Rico Abreu, USAC National Midget champion, open wheel standout, and 2015 Chili Bowl Nationals winner, will join ThorSport Racing as a full-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) driver in 2016 piloting the No. 98 Curb Records Toyota Tundra powered by Triad engines. Abreu’s first full-time season in NASCAR’s national touring division will be led by crew chief Doug George as he competes for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors and the 2016 NCWTS championship.
“This is one of the best opportunities I have been given,” said Abreu. “I appreciate the support and the hard work that everyone at ThorSport Racing and Curb Records has put into all of this for me to live my dream. I’m thankful to be a part of Duke’s (Thorson) team and am excited to race with all my ThorSport Racing teammates and crewmembers.
“My team, sponsors and fans will know that I’m giving 100% effort every time I’m at the track and on the track. My goal is to get the most out of every lap and every opportunity this season. I’m looking forward to meeting new fans and representing ThorSport and Toyota well.”
Abreu, 23, has had the type of success in his early racing career that most drivers only dream about. In 2015 the St. Helena, California native competed in more than 100 events, with two major wins. After sweeping his Chili Bowl Nationals preliminary night, winning his heat, qualifier and A-Main, the open wheel standout went on to win the 29th annual Chili Bowl Nationals, one of dirt track racing’s most prestigious events.
The achievement introduced the talented racer to a new audience – NASCAR. Making just his seventh-career start in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (NKNPSE), Abreu won his first NASCAR race at Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway (July). The sprint-car sensation concluded his rookie season in the 2015 NKNPSE fifth in points, earning three poles, and leading 119 laps en route to four top-five and eight top-10 finishes. He was also voted as the series Most Popular Driver.
“Competing full time in the NASCAR K&N East Series prepared me the most for this opportunity,” said Abreu. “My first time being in stock cars and getting a full season under my belt helped me understand how to race and put together full races, longer races, than I was used to running in open wheel cars.”
In November, 2015, Abreu made his NASCAR national touring debut in the NCWTS at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway and went on to compete in the season-ending event at Homestead-Miami Speedway, earning a career-best finish of 13th.
“Running the last two Camping World Truck Series races of 2015 was a huge help as well,” continued Abreu. “I know what to expect now compared to last year when I had no experience on tracks bigger than one mile.”
The NASCAR NEXT alum’s 2016 campaign will be led by NCWTS veteran crew chief, Doug George. Entering his 12th season in the series, George is credited with five poles, two wins, 32 top-five and 65 to-10 finishes.
ThorSport Racing has competed in the Truck Series annually since 1996 and has fielded at least one truck in 454 races, a series record.
“We look forward to Rico joining our race team in 2016,” said Duke Thorson, owner of ThorSport Racing. “Rico has proven himself at every level in racing to date, and is a winner and true racer in every sense of the word. He brings a style and attitude that reflects who we are, and what we are all about. We are prepared to give him every single opportunity to win, and look forward to seeing what he can do in his first full-time season in the Truck Series.”
ThorSport Racing will kick off it’s 21st season of completion in the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Friday, Feb. 19. All the action will be televised live on FOX Sports 1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR channel 90.
Additional sponsorship for the No. 98 Toyota Tundra will be announced at a later date.
Abreu plans to defend his Chili Bowl Midget Nationals title on Saturday night in the 30th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The final features will be televised Saturday, Jan. 16 on MAVTV American Real. For a complete listing of channels, and to request MAVTV, log onto http://www.mavtv.com.