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.”
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