Rico Abreu wins 29th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals

Rico Abreu (center) celebrates after winning the 29th running of the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Okla. 

Typically at the end of a race, the winning driver is usually the only one happy. All the time and effort that goes into preparing for the event, advancing through the rounds, and outlasting your competition, that’s what makes a driver stand out and celebrate in Victory Lane at the end of the day.

During the 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Okla. this weekend, one driver certainly stood tall at the end of the event, but his victory brought on a wave of congratulatory messages from fans and fellow competitors alike.

Out of a total of 326 entries, Rico Abreu was able to work his way through the week’s qualifying and heat races, and came on strong during Saturday night’s A-main event.

Passing former NASCAR driver and 2014 Chili Bowl winner Bryan Clauson on Lap 26 of 55, Abreu took hold of the race and never let go. When the cars roared past the start-finish line for the final time, Abreu led four-time Chili Bowl winner Kevin Swindell to secure the victory.

Earning his first ever win in a major way, Abreu celebrated with a victory lap and donuts after taking the checkered flag. Once parked, Abreu climbed out of his car and leapt into the arms of team owner Keith Kunz as the crowd chanted, "Rico! Rico!"

"I just tried to stay as patient as I could. You know the race is a not a long race, but it is a long race. For a few laps I just kind of got after it just to see where we were at and I hung with him [Bryan Clauson] pretty good," Abreu said about his pass for the top spot. "I don’t know how hard he was racing, but when the time was right I pulled the trigger and gave him a slide job and was waiting for him to slide me back. We dragged raced each other into three and I came out with the lead."

In a star-studded field, Abreu truly showcased his talents and turned a number of heads. Immediately following the event, congratulatory tweets and messages were being sent Rico’s way from the likes of his friends Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne, to team owner Chip Ganssai.

While Larson had high hopes of earning the Golden Driller trophy, the 2014 Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year spun his car in Turn 2 on Lap 16 of the A-main while running third. The spin brought out the caution and sent Larson to the rear of the field with 40 laps to go.

Larson spun the car again on Lap 20, ending his chances at victory, but he was able to recover to the seventh spot by the time the checkered flag flew.

Despite leading much of the opening laps of the race, Clauson would also be caught up in an incident and finished the race 10th.

NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series regular J.J. Yeley finished the A-main in the 17th spot, while Chad Boat ran well in his fourth A-main appearance in the Chili Bowl. After not running a dirt sprint race all year, he ran up front during much of the A-main until flipping his car and finishing 21st out of 24 cars.

Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was able to advance to the B2-feature, but finished ninth in a race where the top-six drivers advanced to the A-main. Tanner Berryhill also competed in the week’s events, with his race coming to an end in the D1-feature.

FOX Sports analyst and experienced dirt racer Kenny Wallace also took part in his first Chili Bowl, but his race ended after finishing ninth in the J1-feature.

The night was not without controversy, however, as after the race, Sammy Swindell got into a post-race confrontation with Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and had to be held back. 

The two NASCAR regulars took to Twitter to voice their opinion on the matter.