Sunday, July 5, 2015

Rico Abreu scores his first NASCAR victory

  Rico Abreu made a name for himself wheeling an open-wheel car on dirt. It hasn’t taken long to get acclimated to stock car racing on asphalt.
   In only his seventh start, the 23-year-old from St. Helena, Calif., earned his first NASCAR win Saturday night in the K&N Pro Series East race at Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway. Abreu, who stands 4-foot-4, was born with achondroplasia, a genetic disorder that is a cause of dwarfism.

   With his victory in the NAPA 150, Abreu continues his breakout year that saw him with the prestigious Chili Bowl Nationals sprint car event, make his first stock car start in February, sign with HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks and win his first Coors Light Pole Award in the previous K&N Pro Series East event at Langley Speedway.

   Abreu captured his second Coors Light Pole Award in a row earlier in the evening at Columbus, but it was the decisive pass for the lead that he made on Lap 115 that ultimately delivered his first victory. Abreu just beat Grant Quinlan to the finish line. In his K&N Pro Series East debut, Quinlan battled for – and swapped – the lead eight times with Abreu throughout the 150-lap event. 

   Abreu is following the path that his friend and fellow Californian Kyle Larson – now a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitor – took in transitioning from dirt to asphalt. Larson’s first NASCAR victory came in his sixth career K&N Pro Series East start in 2012 en route to the championship that season.

   William Byron, who finished 14th Saturday, retained the championship lead by 20 points over Hill with seven races complete.

   The NAPA 150 will be telecast on NBC Sports Network on Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET.