Rico Abreu turned in a dominating performance in leading all 30 laps on the way to winning Wednesday’s Circle City Raceway Qualifying Night at the 35th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. Alex Bright placed second, while Brad Sweet finished third as Toyota-powered drivers swept the podium.
The victory is the third straight for a Toyota driver in the first three nights of qualifying and marks the sixth preliminary feature win for Abreu in the last seven years. With the win, the two-time Chili Bowl champ will advance directly to Saturday’s A Main feature event.
Abreu and Bright led the field to the green flag with Abreu moving into the lead from the pole position, with Bright falling in behind him. The two Toyota drivers would hold those positions throughout the 30-lap event with Abreu quickly pulling away from the field. Within the first 10 laps, he would begin to lap the tail end of the field. The only thing that could slow him down on the way to the win was a handful of caution flags.
“Keith Kunz Motorsports (KKM) has some phenomenal race cars,” said the victorious Abreu. “With Toyota’s support and the great guys that work at KKM behind the scenes with the late nights and the early mornings, that’s where the success comes from. I just tried to focus on minimizing my mistakes. The cushion could get really technical at times. I just tried to understand where the track was moving to. We had great rotation in my car tonight and that’s what allowed me to be able to move around when we got to traffic. I’m excited for Saturday. This is the best I’ve felt in this building. They’ve worked on their race cars to get them better and better. These guys are hungry for a ‘Driller’.”
Bright also registered a stellar performance on the way to transferring to Saturday’s A Main, never dropping below second in the event. After fighting off an early challenge from Sweet, the Collegeville, Pennsylvania-native was able to pull out a comfortable advantage as a five-car battle went on behind him for third place.
“This is probably the best car I’ve ever been in coming to the Chili Bowl,” relayed Bright. “We didn’t get the win today, but that Ed Pink Toyota definitely made it easy on me in finishing second. I can’t thank everyone on this team enough. I’m looking forward to Saturday.”
Sweet, the reigning World of Outlaws champion, began the race in ninth, but quickly moved up through the field as the race ran green for the first 13 laps. He would eventually find himself battling with Jake Neuman, Colby Copeland, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Jake Swanson for the final spot on the podium with Sweet coming out on top.
Eight Toyotas advanced to the night’s A Main, with Gio Scelzi placing tenth, Brian Carber was 12th, Emerson Axsom finished 14th, Tyler Thomas came home in 15th and Robert Dalby was 21st after running in the top-five for much of th early going
This year’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals features more than 310 entries - each fighting for one of the 24 openings in Saturday night’s A Main. Through the first three nights, Toyota drivers have secured five of the six direct transfers to Saturday’s feature event. Qualifying continues the next two nights with 10 Toyota-powered drivers expected to attempt to qualify on Thursday.