By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie Rico Abreu struggled early in the only practice the Truck Series would have on Thursday. Abreu finished the day 10th fastest, where he would start after qualifying was rained out. Abreu hung around in the top 10 during the first green flag run.
Under the competition caution, Abreu and his crew took two tires to take the lead. Although Abreu would only lead one lap, he was able to hold off several trucks shortly after the restart, remaining in the top five.
Abreu remained in top five for the next two cautions, slowly climbing back up to the third position. Abreu continued running on the high side as he held off both William Byron and Daniel Hemric. With just 34 laps to go, running the high side of the racetrack finally bit Abreu as he bounced along the outside wall. The damage to the right rear of his truck was enough to cause him to slide back outside of the top five. Abreu’s slide back finally stabilized around the seventh position.
With 13 laps to go, Abreu hit pit road as it became evident that no one could make it the rest of the distance. Unfortunately for Abreu, he was hit with a penalty for pitting outside the box. The nose of his No. 98 Toyota Tundra was just barely over the end of the pit box.
After serving the penalty, Abreu, who was in the top 10 for nearly the entire day, was one lap down. Even though Abreu was one lap day, he made a daring three wide move with a handful of laps to go to pass others who were a lap down. After squeezing between the outside wall and fellow lapped truck Austin Wayne Self, Abreu took the checkered in 20th, one lap down after a promising day turned sour.
Abreu told the media after the race, “I felt like I really let my guys down on that last green flag stop. I was so focused on not sliding my tires with 25 (laps) to go and then stopped too late in our box and my nose was out. We’ll just move on to Texas.”
Abreu and his No. 98 SafeLite Auto team will look ahead to Texas Motor Speedway where they hope to close the deal.
Image: Jamie Squire/NASCAR via Getty Images