Rico Abreu has a special relationship with the Chili Bowl and he showed again Wednesday night why he’s one of the favorites for the 33rd annual midget classic.
The two-time CB winner started second, stalked pole-sitter Cole Bodine for six laps, then grabbed the lead in his Keith Kunz/Pete Willoughby Toyota and ran away with a comfortable victory in the 25-lap A Main.
World of Outlaws star David Gravel did a nice job and finished second to secure the other transfer spot to Saturday night’s 55-lap main event.
Abreu, who won in 2015 and 2016, struggled in his heat race but his team made some chassis adjustments and he was untouchable once he got to the cushion in the A main.
“That’s what happens when you race for the best in the business and it’s a pleasure to drive for Keith and Pete,” said Abreu. “I race 100 times a year all over the county and never get nervous but I always get butterflies when I walk in this place because it’s so special for me.
“We made some changes and my car was good on the bottom and on the top. A joy to drive.”
Gravel had a splendid duel with former winner Tim McCreadie and Bodine for the second spot before finally taking charge on Lap 15 of the 25-lap race.
“This is my fifth time here and it’s taken a while to get the hang of it but I was confident all night and I’ve got a good car,” he said. “I’m excited to be locked into the big show.”
Bodine hung on for third and will have a great starting spot in the B Main on Saturday. But the drive of the night came from Jake Swanson.
Starting 17th, the Anaheim, California native stormed through the field to finish fourth and get a good spot in one of Saturday’s B Mains.
Abreu’s win gave Kunz and Willoughby a perfect slate after three nights with Logan Seavey and Kyle Larson capturing the first two A Mains and Christopher Bell, looking for his third consecutive win at Tulsa’s Expo Center, drives tonight for the team that’s dominated this event.