Craig Murto: Abreu wins Chili Bowl

Rico Abreu may only be 4-foot-4 and 95 pounds, but he stands tall among open-wheel competitors after his win Saturday night in the 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire.

The 22-year-old racer from California, newly crowned the USAC 2014 National Midget champion, knows how to wheel the 400-horsepower, 1,000-pound open-wheel racers that filled the Expo Square Pavilion in Tulsa, Okla. More than 300 drivers from all forms of racing attempted to make the feature race and take home the trophy, the coveted “Golden Digger.”

Abreu took the lead from Bryan Clauson on lap 27 of 55. By the time the checkered flag flew, he held off former winner Kevin Swindell and third-place runner Damion Gardner.

Foot blocks are used to raise the height of the pedals in Abreu’s cars. But that doesn’t stop him from competing in Midget and Sprint Car races worldwide. In fact, on Dec. 26, Abreu won a Midget race in New Zealand against an international field. It’s been reported that discussions are underway to perhaps get Abreu behind the wheel of a Late Model or a NASCAR K&N Pro Series machine so he can take the next step in his career. He certainly has the ability. Visit www.ricoabreu.com for more on this talented driver.

Perhaps out of fear of somehow raising the eyebrows of the politically correct crowd, Yahoo Sports incorrectly called the Chili Bowl “the biggest Sprint Car race of the year.” Sprint Cars are larger, weigh more and have twice as much horsepower. Abreu also races Sprint Cars, but nobody races them in the Chili Bowl Nationals. It is the biggest Midget race of the year, one that attracts close to 40,000 people in and around the pavilion, and brings in an estimated $14 million to the Tulsa economy.

And the race attracts celebrity spectators and participants. Danica Patrick was there to watch. Kurt Busch was spectating, but not talking about the troubles he’s having with his girlfriend. Two-time Chili Bowl winner Tony Stewart was on a tractor helping the track crew prepare the racing surface, and IndyCar team owner Sarah Fisher got back to her roots and tried to make the race.

The racing was excellent. The feature was shown live Saturday night on MavTV. Of course, if you have Comcast in our region, you don’t get MavTV. That’s a disgrace since Comcast carries the network in other parts of the country. Go to MavTV.com and follow the link that states “get MavTV.” It will walk you through a process to request MavTV from Comcast. And if Comcast doesn’t give us this network soon, I highly recommend kicking them to the curb and using one of the satellite providers, which DO carry MavTV. Comcast has ignored requests from our region too often; there’s a reason they are ranked so low on every customer-satisfaction list, and rank so high in polls of “most hated” companies.

There are some AMA officials who are on Supercross competitor Chad Reed’s “most hated” list after Saturday’s 450cc main event in Anaheim, Calif.

As Reed, a former champion in the series, battled in the top five, he was run into by an overly aggressive, reckless move by Honda rider Trey Canard. So when the riders got back up, Reed’s Kawasaki took Canard wide and ran him off the racing surface, an obvious payback for Canard’s dangerous, boneheaded move earlier.

You’d expect Reed would be fined for his actions. Instead, AMA officials black flagged the Australian, so Reed parked his motorcycle for the night.

Reed shouldn’t be the only one disgusted by the AMA officials. Do they think they’re F1 now? Are these penalties going to become more common? It’s dreadful when race officials try to police competitors this way; they do a better job policing themselves.

Points leader Ken Roczen rode his Suzuki to the 450cc win, followed by Ryan Dungey on a KTM and Eli Tomac’s Honda.

In the 250cc class, Cooper Webb battled from 12thon his Yamaha to make an aggressive late-race pass on Tyler Bowers, who recovered enough to bring his Kawasaki home in second. Third went to Jessy Nelson on a KTM.

The entire Supercross season is televised, so be sure to check your listings. And this weekend don’t forget to watch the Rolex 24 at Daytona, as sports car racing takes center stage at the World Center of Speed.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.