Abreu, Salazar Win At Calistoga Speedway

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50481b6e6f884.preview-620Rico Abreu enjoyed a successful and popular homecoming, earning his first career victory at Calistoga Speedway Sunday night.

The 20 year old St.Helena High School graduate flew across the country overnight after competing in a national midget car race in Indianapolis on Saturday to dominate the sprint car main event on the half mile oval, lapping half of the field while maintaining a half a lap lead for most of the 25 lap event.

“Winning at any track is important, but it’s special to go home and win in your own backyard,” said Abreu.  “I watched my first sprint car race at this track and the people here have been very supportive of me,” said the former Outlaw Karts racer.  “It’s especially good to win against the best guys in California in the Kng of the West series.”

Abreu earned the pole by winning the heat winners dash earlier in the night and edged past former state sprint car champion Jason Stattler as the pair drag raced onto the backstretch.  Behind them, however, Saturday night’s winner Tim Kaeding got upside down in turn two, collecting the series championship points leader Jonathan Allard in the wreckage.

That ended the night for Kaeding, who was unhurt, and forced Allard into the pits, after which he rejoined the race at the back of the field.

As the race resumed, Abreu set a torrid pace on the high speed half mile oval, catching the first of the back markers in just five laps.  “It’s scary how fast you come up on the slower cars,” noted Abreu, who easily slipped though the lapped cars t triple-digit speed, putting 10 of the 19 cars a lap down by the end of the night.

Behind him, Andy Gregg and Willie Croft raced a tight, nose to tail and wheel to wheel duel for the runner-up spot while Allard set a tire-blistering pace to play catch-up from the back.  Allard’s charge through the field paid off with a seventh place finish as the last car on the lead lap.  More important, it preserved his lead in the series’ championship point standings.

Gregg claimed second and Croft grabbed the third place finish, repeating his podium finish from Saturday.  “After not finishing a race for a month, I just came into the weekend looking to finish one,” said Croft, glad for a pair of third place finishes for the weekend.

“This is a historic track and I would like to have won it, but Rico was just too strong” said Gregg, who struggled through the night with only one crew member and who was driving on used tires bought from another team.

In the companion event, Mike Salazar won the Calistoga Modified Invitational with endurance, as two leaders dropped out with mechanical problems in the 20 lap race.  Ryan McDaniel, runner-up on Saturday night, coasted to a stop on the backstretch, giving up a multi-car length lead.  Two laps later, Kellen Chadwick, who inherited the lead, also dropped out with mechanical problems, handing the lead to Salazar, who had to fend off hard charges by Kenny Neu and Saturday night’s winner Nick DCarlo to claim the win.  “Luck finally came down on my side,” said Salazar.  “The only other place I’ve won a race is Antioch, but this place is awesome,” he said of the bigger Calistoga Speedway.  “The speeds here are awesome and we get better every time we come here.”

Calistoga Speedway, King of the West sprint cars (Sun).  Fast time qualifier:  Tim Kaeding, Campbell  (17.181 sec)  Heat 1 (8 laps):  T. Kaeding;  Rico Abreu, St.Helena; Jeff Griffin, St. Helena; Jason Stattler, Grass Valley; Sean McMahan, Elk Grove; Matthew Davies, American Canyon.   Heat 2: Willie Croft, Sacramento; Bud Kaeding, Campbell;  Craig Stidham, Fresno; Peter Murphy, Fresno; Danielle Simpson, Rio Vista; Pat Harvey, Grass Valley.   Heat 3:  Andy Gregg, Placerville; Jonathan Allard, Chico; Brent Kaeding, Campbell; Bobby McMahan, Elk Grove; Doug Gandy, Oakhurst.    MAIN EVENT (25 laps):  Abreu; Gregg; Croft; Bud Kaeding; Stattler; Bobby McMahan; Brent Kaeding; Stidham; Allard; Evan Suggs, San Jose; Murphy; SeanMcMahan; Griffin; Gandy; Simpson; Davies; Harvey; T. Kaeding;  Chad Compton, Sacramento.

-Bill Sessa

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