Pevely, Mo. – Rico Abreu proved to be the strongest man Saturday night at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 as he powered forward and battled to the lead scoring his first World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series victory of the season and the Federated Auto Parts Ironman 55 presented by Walker.
Abreu, a NASCAR Truck Series regular, slipped back to fifth early but battled back into the top three after a lap 26 restart. He worked his way around the No. 9 of Daryn Pittman then set his sights on the No. 49 of Brad Sweet. Sweet bobbled coming off of turn four and Abreu raced past him onto the front straight.
Through traffic, the then leader Kerry Madsen lost ground to Abreu and Sweet. On lap 38 Abreu threw a slider on Madsen through turns three and four, but Madsen held. What commenced though was a two-lap, three-way battle for the lead. Abreu eventually got around and through restarts, traffic and a brush with the wall on the final lap, Abreu cruised to the Ironman 55 win.
“It’s really important. These big ones is what it comes down to. All that hard work all year that these guys have done,” Abreu said. “I raced my ass off. It’s fun, it all pays off.”
Abreu is the 16th different winner of the season and the sixth different driver to score the Ironman 55 title. Since 2009, Craig Dollansky is the only driver to repeat.
Sweet kicked off the night with his second straight quick time award in qualifying. His 11th quick time made him the season’s leading qualifier, surpassing Joey Saldana who held the distinction through much of the year.
Madsen, the 2014 Ironman 55 winner, started on the feature pole with with 2015’s Ironman winner, Shane Stewart, on his outside.
When the green flag fell, Sweet, who started fourth, battled forward, taking over third on the initial start and then racing Stewart, side-by-side on lap 10 for second. Two laps later, as Madsen worked his way through traffic, Sweet closed the gap on the leader and began challenging him for the lead.
A caution flew and on the restart Madsen pulled away, this time maintaining his top spot through the traffic. When the next caution flag fell on lap 26, Madsen had lapped up to 16th position.
Abreu, who had been sitting in fourth through much of the feature, got his chance on the restart, as he took over third from Pittman and then took advantage of Sweet’s mistake on the exit of four to take over second.
On lap 39, again slowed by traffic, Abreu caught Madsen and slid him through turns three and four. It was not enough that lap, but setup a three-way battle for position with Sweet mixing it up, nearly side-by-side-by-side across the line on lap 40. Abreu displayed masterful maneuvering across the track as he took over the lead and, in spite of the strong challenge from Madsen and near disaster at the end, crossed the finish line in first.
To chants of, “Rico, Rico, Rico,” from a packed Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55, Abreu hoisted the coveted dumbbell trophy and claimed the $20,000 prize.
“We started off pretty tight in the beginning of the race. The tighter our car is, it tends to bog our engine which makes it confusing to know what to do,” Abreu said. “I was just trying to maintain my tires underneath me. When I got to those guys I made sure I didn’t race them too hard. You can get in an intense battle and heat your tires up and end up running fifth or sixth. I just made sure I hit my marks. The restarts were really important tonight.”
Abreu ended the two-year run of Kings Royal winners also taking the Ironman victory. The win is his fourth career series win.
Madsen, who looked to become just the second repeat winner of the Ironman 55, led the first 40 laps of the grueling 55-lap feature. In the end though, Abreu had the edge.
“The guys gave me a fantastic racecar. Just got into traffic there and I just – guy had been running the top and I thought I had him and then he chopped the front and Rico was there to take advantage. This race is always one of our favorites of the year – the fan interaction is fantastic.”
Stewart battled past Sweet through the closing laps and took home the final spot on the night’s podium. He said the podium finish was needed for his Larson Marks crew as their performance has not been where they want it to be.
“We’ve been on struggle street really badly lately,” Stewart said. “It was a really great race. Normally you try to pace yourself a little but there was no pacing. This is a great event, it’s a special race to win. Hats off to Rico, he does a great job.”
“Hopefully we can carry this momentum, not only into Knoxville, but into the rest of the season.”
Joey Saldana was the KSE Racing Hard Charger, advancing nine positions to finish fifth.
The World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series rolls into the biggest week of the season as the series takes on the 5-Hour ENERGY Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Store at Knoxville Raceway, Wednesday, Aug. 10 to Saturday, Aug. 13. To learn more about the Knoxville Nationals, visit WoOSprint.com/Knoxville-Nationals.
Follow the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series on Twitter at Twitter.com/WorldofOutlaws, like it on Facebook at Facebook.com/WorldofOutlaws, or check out the latest videos on YouTube at YouTube.com/WorldofOutlaws.
Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 Notebook
RACE NOTES: Brad Sweet picked up his 11th quick time of the season after taking the qualifying quick time at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55. He is now the season’s leading qualifier… Rico Abreu is the 16th different series winner of 2016 and the sixth different winner of the Ironman 55 since the inaugural event in 2009. Craig Dollansky remains the only repeat winner of the event… Joey Saldana was the night’s KSE Racing Hard Charger, advancing nine positions to finish in fifth.
– Series Press Release
– Photo Credit Napa Valley Register