Chili Bowl winner Rico Abreu finishes 13th in first NASCAR start

Rico Abreu sits behind the wheel of his car before Saturday night's NASCAR Whelen All-American Series event, his first stock car race. 

The past week has certainly been a whirlwind for 22-year-old Rico Abreu.

One week ago he became the talk of the racing world when he scored the victory in the 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.

Just days after his Chili Bowl victory, Abreu was awarded a full-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series East ride with HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks, his first venture into stock car racing.

Abreu, who is 4-foot-4 and about 95 pounds, is a seasoned open-wheel sprint and midget car driver, competing in over 100 events last year, winning 26 races and the USAC midget national championship.

"It’s just so cool to have the feeling that people really believe in you and would like to see you achieve," Abreu said earlier in the week. "Then let alone winning the Chili Bowl and all the prestigious races I got to win last year. 

"I think a lot of people believe in me, and it gives me a lot of confidence and humbles me. So I’m glad that people can really see who I am and they don’t judge me for what I look like or why I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I’m a racer and I love the sport."

Saturday night at New Smyrna Speedway Abreu made his first NASCAR start, competing in the Pete Orr 100 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series race.

Starting 23rd out of 25 cars, Abreu pulled behind the wall and fell out of the race after 87 of the scheduled 100 laps with a mechanical issue. 

Despite retiring early, Abreu still finished the race in the 13th position after preliminary race winner Dalton Sargeant and William Byron were disqualified due to violations discovered in post-race technical inspection. Bobby Good was eventually declared the winner. 

For Abreu, though, Saturday night’s NASCAR debut was not about going out and starting off with a win, it was more about gaining experience in a stock car and racing on asphalt.