Despite Late Race Problems, Rico Abreu Impresses in Texas NCWTS Race

Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images

It’s been a good year for the youngsters in NASCAR. While Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott are making waves in the Sprint Cup Series, the young guns are also creating names for themselves in the Camping World Truck Series.

In Friday night’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, the veteran Matt Crafton was certainly a dominant force, leading 133 of the 167 laps. However, rookie driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports William Byron – who recently graduated high school – put up a fight, racing side-by-side for several laps with Crafton after a late-race restart. Though Crafton was able to pull ahead, with just five laps remaining, Byron pulled right up to the back bumper of the No. 88 truck … and passed him for the lead.

However, there was one another driver who wanted to try and steal the win from both drivers: 24-year-old Rico Abreu. Abreu was able to get by Crafton shortly after Byron, and began to reel in Byron’s No. 9 truck.

With two laps to go, Abreu had some momentum and got a run on the high side. Abreu is most notable for his dirt track racing skills, where he is notorious for successfully running the high line right up against the wall and using it to his advantage (similar to what you might see Kyle Larson do). Byron had obviously noticed this, and took away Abreu’s line when he saw that the No. 98 had momentum.

Abreu got into the wall and quickly lost ground. He was able to maintain his second-place position, but teammate Crafton caught up to him and Byron was quickly pulling away.

On the white flag lap, Abreu again got into the wall, and this time it was much worse. Abreu not only lost second place to Crafton, but slowed  dramatically due to a cut tire and wound up coasting to ninth while Byron went on to win his second race of the season.

Abreu was understandably disappointed after coming up short in a race he thought he could absolutely win.

“We’ll just build off of that,” Abreu said post-race. “Obviously not the finishes we want. I’ve crashed so many trucks by these guys. Duke and Rhonda Thorson (owners), I just thank them for believing in me and giving me this opportunity at ThorSport Racing with Safelite and Curb Records – they’re all here because I’m here. I’m just really disappointed – I wish I could get them better finishes. I know we have speed, I just have a lot of drive and am never going to quit.”

This was Abreu’s eighth career Camping World Truck Series race and only his third career lead lap finish. Despite the last lap chaos, however, the ninth-place run was still Abreu’s best career finish in the series.

“I got the top going in (turns) three and four there and I kept following and following and you can only follow for so long,” said Abreu, describing the first attempt to pass Byron that wound up with Abreu in the wall. “We came to the white (flag) and you have to push it with the way they’ve built this Chase format you have to win and he’s (William Byron) has already won. I wasn’t going to do something too stupid and wreck him because I’ve done that before.”

Byron had already won previously at Kansas Speedway. In a Chase format that is not new to NASCAR, but is new this season to the Truck Series, a win virtually guarantees the team a spot in the eight-driver playoff format. Abreu was hoping to secure one of those coveted Chase positions. Instead, Byron further secured his own spot with a second victory.

However, if Abreu is able to continue running the way he did on Friday night, it certainly won’t be long before he earns a win of his own. He is currently 17th in points, 36 points out of eighth place.

The next race will be at Iowa Speedway on June 18th, 2016. Abreu has never raced there in the Truck Series but does have two starts in the K&N Pro Series East. He finished third in the July race last season.

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