Tracy Hines

(Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

Rico Abreu defends Chili Bowl title in duel with Bryan Clauson

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The 2016 Chili Bowl Nationals came down to a duel between the race’s last two champions, Rico Abreu and Bryan Clauson, with Abreu coming out on top to defend his 2015 title.

Abreu started fourth in the 55 lap A-Main and after a lengthy red flag period, restarted second with 15 laps left to challenge Clauson for the win. After removing himself from the cockpit of his No. 97 car, he lept into the arms of Clauson in celebration at the Tulsa Expo Raceway.

“I just made sure I was patient,” Abreu told Racinboys.com. “I’m already looking forward to next year. This is my favorite race of the year.”

Abreu is now one of six drivers to win the Chili Bowl more than once.

Clauson started from the pole and led for most of the race until Abreu overtook him.

“Got really tight there for a good portion (of the race) and then right there at the end it widened back up so I could rip in on the curve,” Clauson told Racinboys.com. “I got back to (Abreu), just tried a little too hard in (Turns) 1 and 2. Kind of gave him enough cushion there that it didn’t matter.”

It’s a big way to start the year for Abreu, who will compete full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with ThorSport Racing.

The top five was filled out by Abreu, Clauson, Zach Daum, Jerry Coons, Jr. and Kyle Larson.

Unofficial Results

1. 97-Rico Abreu

2. 63-Bryan Clauson

3. 5D-Zach Daum

4. 5-Jerry Coons, Jr

5. 71K-Kyle Larson

6. 47X-Tim McCreadie

7. 91T-Tyler Thomas

8. 2X-Thomas Meseraull

9. 67-Tanner Thorson

10. 17-Joey Saldana

11. 8K-Blake Hahn

12. 71-Christopher Bell

13. 67Z-Kasey Kahne

14. 17G-Shane Golobic

15. 77B-Alex Bright

16. 17R-Ricky Stenhouse Jr

17. 24-Tracy Hines

18. 1-Sammy Swindell

19. 71G-Damion Gardner

20. 99P-Dillon Welch

21. 3B-Joe B. Miller

22. (DNF) 71X-Shane Cottle

23. (DNF) 38-Justin Grant

24. (DNF) 21-Daryn Pittman

25. (DNF) 2A-C.J. Leary[18]

NASCAR connections: Kasey Kahne finished the championship race in 13th … Rickey Stenhouse Jr. won the second B-Feature to advance to the main event, and Kyle Larson finished fifth to advance. Stenhouse finished the main event in 16th after a Lap 43 accident with Sammy Swindell. Larson came home in fifth … Christopher Bell was leading when he hit C.J. Leary and spun out early in the championship race. Bell went on to finish 12th … JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier captured the win in D-Feature 2 to advance. He was then eliminated in the first C-Feature in a three-car crash on the first lap … Alex Bowman spun out in Turn 3 of the first E-Feature of the night and wound up finishing 12th in the 10-lap race.

Notable: The race was briefly put under a red flag with 15 laps to go after a fan fell out of the stands and suffered minor injuries … Sammy Swindell was runner-up to Allgaier in the D-Feature and also advanced to the to the C-Features. With 15 laps left in the A-Main, Swindell was caught up in an accident with Ronnie Gardner, who had spun out in front of him … Alex Bright, the A-Feature winner on Tuesday night, flipped in an accident on Lap 33 of the championship race and finished 15th.

Christopher Bell dominates Thursday night race before Chili Bowl

Photo: Chili Bowl
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Christopher Bell dominated Thursday night’s preliminary feature ahead of Saturday’s Chili Bowl, in a flag-to-flag race win.

Bell started from pole in the 25-lap feature at River Spirit Expo Center at Tulsa’s Expo Square and led the rest of the way, even despite a flurry of cautions and a wealth of action behind him. Bell, who won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora last year, earns a spot in Saturday night’s 55-lap feature.

Short track veteran Jerry Coons Jr. drove from 10th on the grid to second to make it to his 13th straight consecutive Chili Bowl final, while Shane Cottle grabbed third place from C.J. Leary on the final lap. Both of those two raced their way into the main event on Saturday.

Beyond Bell, fellow NASCAR drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier and Tanner Berryhill all made the A Main. Stenhouse finished best of those three, finishing sixth after starting 13th.

NASCAR TIES: Allgaier, Stenhouse Jr., Berryhill and Bell all won in their respective eight-lap heat races. … Allgaier and Bell then proceeded to finish 1-2 in the second of four 10-lap qualifying races, while Berryhill and Stenhouse were 2-3 in the third to advance to the A Main.

NOTABLE: IndyCar owner Sarah Fisher finished sixth, and sports car veteran Chris Dyson fifth, in their respective heat races. … Both Dyson and Fisher then ended sixth in the first and second C Mains. Another competitor punted Dyson, while Fisher was reportedly behind two cars that tangled at the finish; Kip Hughes and Mark Chisholm both flipped but were OK. … Brady Bacon, a past driver for Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart, finished fifth in his qualifying race and second in the second B Main, by just 0.03 of a second to Justin Peck. … Short track veteran and 2005 Chili Bowl winner Tracy Hines captured a win in the fourth qualifying race.

NEXT: Friday’s qualifying races mark the last day of action before the Saturday feature race. Those of note set to run include Hendrick Motorsports’ Kasey Kahne, short track veterans Bryan Clauson, Dave Darland, Daryn Pittman, Cory Kruseman, John Heydenreich, Damion Gardner and Jac Haudenschild, 2006 Chili Bowl winner Tim McCreadie, NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Chad Boat and IndyCar crew member Anton Julian, among others. A full list is here.


FEATURE RACE RESULTS:

1-71-Christopher Bell
2-5-Jerry Coons Jr.
3-71X-Shane Cottle
4-2A-C.J. Leary
5-24-Tracy Hines
6-17R-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
7-5X-Justin Peck
8-38-Justin Grant
9-3B-Joe B. Miller
10-17H-Harli White
11-15D-Andrew Deal
12-76M-Brady Bacon
13-29S-Anthony Nocella
14-05S-Dominic Scelzi
15-17M-Paul McMahan
16-27H-Tanner Berryhill
17-47-Danny Stratton
18-7JA-Justin Allgaier
19-37B-Jake Blackhurst
20-37-Seth Bergman
21-7A-Scott Weir
22-56J-Sheldon Haudenschild
23-7XX-Gage Walker
24-91K-Kevin Bayer

Full results from Thursday’s races

Rico Abreu, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson part of Chili Bowl’s NASCAR list

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Last year Rico Abreu stood on top of his right rear tire and stared into the future after winning the 29th annual Chili Bowl.

That victory contributed to an invitation to join HScott Motorsports in the K&N East series and propelled him into the NASCAR ranks where he won his first race in Columbus, Ohio in July.

Last Friday, Abreu became the latest of six current NASCAR drivers to toss his name into contention to defend his title in the 30th running of the Chili Bowl, according to a press release from the track.

Abreu will join fellow NASCAR drivers Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson as they head back from the Winter Heat series held at Cocopah Speedway in Somerton, Arizona. This year’s Chili Bowl will begin on January 12th, three days after the five-day Winter Heat series wraps up.

Located near Yuma, Arizona, Cocopah is a natural place to race during the winter, but the Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Oklahoma takes a little more preparation. This 1/4th-mile oval is constructed inside the Tulsa Expo Center and last year had one of the most expensive tractor operators of all time contributing to its creation.

Long-time Chili Bowl participant Tony Stewart essentially traded in his sprint car and instead spent the weekend aboard an earth-moving machine.

Stewart was the winner of the 2007 edition of the Chili Bowl and is part of an 11-year streak of NASCAR-related winners of this race. Former developmental drivers Tracy Hines, Tim McCreadie, Kevin Swindell, Sammy Swindell, and Bryan Clauson have won recent editions of the Chili Bowl. Hines started the streak in 2005. Damion Gardner won in 2008 and while he does not have any NASCAR starts, his car was owned by Jason Leffler that year.

Stewart also won in 2002.

The odds are good that a NASCAR connection will find its way into the A-Main again this year. Joining Abreu, Kahne, and Larson will be current NASCAR drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier, and Alex Bowman.

Even with that stout lineup of stock car stars, it will not be an easy path to the finale: More than 200 drivers are currently entered to take a bite out of the Chili Bowl.

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