Past Chili Bowl Nationals champion Rico Abreu towered over the competition on Wednesday night’s Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa Qualifying Night at the 33rd annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire. After rolling to the green from the right of the front row in last night’s A-Main Qualifying feature, Abreu’s Safelite AutoGlass/Keith Kunz Motorsports No. 97 was able to move from third place to the lead by Lap 7, joining the previous two nights’ champions in this year’s record.
On Lap 9, Abreu would find his race lead in jeopardy when Alex Bright and Sammy Swindell ended their nights in a puff of dirt. Following the restart, Abreu pulled away and left the No. 76G of David Gravel, No. 57C of Cole Bodine and No. 9 of Tim McCreadie to race three wide for second place. While Gravel earned the runner-up position, Abreu held off any attempts at taking away his hard-fought lead.
Picking up steam on the berm of the Tulsa Expo Raceway, Gravel continued to do his best to close the gap separating him from Rico as the laps wound down. After continuing to adjust his line at the bottom of turns three and four, in the closing laps Abreu was able to hold off runner-up Gravel and the rest of the competition to win his first victory of the 2019 Chili Bowl.
After this victory, Abreu says he feels like his Chili Bowl winless slump might be over.
“I won this race back to back for two years and feel like I hit a slump after this,” said Abreu. “Last year I felt like I wasn’t as good as the top two, but if the roles were reversed and I was in a little better position I could have had the competition chasing me. So, this year I am focusing on minimizing any on-track mistakes to keep my Keith Kunz Motorsports team in the Winner’s Circle.”
The 33rd Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire continues tonight with John Christner Trucking Qualifying Night. Stay tuned to RacingJunk.com for all the latest coverage.