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Rico Abreu returns to championship form in Chili Bowl Night 3

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Rico Abreu returned to form last night during Night 3 of the 33rd annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals to win his fourth preliminary in five years. The California Midget and Sprint Car driver won back-to-back Chili Bowls in 2015 and 2016.

When asked by ChiliBowl.com about regaining the confidence he had in 2015 and 2016, Abreu replied, “Yeah, I think so. I won those back to back years and I kind of had a slump year and came back to be competitive. Last year I felt I wasn’t as good as the top two but if the roles were reversed, I think if I was in a little better position I think where they could chase me instead of me chasing them. Because those two boys [Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson] – they don’t too many mistakes when they get out front. I think this year was a matter of just minimizing the mistakes”.

Last year’ Chili Bowl was Abreu’s first event back after sitting out more than 15 weeks following a crash at Eldora during the Four Crown Nationals.

Abreu started on the outside of the first row after winning his heat and qualifier. He lost a position on the first lap to Blake Hahn who was immediately challenging then-leader Cole Bodine.

The first caution of the night came on Lap 3 when Matt Westfall spun to avoid a crashing Chris Windom who slapped the wall on the frontstretch. Westfall rebounded; Windom’s damage sent him to the work area ending the 2017 USAC Sprint car champion’s night.

Hahn faded on the restart and by Lap 5, Abreu was back in second and closing in on the leader. On Lap 8, Abreu preformed a slider and executed the final lead change of the night.

World of Outlaws driver David Gravel took the second transfer spot in a hard fought battle for second. He grabbed the runner-up spot after a quick game of three-card monte with Bodine and TIm McCreadie – who faded to sixth at the checkers.

Bodine completed the podium after narrowly holding back Jake Swanson who advanced 14 positions in the 25-lap feature. Cannon McIntosh  rounded out the top five.

Former Chilli Bowl champion Sammy Swindell started fifth, but spun on Lap 9and finished 15th.

MORE: Kyle Larson wins Chili Bowl Night 2 

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Wednesday’s Results

1. Rico Abreu
2. David Gravel
3. Cole Bodine
4. Jake Swanson
5. Cannon McIntosh
6. Tim McCreadie
7. Colby Copeland
8. Ryan Smith
9. Robert Dalby
10. Daniel Robinson
11. Blake Hahn
12. Justin Peck
13. Aaron Reutzel
14. Alex Bright
15. Sammy Swindell
16. Tom Harris
17. Matt Westfall
18. Tristan Guardino
19. Jason McDougal
20. Holley Hollan
21. Geoff Ensign
22. Tyler Thomas
23. Chris Windom
24. Davey Ray

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

Ker Robertson/Getty Images
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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?