Rico Abreu set the dirt world abuzz when he tweeted mysteriously: Rico Abreu has been released from Rico Abreu Racing (RAR) and is seeking new opportunities.
A day later, the affable driver announced he had hired his childhood racing hero—Jac Haudenschild—to drive the No. 24 RAR sprint car in 25 races for the Wild Child’s 48th and final season of competition.
“Jac was my guy,” Abreu said. “Jac has always been my guy. So it’s really special that he gets to be in my car this year.”
But Abreu wasn’t finished dominating the dirt news cycle. On Thursday, he revealed the return of crew chief Paul Silva. The pair enjoyed tremendous success together with the No. 24 Abreu Vineyard’s ride. Abreu earned more than 70 victories with Silva over five seasons.
“Works Limited 57! Hired Gun,” Abreu tweeted. “Band is back together @Paul_Silva57. I’m F***** READY!”
The Abreu/Silva reunion rolls out in the No. 57 Works Limited sprinter owned by Kevin Kozlowski on Friday night at Arizona Speedway in the Wild Wing Shootout. Over the past year-and-a-half, Silva led Kyle Larson to 48 wins in 93 feature starts in midgets and sprint cars.
“I’m a lucky guy,” Abreu told RacinBoys.com. “This opportunity came available when Larson went back to his day job. This car I’m going to race—it was all centered around Larson racing. Obviously, his schedule is a little different now, so it opened the door for them to hire me.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been hired as a driver, so this is all new to me.”
Abreu also didn’t want his driving announcement to overshadow his own team’s news regarding a racer as popular as Haudenschild. The 62-year-old open-wheeler has amassed more than 300 wins over the last four decades and barely missed out on winning the 1995 World of Outlaws title to fellow Ohioan Dave Blaney.
“I think very highly of Jac Haudenschild, and I want to give him the opportunity to run a few races,” Abreu said. “When I’m running the Works Limited car, Jac Haudenschild will be running my car. I’m going to run Jac at mostly World of Outlaw events.
“Jac is literally my hero. He is who I’ve always wanted to be like at the race track. He’s always happy, an unbelievable driver. His driving style is unique and wild—and that’s what I enjoy watching.”
The first event Haudenschild is scheduled to race for RAR is at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 4. Abreu will pilot the No. 57 that same weekend.
“We’ll be together at a lot of races this year,” Abreu said. “I’m excited.”
Abreu was barely over the Chili Bowl Nationals before his sprint car news dropped. With a win on his prelim night and a solid run in the feature prior to being collected in a late wreck with Tyler Courtney, Abreu was content with the outcome at Tulsa Expo Raceway.
“I thought it was really good, obviously, from a performance standpoint, I put myself into contention,” Abreu said. “I didn’t win. I struggled a little bit trying to advance positions in the feature, but a lot of guys did, with the exception of (Tanner) Thorson. With Larson starting out up front, he just had to defend his spot. (Christopher) Bell controlled some of the race, but he wasn't leading.
“I thought I was close. We won our prelim night. I felt really good. I felt decent on Saturday. I just don’t know why I couldn't advance my position, and then I got a flat tire at the end of the race.”
Abreu described the track conditions this year as “unique”. The two-time Golden Driller winner insists he wasn’t bothered by the berm, as was the case for some of his competitors.
“The biggest issue on the track surface was the track had like a crown in the center of the corners where the banking went up to the center of the corner and then it flattened off and it started a negative bank on the top,” Abreu said. “That allowed the bottom to be run more consistently throughout the night, but then harder to run the top lane of the track. That’s where they really struggled.
“On Tuesday, it laid rubber on the bottom—and everyone dogfought for the bottom. Wednesday, they got it a little bit better. Thursday, they had a little bit too much moisture on the track, so it wasn’t as competitive because the surface—everyone was running the same speed a lot like Saturday’s A Main where there was less room for error on the technical side of the race track.”
From a business standpoint, the 2021 Chili Bowl Nationals was a win-win for the driver who turns 29 next week.
“On the sponsorship side of it, I thought things went really well for Rowdy Energy Drink), KKM (Keith Kunz Motorsports) and Toyota,” Abreu said. “Everyone was extremely happy with the way everything turned out.”
Abreu enjoyed the opportunity to work with Kyle Busch and the Rowdy livery. He hopes they’ll have another chance to partner down the road.
“I know how he is—and I set myself at that level, too,” Abreu said. “As drivers, we need to win. That’s all I’m worried about—winning races. That’s how you need to perform on the sponsorship side of things, on the marketing side of things and on the race track.
"I’m hoping they feel they got a good ROI on the deal. That’s how you build relationships. I would honestly love to represent their company moving forward.”