ABBOTTSTOWN, Pa. – Through three races of Pennsylvania Speedweek, Rico Abreu felt the intensified atmosphere largely imposed by Danny Dietrich and Kyle Larson.
The fields were stiff to say the least, but Larson and Dietrich had set a torrid pace.
But in round four of Pennsylvania Speedweek on Monday night at Lincoln Speedway, Abreu rose to the challenge and controlled the tempo from start to finish, leading all 30 laps from the pole for his first sprint car win of the season.
Abreu registered a 1.995-second victory over Aaron Reutzel, who made the haul from Bulls Gap, Tenn., with the All-Star Circuit of Champions over the weekend just to race.
“My car was super driveable,” Abreu said. “We were pounding the top and made it work. … It was perfect conditions for what we wanted to do.
“[Dietrich and Larson] pick up the intensity of the races,” Abreu added. “They take everything out of you as a driver. Central Pennsylvania is the toughest racing in the country right now.”
Although the track played out to be a top dominant race, Abreu took advantage of everything that had built to celebrating in victory lane on Monday night.
He started the night by timing second in flight one with a lap of 13.759, just under two tenths shy of Larson’s fast-time lap of 13.564.
Because of the Pennsylvania Speedweek format, Abreu started fourth in his heat and managed to finish third, but since he transferred to the feature as the fastest car from time trials in his heat, he entered the re-draw.
After some misfortune Friday night in the opener at Williams Grove, where he had to exit the race early because his front wing got knocked down racing for sixth, some luck swung Abreu’s way and he drew the top spot for the 30-lap main event.
Abreu led by as many as two seconds once things got going and never appeared in danger of losing the point throughout the race, but Reutzel didn’t particularly make it easy.
Ripping the top, Abreu jumped out to a 1.8-second lead seven laps in and on lap nine Reutzel closed the gap to just two car lengths when Abreu was boxed in behind two lapped cars on the top.
A caution for a slowed Robbie Kendall stacked things back up with 18 laps to go, as Abreu’s one-second lead over Reutzel vanished.
Christopher Bell, making his first appearance in a sprint car since November, positioned himself in third at the time and Larson lurked in fourth.
Abreu launched smoothly and did so again on the race’s second and final restart with 11 laps to go, stretching the lead to as much as 2.2 seconds before Reutzel reeled to within three car lengths with three laps to go.
But Abreu never wavered as Reutzel was left without an answer in the final circuits.
“Needed to draw the [first pill],” Reutzel said. “It was top dominant. Nothing we could do. You couldn’t pass.”
Bell crossed third, while Brent Marks and Ryan Smith completed the top five.
Larson settled for sixth, finishing off the podium for the first time since May 30, a stretch spanning 17 races. Dietrich, who unofficially clings to a 24-point lead in the Speedweek standings, finished seventh.
Freddie Rahmer turned an ugly night into a salvageable night, charging from 21st to place eighth.
With the win on Monday, Abreu unofficially catapulted himself to third in the Speedweek standings, 85 points behind Dietrich, with an appealing track on the horizon in Grandview.
“It’s about putting good nights together, and that’s what we’re doing,” Abreu said. “Grandview is a good track for me, so I’m looking forward to getting there.”
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