MCCOOL JUNCTION, Neb. (July 28, 2012)—Rico Abreu’s fast and flawless driving carried him to victory Saturday in the eighth annual Cornhusker Midget Challenge, leading all 30 laps in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series feature at Junction Motor Speedway.
It was the second victory in a Midget for Abreu and both have been in POWRi National Midget features. It earned him and Keith Kunz Motorsports $5,000, the biggest paycheck of his blossoming career. Abreu’s wins also have been in consecutive starts in the series. He won July 15 at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wis., an event co-sanctioned by the Badger Midget Auto Racing Association.
“This is the biggest race I’ve ever won,” Abreu said. “It’s pretty cool.”
The 20-year-old from Rutherford, Calif., started on the outside of the front row and immediately established a five-car length lead in his Toyota-powered Bullet. Abreu pulled away on five restarts including one with two laps remaining and finished seven car lengths in front of second-place Chett Gehrke of Broken Arrow, Okla.
“This is a dream come true,” Abreu said. “The car took off really good on the restarts. I knew I needed to keep the tires under me and that it would come down to the last few laps on this kind of track. I was conserving them. When we’d get a long run and I had built up a lead, I’d start slowing down and keeping the car real straight, not squirting around. It helps. I learned that driving 410 winged Sprint Cars in California.”
The three-eighths mile track is one of the fastest POWRi will race on this season and tire wear was a major issue. At least seven cars had tire failures or were about to have failures and took advantage of yellow and red flag conditions to change them and restart at the back of the field.
Gehrke started fourth, moved up to second by the end of the first lap and dropped to third behind Zach Daum on the fourth lap. He was content to run in the top five to preserve his tires.
“I didn’t know how much tire we’d have left five laps in when I saw the track taking rubber,” Gehrke said. “I was making sure I didn’t smoke the tires and burn the rubber off. I was riding around behind Daum, waiting for the last five laps. I needed to finish for the points.”
Gehrke passed Daum for second four laps from the end and didn’t realize the final restart was green-white-checkered.
“I thought there were a couple of more laps when I saw the white flag,” Gehrke said. “I let Rico get too far ahead to make a charge with one lap to go.”
Gehrke’s second equaled his best POWRi finish. He’s done it three times in the past two seasons. He’s contending for the championship in both POWRi Midget divisions, in the top three in the National and West series.
Sherrell started 15th and had a strong finish, climbing from sixth to third in the final two laps in his Bullet-Fontana. Third equaled the best POWRi finish for the 25-year-old from Owasso, Okla. Sherrell was third in 2010 at US 30 Raceway in Cameron, Mo., where POWRi’s Speedway Motors Midget Money Week presented by RevHoney Energy Drinks concludes tonight (Sunday).
“We need some better heat results to start closer to the front,” Sherrell said. “I wasn’t saving tires because I started so deep in the field and had to battle some guys to get to the front. I knew it was going to be close on tires. I’ve been told that I’m a smooth driver and maybe that smoothness kept the tires under me.
“I’m thankful that I could save tires and get up on the podium. It feels pretty good.”
The trio of Money Midget Week events are also part of the inaugural 14-event POWRi Lucas Oil West Series.
Abreu had enough rubber left to do donuts in turn four and still drive into victory lane. This is his first season in a Midget and he has two wins in seven POWRi starts.
“This is a good race to win going into Belleville (Kan.) next week (the 35th Midget Nationals on the fast half-mile track Aug. 3-4),” Abreu said. “We were fast tonight. This is a team that really knows what it’s doing and I’m really thankful to be part of this team.”
POWRi Lucas Oil National/West Midget Series feature results (30 laps): 1. Rico Abreu, 2. Chett Gehrke, 3. Matt Sherrell, 4. Zach Daum, 5. Daniel Robinson, 6. Brad Kuhn, 7. Davey Ray, 8. Jake Blackhurst, 9. Riley Emmel, 10. Terry Goodwin, 11. Garrett Aitken, 12. Blake Hahn, 13. Darren Kingston, 14. Garrett Hood, 15. Jonathan Beason, 16. C.J. Johnson, 17. Scott Hatton, 18. Andy Malpocker, 19. Austin Brown, 20. Andrew Felker, 21. Ryan Bernal, 22. Randy Bowyer, 23. Tim Siner, 24. Cameron Hagin.
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series 2012 race winners: Kennedale, Texas—Brady Bacon; Kennedale, Texas—Dave Darland; Jacksonville, Ill.—Mario Clouser; Grain Valley, Mo.—Brett Anderson; Wheatland, Mo.—Jake Blackhurst; Macon, Ill.—Zach Daum; Belleville, Ill.—Danny Stratton; Peoria, Ill.—Andrew Felker; Brownstown, Ill.–Brett Anderson; Haubstadt, Ind.—Brady Bacon; Grain Valley, Mo.—Michael Pickens; Springfield, Mo.—Michael Pickens; Lincoln, Ill.—Danny Stratton; Macon, Ill.—Bubba Altig; Wilmot, Wis.—Andrew Felker; Sun Prairie, Wis.—Rico Abreu; Beloit, Kan.—Scott Hatton; McCool Junction, Neb.—Rico Abreu.
POWRi Lucas Oil West Series 2012 race winners: Kennedale, Texas—Brady Bacon Kennedale, Texas—Dave Darland; Grain Valley, Mo.: Brett Anderson; Wheatland, Mo.—Jake Blackhurst; Grain Valley, Mo.—Michael Pickens; Springfield, Mo.—Michael Pickens; Oklahoma City—Andrew Felker; Oklahoma City—Andrew Felker; Beloit, Kan—Scott Hatton; McCool Junction, Neb.—Rico Abreu.
For more information, go to www.POWRi.com.