By Michael Guzman, Contributing Writer
A tough rookie season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was placed in the rear view mirror for Rico Abreu. The California native brought home a fourth place finish in just his second restrictor plate racing, picking up his second top five of the year after surviving the Fred’s 250 at Talladega SuperSpeedway.
“We needed a solid finish for this team where they could have some confidence to build off,” Abreu said after a post-race debrief with the no. 98 ThorSport team. “They built a great truck, I’m happy to be able to drive it. At least run up from there at the end.”
Following a disappointing finish at Las Vegas and six straight finishes outside the top 10, Abreu received a new crew chief; swapping out Doug George for former Matt Crafton crew chief Bud Haefele. The impact was felt almost immediately as Abreu marched toward the front of the field from his 24th spot on the grid.
Advancing to the top 10, Abreu needed more than just skill to avoid major damage in a pair of big wrecks, including a 14-truck wreck on lap no. 61.
“You could just see smoke and then the spotter is yelling,” said Abreu. “You’re just trying to get to an open hole but you’ve also got to worry about trucks going from the bottom all the way to the top of the track. It’s just about luck in those situations and we got pretty lucky this weekend.”
With damage on the left side of his truck, Abreu was able to push past a number of trucks in the closing laps, clinching the Sunoco Rookie of the Race Award with a fourth place run. Despite the finish, Abreu admitted there was room for improvement after contact on the backstretch stalled his shot at victory lane.
Next on the schedule is a return to Martinsville, one of the few pavement tracks that Abreu has experience at. Making just his fifth NCWTS start at the half-mile track earlier this year, the 24-year-old posted his first career top-10 finish earlier this April.
If Abreu and the ThorSport team are truly heading in the right direction, a strong result next week will prove it.