CA CONQUERS PA: Rico Abreu Aces Williams Grove for Summer Nationals Victory
Not often do the Pennsylvania Posse fans embrace an outsider like one of their own. But not all outsiders are as beloved as Rico Abreu.
When Abreu stopped in front of the famed Beer Hill in Turn 3 after winning Saturday at Mechanicsburg, PA’s Williams Grove Speedway, the passionate fans cheered as if PA is listed next to his name instead of CA in the home state column. As he climbed the fence in front of them, the noise elevated from cheers to a roar.
The St. Helena, CA native led all 30 laps of the Champion Racing Oil Summer Nationals finale, holding off a late David Gravel charge to collect a victory representing neither the World of Outlaws or PA Posse, but the Invaders. A $20,000 paycheck awaited Abreu for his efforts.
Abreu’s visit to Victory Lane was his fourth of 2023 with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars. It also marked his first career triumph at Williams Grove, making him the 53rd different driver to win at the half mile with The Greatest Show on Dirt. The 31-year-old has now won twice as an Invader in PA this year after topping Lincoln’s Spring Showdown race back in March.
For Abreu, the night marked yet another testament to the vast strides he’s made in 2023 as he continues what’s been an amazing season.
“That was really intense there at the end. It’s really hard to judge your pace. I really wasn’t catching traffic,” Abreu said. “I’m just thankful for this team. Everybody does an unbelievable job making the right decisions. The Dash Draw was really important tonight for us and the way the circumstances laid out in the race. I’m wore out from climbing the fence back there.
“This has been a really special racetrack to me. A very difficult racetrack as a race car driver coming from the west coast out here. Just totally different driving styles. It’s taken me a few years to really conquer this place and put a team behind me that developed me into a mature enough driver to be successful here. We haven’t ran out of the top five, I think, with Ricky (Warner, crew chief) here. It just shows how important your team is.”
As Abreu noted, the Dash Draw positioned him favorably as drawing the one lined him up first for the Toyota Racing Dash that he won to earn the pole of the Feature. The best starting spot in the field allowed him to pull ahead at the drop of the green flag.
Behind Abreu, Spencer Bayston held second while David Gravel and Brent Marks commenced a war for third. The two traded sliders and crossovers and even a little contact until Gravel finally secured the spot.
Only a few laps later, Gravel pulled up to the tail tank of Bayston to begin a battle for the runner-up position. On lap 12, Gravel ripped the cushion in Turns 1 and 2 to roll around Bayston. With Bayston unable to answer his move, Gravel put Abreu in the crosshairs.
Up front, Abreu worked smoothly through traffic as the race moved beyond halfway. Gravel steadily began to inch toward the top spot. While Abreu favored the bottom line around both ends of the paperclip-shaped track, Gravel opted for the top in Turns 1 and 2. Hitting the cushion perfectly allowed him to chip away at the lead until he was only a few car lengths back.