(10/15/2022 – Alex Nieten) Tulare, CA… Leading into this weekend, Rico Abreu hadn’t raced with the NARC Fujitsu General Sprint Cars all year, but he made the absolute most of the only two series appearances he expects to make in 2022.
On Saturday night, Abreu completed a weekend sweep of two of the year’s most lucrative events as he came out on top of the inaugural Dennis Roth Classic at Thunderbowl Raceway following his Anthony Simone Classic triumph on Friday. For the second straight night, the main event produced a 30-lap slugfest with some of the left-coast’s best throwing haymaker after haymaker and Abreu prevailing late.
The Simone netted Abreu $10,000, and the latter earned him another $8,300, totaling nearly $20,000 for two day’s work in his home state. He also took home 30 pounds of ribeye courtesy of the Roth win. Abreu now owns 17 career NARC wins in 69 starts, upping his winning percentage to just a touch under 25%. It was Abreu’s fourth series win at Tulare, his personal best. With Abreu planning to head back east after next weekend’s Trophy Cup, he’ll finish up his 2022 NARC endeavors with a perfect two-for-two record.
“Dennis and Teresa (Roth) have been supporters of sprint car racing for longer than I’ve been alive, so it’s a pleasure to be standing up here talking to all of you guys at one of my favorite tracks in the country,” said a grateful Abreu in victory lane.
The win would by no means come easy as the front few rows were loaded with talent. Abreu started eighth, and some of the drivers lining up ahead of him included defending NARC champ, Dominic Scelzi, this year’s All-Star Circuit of Champions runner-up, Justin Peck, a pair with seven combined NARC titles between them in Jonathan Allard and Kyle Hirst, and perhaps the country’s best young talent, Corey Day.
Scelzi and Peck led the field to green, but a quick red flag flew on lap two as Max Mittry flipped in turn four and collected Bud Kaeding. Both were okay, and Kaeding was able to rejoin.
When the green flag again flew, Abreu began his charge. Just four laps in, he had already sliced his way up to fourth from eighth in the Rowdy Energy No. 24. Ahead, Scelzi paced the field until the action was slowed for Bud Kaeding spinning in turn four.
On the ensuing restart, Abreu utilized a great jump to leap from fourth to second by the time the field exited turn two. However, the St. Helena gasser couldn’t quite keep his momentum up after the move, and Peck and Day slipped back by.
Those three began a war for the runner-up spot allowing Scelzi to distance himself heading into the race’s halfway mark. Just like the night before in Hanford, it was sliders and crossovers galore as the battle narrowed to just Abreu and Day while Peck faded into the clutches of Justin Sanders.
Eventually, Abreu was able to secure second and quickly closed on Scelzi as he navigated traffic. With just 12 laps to go, Abreu made an amazing move as he split two lapped cars heading into
turn one and managed to complete a slider on Scelzi for the top spot. Scelzi crossed over heading out of turn two. The next time around Abreu threw a turn three slide job, but Scelzi again countered. A red flag for a flipping Jake Morgan temporarily halted the intense battle. Morgan was okay.
One more yellow slowed the race with nine to go, but when the green flag came back out after the final caution, the battle was on.
Abreu and Day traded sliders for second. Day edged ahead and tossed a slider at Scelzi for the lead, and Scelzi promptly drove back by out of turn two. Abreu rallied and came back to again duel with Day. Things got a little ugly with six to go as Abreu made contact with Day in turn one, sending Day sliding into the fence. Miraculously, Day saved the car without losing the third position.
With Day a ways behind him, Abreu set his sights on Scelzi with just five laps to go. Abreu steadily closed in, and with three laps to go he capitalized on a huge run out of turn two, launching a massive slide job on Scelzi into turn three and clearing him by enough that Scelzi couldn’t cross him over.
“The pace changes when you catch lap traffic,” Abreu detailed of he and Scelzi’s battle. “You’re kind of sitting in the cat-bird seat being in second. You don’t know where to run. The top gets dirty when lapped cars throw crumbs up there, and you can slip one lap, and someone can get a run off of four and break someone’s momentum very quickly. It’s just how it goes in sprint car racing. I know Dominic has been in that position before. He’s one of the best cars in California right now.”
After abreu took the top spot, Scelzi made one final attempt to snatch the lead back with a turn three slide job but fell just short. Abreu went on to win by just under seven tenths of a second to collect another strong payday.
“Again, thank you Dennis and Teresa for all you do for sprint car racing,” said the inaugural Dennis Roth Classic champ. “This is from the bottom of my heart. I always make sure to walk up to Dennis Roth if I see him at the races. He’s just an unbelievable person.”
Finishing second was Dominic Scelzi, who was driving a tribute car that paid homage to Dennis Roth’s first sprint car driven by Todd Ventura. It was Scelzi’s series leading 12th podium of the year and he extended his points lead, but the lifelong friend of the Roth family only wanted to win and couldn’t help but be disappointed after leading the opening 27 circuits.
“It was a great race, just not from where I was sitting,” Scelzi said. “It’s really hard to get pumped up and excited to come to a second place interview after racing your absolute ass off from lap one to lap 30 and just coming up short. We just got beat. Hats off to Rico. It was a hell of a race.”
Competing the podium was Corey Day aboard the Meyers Constructors/Four CCCCs Construction No. 14, his second straight top-three and sixth of the year with NARC.
“If things go different in two or three spots that race, I think we’d be standing on the top step, but that’s how it goes,” Day said. “Definitely not disappointed with this. We started fourth and ended up third. We went forward and that’s the biggest thing.”
The remainder of the top-10 included Justin Sanders, Justin Peck, Shane Golobic, Tim Kaeding, Austin McCarl, Tanner Carrick, and Justyn Cox.
FUJITSU GENERAL USA FEATURE (30 laps): 1. Rico Abreu 24 2. Dominic Scelzi 41 3. Corey Day 14 4. Justin Sanders 2X 5. Justin Peck 17 6. Shane Golobic 17W 7. Tim Kaeding 83 8. Austin McCarl 88 9. Tanner Carrick 83T 10. Justyn Cox 42X 11. Willie Croft 29 12. Mitchell Faccinto 21 13. Dylan Bloomfield 83V 14. Jonathan Allard 0 15. Kyle Hirst 83JR 16. Ryan Bernal 22 17. Mitchel Moles 01 18. Logan Forler 2L 19. Craig Stidham 36 20. Blake Carrick 38B 21. D.J. Netto 88N 22. Billy Aton 26 23. Jake Morgan 45 24. Bud Kaeding 69 25. Max Mittry 2XM
METTEC TITANIUM LAP LEADERS: Scelzi 1-27, Abreu 28-30
SWIFT METAL FINISHING HARDCHARGER: Tim Kaeding 25th to 7th
ARP FAST QUALIFIER (25 Cars): Dominic Scelzi 13.595
BROWN AND MILLER RACING SOLUTIONS HEAT ONE (8 laps): Mittry, Scelzi, Netto, Cox, T. Carrick, Faccinto, Aton, T. Kaeding, Croft
KIMO’s TROPICAL CAR WASH HEAT TWO (8 laps): Day, Allard, McCarl, Abreu, B. Carrick, Forler, Morgan, Bloomfield,
DIRT.TRAVEL CLUB HEAT THREE (8 laps): Peck, Hirst, Golobic, Sanders, Stidham, Moles, B. Kaeding, Bernal
SUNNYVALLEY “POWERED BY BACON” TROPHY DASH (6 laps): Scelzi, Peck, Allard, Day, Hirst, Mittry