BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Amid all the change taking place within the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports stable for the upcoming Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, one notable name is staying put.
Rico Abreu confirmed to Sprint Car & Midget Saturday night following his third-place finish at Bakersfield Speedway with the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series that he will be back with the Toyota-powered juggernaut for the crown jewel indoor midget race in Tulsa, Okla.
The news comes in the wake of announcements over the last month that both Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell will not race with KKM inside the River Spirit Expo Center, with Larson running his own program and Bell driving for a different Toyota team in Tucker/Boat Motorsports.
Abreu, who won back-to-back Chili Bowl titles in 2015 and 2016 to start a run of five straight there for KKM as a team, looks to rekindle that success in January in his No. 97 Safelite Auto Glass Bullet-Toyota.
He was quick to point out that there’s “no team I’d rather race for” than the one led by co-owners Keith Kunz and Pete Willoughby, who helped launch Abreu’s career nearly a decade ago.
“Absolutely I’ll be back with Keith in January,” Abreu told Sprint Car & Midget. “I’m planning on racing for Keith Kunz as long as they want me back. I think I signed that lifetime contract with KKM about seven years ago when I first started for them, but I have to go and race hard in front of those guys and make sure I don’t get booted out. I really, really enjoy getting to race for Keith and Pete (Willoughby) and my appreciation level for their work ethic inside the shop and at the race track is unbelievable.
“The cool part about it for me is that I get to see both sides of this sport, with how I take care of my sprint car team and in the same shop is their midget program,” Abreu added. “So I get to see the guys that work their butts off in the shop … and results like tonight and getting them wins is all I want to do for them. That’s what I’m here for when it comes down to it.”
Abreu won his preliminary night for the fourth time in five years with KKM this past January, and was in contention for a strong result during the 55-lap championship A-main before getting caught up in an early incident that relegated him to the rear of the field and scuttled his hopes at victory.
“Last year I thought we were pretty good, but we just got caught up in the beginning of the race and once you lose that track position at the Chili Bowl … especially in that Saturday feature, it’s so hard to get it back,” Abreu noted. “So I’m looking forward to this (coming) year and to finishing this year on a strong note so that we have some momentum going into the Chili Bowl.
“It’s going to be interesting (with Bell and Larson driving for different teams), but hopefully we can show the pace that got us those two Golden Drillers a few years ago and come home with a third one.”