rip in on the curve,” Clauson told Racinboys.com. “I got back to (Abreu), just tried a little too hard in (Turns) 1 and 2. Kind of gave him enough cushion there that it didn’t matter.”

It’s a big way to start the year for Abreu, who will compete full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with ThorSport Racing.

The top five was filled out by Abreu, Clauson, Zach Daum, Jerry Coons, Jr. and Kyle Larson.

Unofficial Results

1. 97-Rico Abreu

2. 63-Bryan Clauson

3. 5D-Zach Daum

4. 5-Jerry Coons, Jr

5. 71K-Kyle Larson

6. 47X-Tim McCreadie

7. 91T-Tyler Thomas

8. 2X-Thomas Meseraull

9. 67-Tanner Thorson

10. 17-Joey Saldana

11. 8K-Blake Hahn

12. 71-Christopher Bell

13. 67Z-Kasey Kahne

14. 17G-Shane Golobic

15. 77B-Alex Bright

16. 17R-Ricky Stenhouse Jr

17. 24-Tracy Hines

18. 1-Sammy Swindell

19. 71G-Damion Gardner

20. 99P-Dillon Welch

21. 3B-Joe B. Miller

22. (DNF) 71X-Shane Cottle

23. (DNF) 38-Justin Grant

24. (DNF) 21-Daryn Pittman

25. (DNF) 2A-C.J. Leary[18]

NASCAR connections: Kasey Kahne finished the championship race in 13th … Rickey Stenhouse Jr. won the second B-Feature to advance to the main event, and Kyle Larson finished fifth to advance. Stenhouse finished the main event in 16th after a Lap 43 accident with Sammy Swindell. Larson came home in fifth … Christopher Bell was leading when he hit C.J. Leary and spun out early in the championship race. Bell went on to finish 12th … JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier captured the win in D-Feature 2 to advance. He was then eliminated in the first C-Feature in a three-car crash on the first lap … Alex Bowman spun out in Turn 3 of the first E-Feature of the night and wound up finishing 12th in the 10-lap race.

Notable: The race was briefly put under a red flag with 15 laps to go after a fan fell out of the stands and suffered minor injuries … Sammy Swindell was runner-up to Allgaier in the D-Feature and also advanced to the to the C-Features. With 15 laps left in the A-Main, Swindell was caught up in an accident with Ronnie Gardner, who had spun out in front of him … Alex Bright, the A-Feature winner on Tuesday night, flipped in an accident on Lap 33 of the championship race and finished 15th.