Abreu Will Not Return to NASCAR Competition in 2017

NASCAR’s silly season continued on Wednesday as it was announced Rico Abreu would not return to competition in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season.

According to a report from, the 25-year-old Helena, CA native had been working with ThorSport Racing to get a deal done for this season; however, sponsorship couldn’t be found.

“I wish things could have worked out,” Abreu told on Wednesday at the Chili Bowl in Tulsa. “The way sponsorship goes, sometimes things change. That’s just the way things go. 

“I’m not going to give up on it. I’m just going to take a step back.” 

 Abreu competed as a rookie last year in the Camping World Truck Series for ThorSport, earning two top-five finishes (Eldora and Talladega), to go with five top-10 finishes to finish 13th in points.

It’s worth noting Abreu’s season was rocky at times, including a string of back-to-back wrecks in the middle of the season. Many people will also remember the contact he made with ThorSport teammate Cameron Hayley at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, resulting in heavy damage to both trucks.

Abreu may not to be sole to blame for his struggles, though, as the team suffered through a shop fire mid-season.

Without a full-time effort in the Truck Series to focus on this season, Abreu will turn his attention back to dirt, where he excels as one of the best sprint car racers in the world. Abreu is back in Tulsa, OK this weekend looking for his third consecutive victory in the Chili Bowl Nationals.

Although his presence may not felt at the race track this season, don’t look for Abreu to stay gone very long as he has proven he can win in NASCAR as he won at Columbus Speedway in the K&N Pro Series East in 2015. As one of the most talented drivers in motorsports, it will be no surprise to see Abreu back in one of NASCAR’s top series before long.

As for ThorSport Racing, the organization has only confirmed that Matt Crafton will be back for the 2017 season, having yet to update the status surrounding Hayley or Ben Rhodes. Hayley has remained quiet through the off-season, while Rhodes has been entertaining the idea of moving up to the XFINITY Series.



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.


ThorSport Teammates Tangle Late at CTMP

Canadian Cameron Hayley looked to be headed towards a solid run in front of the crowd at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, till the final stages of the event where things did not play out as he would’ve hoped.

Starting from sixth, Hayley ran up front throughout the first half of the Chevrolet Silverado 250 till a pit road tire violation relegated him back to 20th in the running order. He began to quickly make the ground back up, moving up through the field back into the ninth position.


Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out as planned as contact from ThorSport Racing teammate Rico Abreu on Lap 63 resulted in Hayley’s No. 13 RIDE Toyota Tundra going around for a spin, before being hit heavily by Brett Moffitt who had nowhere to go.

Hayley’s team repaired the truck on pit road, allowing him to drive back up to the ninth position by the checkered flag.

“We were really fast,” Hayley told POPULAR SPEED. “We weren’t running with the best equipment following the fire at the race shop, but we made the most of it. We made a truck that was not supposed to be a top-five truck, a top-five truck. But we had some troubles on pit road and got taken out. We made our way back up to the top-10 – I guess that’s something, but it still sucks.”

Abreu was quick to apologize to his teammate, stating he wheel-hopped going into the corner.

“It’s just part of road course racing; it can get (you) out of your control,” Abreu said. “I’m nowhere near as experienced, and it took the bite out of it hit Cameron in the right rear. I feel really bad for these ThorSport guys. I’m trying really hard, and I just think at the end of the day I’m trying too hard. I hope I can get them a good finish at Chicagoland.”

Currently sitting 10th in points, Hayley knows what he has to do at Chicagoland Speedway in a couple of weeks to make the Camping World Truck Series Chase.

“We have to win – that’s the bottom line,” Hayley said.

With four top-fives this season – three on intermediate tracks, it’s entirely possible for the sophomore driver to score his first career series victory.


FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.


Thorsport Lacks Thunder in Bristol Valley

Despite showing speed and looking as though they’d contend, the UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway turned into a night to forget for ThorSport Racing with all four trucks failing to finish in the top-20.

Matt Crafton was quickest of the bunch, poised to score his third victory of the season. Despite qualifying 17th, he was quickly made his way to the front of the field, running in top-five as of Lap 40. However, on a restart on Lap 70, he’d make his way down pit road, reporting a mechanical issue on the radio. He’d make his way into the garage, done for the race and credited with a 32nd place finish.

“We don’t know exactly what happened,” Crafton told Fox Sports 1. “Something happened and broke. The boys will work on it and figure out what happened. I don’t know what happened in qualifying there. We had a very fast truck in race trim today, and that truck was unbelievable at the start of the race. I was looking towards racing for the win.”

Rico Abreu was the next driver to be hit with a problem, having to make a lengthy pit stop at Lap 103 as a result of an issue. The race just added insult to injury, though, as he crashed during final practice and was in a backup truck. Abreu finished the 200 lap event in 28th.

The same problem which plagued Crafton would end Ben Rhodes‘ night at Lap 127, as he’d be forced behind the wall with a motor issue while running in the top-10.

“We had a really fast Regal Cinemas Tundra,” Rhodes said. “It’s just s shame we weren’t able to finish it off here. Something happened with the engine. Not really sure, but it just suddenly lost power, so we brought it in here to diagnose the problem to see what it may be. It’s a shame – these guys worked really hard on the truck all month long getting this thing ready for Bristol, and I really feel like we had a shot to win it tonight.”

Cameron Hayley was the team’s last shot at a solid finish and looked to be poised to do so as he ran in the top-five after qualifying third. However, falling back over the course of a green-flag run, the Canadian had a left front tire go flat at Lap 132. He’d then be stuck on pit road for a lengthy period due to having to replace an upper control arm. Hayley was credited with a 24th place finish.

With only three races till the first annual Camping World Truck Series Chase kicks off, the three-time series champions only have one driver locked in – Crafton. Hayley was poised to make it in by points but now sits 11th in points, 42 points behind Timothy Peters for eighth. Meanwhile, Rhodes and Abreu’s only shot of qualifying is to score a victory.

If the organization wants to find success, though, they need to escape the issues which have plagued them as of late.


FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.


Shop Fire Does Little to Slow ThorSport Momentum

Shortly after midnight on the morning of June 13, a fire tore through the Sandusky, Ohio headquarters of ThorSport Racing destroying 40% of the shop and damaging much of their equipment. For a lesser team, it might have been the catalyst for disaster.

Instead, ThorSport rose to the challenge and continued to compete for wins and, perhaps, another Camping World Truck Series championship in 2016.

None of the four ThorSport Racing drivers, Matt Crafton, Cameron Hayley, Rico Abreu and Ben Rhodes, missed a race. In fact, the team didn’t miss a beat, competing at the same level they had before the fire.

In three of the five races that followed the fire, Thorsport Racing kept all four drivers on the lead lap, including in the Speediatrics 200 at Iowa, the Buckle Up Your Truck 225 at Kentucky and the Pocono Mountain 150.

While they were not able to grab a win, ThorSport drivers were able to finish runner-up in two races. Ben Rhodes finished 2nd to Christopher Bell in the Drivin for Linemen 200 Brought to You By Altec at Gateway and Cameron Haley finished runner-up to William Byron in Pocono.

Overall, the team garnered five Top 5s and 9 Top 10s.

Regarding average finish, Cameron leads the way with an average finish of 8.4. However, take away his 24th place finish at Gateway where he was running in the Top 5 before contact with Erik Jones and his average finish improves to 4.5 with four Top 10s. Rhodes has quietly had a good run, with an average finish of 10.6. Abreu had a great run at Eldora and followed it up with a strong finish at Pocono to garner an average finish of 11.2.

While two-time series champion Matt Crafton is fourth among his teammates with an average finish of 13th, he has three top 10s and currently sits second in the points standings with two previous wins this season. Crafton has dropped one spot in the points since the Rattlesnake 400 in Texas (the last race of the Camping World Truck Series before the fire), but that is probably due more to William Byron’s outstanding performance.

Meanwhile, his three teammates have risen in the rankings. Hayley went from 11th to 8th and would now make the Chase if the season had ended after Pocono. Rhodes was 16th and is now 12th while Abreu was 17th and is now 13th.

Back in Sandusky, Thorsport received support from the same teams they compete with on the track every weekend and have returned to their race shop. Having weathered what could have been a disaster in fine fashion, the team now looks to cap their season with a good Chase run and a championship.



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.



Triangle Somewhat Tricky for Abreu

LONG POND, Pa. — ThorSport Racing driver Rico Abreu faced a new challenge in his rookie season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Saturday — a 60-lap dash at the unique, high-speed Pocono Raceway.

Abreu, a two-time Chili Bowl Nationals winner, made a name for himself as a successful USAC Midget Car racer. He grew up racing on oval tracks shorter than a half-mile but proved he can be fast on one of NASCAR’s largest and toughest tracks.

The two-and-a-half-mile circuit — often difficult even for Sprint Cup Series veterans — was feasible for Abreu in the Pocono Mountains 150. The accomplished open-wheel dirt racer, running his first full season in one of NASCAR’s national series, finished sixth at the Tricky Triangle and scored his second consecutive top 10.

Abreu started the race 17th and had it not been for two late-race cautions, the ThorSport driver likely would have finished in the top five. He was running third with less than 20 laps remaining but got shuffled back on the ensuing restarts.

“[Our race] was really good, we only had one pit stop, and I told the guys to leave it alone because it felt good but we got tight at the end of the race,” Abreu told POPULAR SPEED. “We had speed — I just needed some of the restarts to go my way. I wish I could have been in the outside lane on that final restart.”

Abreu has adjusted well to racing on paved tracks as the season reaches the halfway mark. Last month at Texas Motor Speedway, he had a late-race battle with Kyle Busch Motorsports rookie William Byron, but contact with the outside wall dropped him to a ninth-place result.

At Eldora, he rallied for a third-place finish after early struggles, a career best for the 24-year-old. But entering Pocono, he knew that the three distinct turns would be a challenge as corner entries at the track are different than what he is accustomed to on dirt.

“You have to back your corners up a lot here,” Abreu said. “You can’t overcharge the corners, which I tended to do.”

Abreu is 13th in the standings behind ThorSport teammate Ben Rhodes and 33 points outside the eighth-place Chase cutoff, currently occupied in a tie between GMS Racing’s Ben Kennedy and ThorSport’s Cameron Hayley, with four races left until the playoffs begin. He feels confident going into the next few races and has shown improvement on the paved surfaces by not driving as hard into the turns as he did earlier in the season.

“We’re just working together as a team,” Abreu said. “We’ve been building some fast trucks and we have some new trucks for the upcoming races before the Chase.”



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.


Abreu Comes Through Last Chance For Third

Despite a rough and tumble night at Eldora, Rico Abreu was able to come out with a solid top-five finish in his NASCAR dirt track debut.

Abreu started off the evening with a poor showing in his qualifying race, getting caught up in a wreck with Travis Kvapil. The rookie didn’t sustain much damage, just requiring a new right front tire and some fender wells cut wider in between events.

“My truck was too tight that first run,” he said. “I honestly thought they took four out of the heat races, so that’s why I put myself in that position. It wasn’t the best position, as you could see the results.”

As a result, the sprint car ace was forced into the last chance qualifier, where he finished second to qualify for the feature.

Starting outside of the top 20, Abreu went down a lap early. After getting the free pass at Lap 29, he immediately began working his way to the front, cracking the top five during the race’s last segment. Abreu battled with Red Horse Racing’s Jake Griffin in the closing laps, bringing the No. 98 home in third place.

“I just worked my way up there at the end and hoped to have one more restart to make a restart banzai move,” Abreu said. “The truck was a third-place truck I felt – not as good as the first two, there. But it’s unbelievable what Safelite and ThorSport and Toyota have done.”

Getting stronger throughout a weekend is nothing new for the rookie, as seen on numerous occasions with being in the 20s during practice, followed by top 10 during the race. Abreu says it takes him a bit to get into his comfort zone, but once he does, he can race well. Notably, Wednesday night’s race marked his first top-five finish of his rookie season.

“I’m happy that we put a solid race together, as that’s what we’ve been struggling at,” he said.

Abreu entered the annual Eldora truck race as one of the pre-race favorites on the heels of a runner-up result in last weekend’s World of Outlaws event at the track. The two-time Chili Bowl champion says it’s a dream to race at the famous half-mile oval.

“This is by far my favorite track in the whole world,” he said. “Just being able to walk into this place and seeing what Tony (Stewart) and Roger (Slack) have done is unbelievable. I get to race my sprint car, a midget and now a truck – I got a lot of heart for this place, so I’m looking forward to being able to come back next year and having another shot at this thing.”

With everything he’s accomplished on dirt, Abreu still called his first Eldora truck start a unique experience.

“To run a truck around here is its own feeling,” Abreu said. “There’s nothing else that I’ve ever felt in the slowness, but wheelspin and sliding around on all four tires. It races a lot like a dirt track, which it is. Tony gave a lot of different options tonight. I did the majority of my passing in the middle to the bottom, and it just shows that you can put on a great race.”


FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.


ThorSport Doesn’t Miss a Beat Despite Setback

The Camping World Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway brought much-needed joy to the entire ThorSport Racing family.

Just days after a fire consumed part of their race shop, the organization put two trucks in the top five. Cameron Hayley and Ben Rhodes contended for the victory in the race’s late stages yet finished third and fourth, respectively.

Hayley fought a tight truck throughout the race, yet the No. 13 came alive after the late-race red flag.

“Our Cabinets by Hayley Tundra kind of came alive there after the red flag, and at that point, it’s whoever makes the best moves at the right time,” he said. “William Byron made the best moves at the right time, and I’m just happy to come home third.”

His career-best finish was even sweeter in light of the team’s current rebuild, which Hayley experienced first-hand early Monday morning.

“As everyone knows, it’s been a tough week at ThorSport Racing, to say the least,” Hayley said. “I was a part of that first-hand. I got the call about 5:30 Monday morning. I was there at 5:30 and probably spent upwards of 36 hours – both me and the team – cleaning the trucks, getting things ready, working out of a parking lot trying to get to this race. To come out here with a third-place finish is not just amazing for me but for the organization as a whole. We really came together as a team.”

Rhodes and his No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions team, however, felt like there was a lot left on the table; after his run-in with Johnny Sauter at Kansas Speedway earlier this season, Rhodes admitted he ran conservatively to preserve their trucks. He had Iowa circled on his calendar as the race to go all-out, but the shop fire changed those plans. Despite that, he was able to keep up with the difficult conditions and green flag runs.

“We really needed to be on the outside to keep our momentum up,” Rhodes said. “That’s what our truck really struggled with on the bottom. It was just tough. On those long runs, we have a lot of speed, and I felt like we had the fastest truck tonight.”

Rhodes admitted the fire affected his mentality in the closing laps.

“I’m really proud of all our guys on the Alpha Energy Solutions Toyota Tundra tonight. They have worked their butts off all week after the fire. We only had two trucks tonight, and we only have two trucks for the next race so it’s really hard to try to race for a win and have that on your mind.”

“I’m really proud of all our guys on the Alpha Energy Solutions Toyota Tundra tonight,” Rhodes said. “They have worked their butts off all week after the fire. We only had two trucks tonight, and we only have two trucks for the next race so it’s really hard to try to race for a win and have that on your mind.”

In addition to Hayley and Rhodes, ThorSport Racing driver Matt Crafton grabbed an eighth-place finish. Rico Abreu, coming off a second-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway, encountered issues throughout the race. After spinning near the halfway mark, Abreu was just outside the top 10 before overheating under the red flag.

ThorSport general manager David Pepper spoke at the track and reiterated that the organization would run the schedule as previously planned and remain competitive despite the circumstances. The team is full of people that refuse to quit, and Hayley wanted to reward the team in the best way possible – with a victory.

“I wish we could’ve gotten [team owner Duke Thorson] the win,” Hayley said, adding, “But to come from where this team was on Monday to where we are now is just amazing. I just want to thank everyone for that.”



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.


ThorSport Rookies Looking to Close the Deal

Rookies in racing almost always struggle while learning.

It’s no exception for ThorSport Racing’s duo of Ben Rhodes and Rico Abreu, who have each faced adversity in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Rhodes feels his team has been performing well, despite not scoring a top-10 finish since Atlanta in February.

“We’ve had some mistakes and a lot of things that haven’t gone our way,” Rhodes told POPULAR SPEED. “But if you look back at the past couple of races and see where we were running at the time – we were running fourth at Martinsville before the accident and second at Kansas before the accident there. If we could’ve finished at those races, we’d be second in points to Crafton.

“So I feel we’ve had good performances so we’ll need to keep carrying that forward, but also stacking some finishes together to get momentum on our side.”

Abreu’s season has been similar to Rhodes’, with bad luck spoiling good days at the track. The former USAC champion had his best run of the season at Texas last week, running as high as second in the closing laps before getting into the wall and finishing ninth.

“We’ve shown a lot of speed, but things haven’t gone our way,” Abreu said. “We have to put it together.”

The rookies have continued to learn from their mistakes on a weekly basis, even if the results don’t show it. Rhodes says he’s learning something new each week, ranging from aerodynamics to how the trucks drive.

“It’s also getting used to everyone on the team as it’s not only my first year in trucks but a lot of the guys are in new positions,” he said. “I feel we have been gaining on chemistry as a team.”

Getting used to the aerodynamics is a challenge, as the K&N Pro Series cars don’t have that in play due to only racing on short tracks. Abreu added pit stops to the list of learning, as it’s brought a new challenge as K&N used halfway breaks versus live stops.

“You have about three to four pit stops to make the truck better,” Abreu said. “I need to work on communicating with my team better to make the right adjustments to what I am comfortable with. I just tend not to want to feed them the wrong information or put it the wrong way, and out-adjust ourselves.”

Perhaps the best resource for both drivers is teammate Matt Crafton, a two-time champion in the series.

“It’s been very good for me,” Rhodes said. “It’s definitely sped up the learning curve as the first couple of races this year, I was really able to lean on him. Being the new guy, it helps to lean on their notes as well in trying to get a good baseline so we know what we can do. As we’ve gone into the season a little bit, we’ve been able to work from that and get better.”

Abreu says he spends a lot of time during the race weekend speaking with Crafton, talking about what his truck is doing and his perspective of the track.

“If I can explain to him what I am feeling, he can help me relay it to my crew chief as our crew chiefs work great together,” he said. “Doug George and Junior Joiner have a really close background.”

Coming into Iowa, both rookies are looking to finish strong, knowing the inaugural truck series Chase is looming. Sitting 17th in points, Abreu stresses his team needs to position themselves better throughout the weekend, starting with practice and qualifying.

Rhodes expects to continue to improve going forward, especially with his experience at upcoming tracks. Rhodes made his Xfinity Series debut at Iowa, finishing seventh last year for JR Motorsports. In four K&N Pro Series East starts at the Newton, Iowa short track, Rhodes has an average finish of 4.8, including a win in 2014.

“I’m really looking forward to Iowa and Gateway as short tracks are really where I grew up racing,” he said. “I feel we’ll be strong at both due to past success at Iowa and can put together two good runs.”


FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.


Abreu Earns First Top-10 Finish

ThorSport Racing’s Rico Abreu put on a show during the closing laps of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Rattlesnake 400 at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday night.

Abreu’s teammate Matt Crafton was leading late in the race before handling issues allowed both William Byron and then Abreu to get past with a handful of laps to go. As Abreu closed in on Byron, he caught air and kissed the wall. Abreu’s truck slid back as the laps wound down, and he finished ninth.

“I figured I maybe could’ve cleared [Byron] off of four maybe coming to the white [flag] but I just got too tight behind [Byron] and got into the wall and you can’t have that stuff happening,” Abreu told reporters. “You just can’t be doing that in the truck races, they’re so aero dependent and it’s relying on how straight those bodies are and if you keep hitting the wall, you’re going to tear them up.

“[I was] just getting my momentum going up top. That’s the line you’ve got to run, and when it gets hot and slick like that and your tires get wore out, I just felt so comfortable up there.”

Abreu said it was the most fun he’d had in a NCWTS race, but the biggest detriment to his run was the caution clock.

“I just would get my momentum broke every run but I kept having confidence because we’d get back to them and it’s unfortunate for the caution clock in that situation. You know, we need green flag runs and the caution clock hurt us there but that’s how they want it and that’s how it is. I think it should be removed,” Abreu said.

It didn’t work out this time, but Abreu thinks he can get the job done at some point.

“Doug George my crew chief, ThorSport Racing, they built a great truck for this weekend and I just smashed it all. I hope I can have some more solid runs. It wasn’t the run we wanted but at least we finished this one,” Abreu said.

“I got a lot of confidence, that’s for sure. I’ve got speed. I’ve just got to put a whole damn night together, and I haven’t figured that part out yet.”



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, it’s owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Home Tracks

K&N Pro Series NAPA 150 Columbus Notebook

Pete Willoughby never had a doubt that Rico Abreu would find success in NASCAR. In his mind, it was just a matter of when and where that first victory would occur.

His prognostication came true on Saturday  when Abreu outdueled Grant Quinlan to win the NAPA 150 at Columbus Motor Speedway in the K&N Pro Series East.

Willoughby is the co-owner of Keith Kunz Motorsports, the open-wheel and USAC team that fields Sprints and Midgets for Abreu when he’s not wheeling a Stock Car across the East Coast. Due to that association, Willoughby has seen more of Abreu than anyone else in the sport and has even attended several of his NASCAR starts.

You could say that Kunz and Willoughby have a sharp eye for talent, having also prepared cars for Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell and Tanner Thorson over recent seasons.

Larson has long since departed for NASCAR, winning the Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year last season for Chip Ganassi Racing. Bell appears destined to follow in his footsteps, winning Super Late Model races for Kyle Busch Motorsports while also participating in a handful of Camping World Truck Series events for the Toyota satellite team.

Willoughby believes in the talent of each of his drivers and wouldn’t have supported them if he didn’t. The candid car owner doesn’t think Abreu has the same raw talent as Larson or Bell, but feels as though he has something else that could propel him to the highest levels — an abundance of heart and determination.

“Kyle and Bell are just pure talents,” Willoughby told Popular Speed. “Rico has had success due to his heart. It takes him longer to learn. He has determination and heart. He has talent too because you don’t win in the World of Outlaws without it but his spirit will take him a long way.”

Given his limited experience in Stock Cars, Willoughby said Abreu couldn’t be with a better team than HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks, due to the talented collection of engineers and former drivers at their stable. HScott has the best cars on the tour and crew chief Mardy Lindley is one of the most respected minds in short track racing.

“He’s only going to get better as long as he stays plugged in with those guys,” Willoughby said of his defending Chili Bowl Nationals champion. “Rico has a driving style that just doesn’t lend itself to Late Models. He’s a gasser and he’s amazing on dirt.

“It takes a bit for him to adapt once a track goes slick and it will be the same for his asphalt stuff — but he will figure it out.”

On Saturday night, after winning from the pole, Abreu made his open-wheel car owner look like prophet.

K&N EAST COLUMBUS: Recap and Results

Grant Quinlan Impresses in his K&N East Debut with Mark Rette Racing

While he came up just short in his efforts to win in his first Pro Series East start on Saturday night at Columbus, Grant Quinlan turned in a performance that has both fans and industry observers talking.

It wasn’t a trip to Victory Lane but there is something to be said about finishing second to Rico Abreu in the race of the year for the East Coast development series. Quinlan was the leader on the final restart with 45 laps to go but just got beat by the defending Chili Bowl Nationals champion.

Abreu has struggled on restarts all year and had also gotten beat on the reset by Quinlan several times on Saturday night.

However, Abreu got the job done when it mattered most on the restart and completed the pass with 44 laps to go and pulled away to win for the first time in a Stock Car. Quinlan knows he should probably feel disappointed but says he left satisfied with a runner-up and the knowledge that he can compete with the best prospects NASCAR has to offer.

“I’m always happy with second,” Quinlan said after exchanging the lead eight times with Abreu during the course of the event. “We don’t come here to finish second but I’m happy to have the opportunity to even be in the picture late in the race. Rico just got us on that last restart.”

The second-place finish is even more rewarding considering this was also the first race back in the Pro Series East for Rette Jones Racing — an ARCA program that just expanded to K&N with Quinlan behind the wheel. The duo of Quinlan and Jones also plan to attempt K&N races at Richmond, Phoenix and Dover later this season.

Quinlan, a 16-year-old Canadian, has Super Late Model victories in the CRA Super Series but said these perimeter rail Pro Cars drove nothing like a straight rail Late Model, making his success on Saturday all the more impressive.

“They are a lot different,” Quinlan said. “The weight distribution is different — they are heavier. Suspension is different. It has more power, which is probably the biggest thing.”

Quinlan didn’t win but Saturday was the best case scenario for the young prospect given the history he made with Abreu after their duel in Columbus.

Championship Shake-Up in Columbus

It wasn’t exactly a banner showing for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship contenders on Saturday night at Columbus Motor Speedway.

William Byron entered the NAPA 150 with a 23 point lead over Kyle Benjamin but left with only a 20 point advantage over Austin Hill following his involvement in an early crash with several other contenders.

Byron qualified 13th and got caught up in an incident with Benjamin and Nick Drake early in the event. He ultimately finished 14th, while Benjamin finished 16th to limit the championship damage for the two-race winner this season.

Hill, the winner of the season-opener at New Smyrna, finished sixth to edge back into the championship hunt. It wasn’t a spectacular showing by any means but on a day where other contenders faltered, Hill was more than gracious to have a clean race car and a hard-fought top-10.

The updated championship standings can be found below.

  1. William Byron Ldr.
  2. Austin Hill -20
  3. Kyle Benjamin -25
  4. Scott Heckert -28
  5. Dalton Sargeant -30
  6. Gray Gaulding -38
  7. Nick Drake -43
  8. Ronnie Bassett Jr. -44
  9. Rico Abreu -45
  10. Kaz Grala -47