When it comes to worshipping his hero, Jac Haudenschild, Rico Abreu puts the fan in fanatic.
Abreu was determined to deliver a proper send-off to his all-time favorite driver.
On Thursday, before World of Outlaws’ first practice at Bristol Motor Speedway, Abreu rolled out the No. 22 sprinter carrying the classic Pennzoil colors paying homage to Haudenschild’s golden days with the late Jack Elden.
His efforts didn’t disappoint the crowd--and certainly not the Wild Child.
“Pretty cool,” was Haudenschild’s initial reaction. “I wasn’t expecting that at all. He (Abreu) kept that a good surprise.”
Abreu says the response to the tribute car from the open-wheel community has been overwhelming.
“It’s all positivity,” Abreu said. “It’s awesome. Those are the things you look for in life—is positive movement. You build things up and put Jac in a good spot to be in the final full-time season of his career. We were able to put this Pennzoil partnership together for Jac. My friend, Frank Bolter, was a big part of it.
“I can’t thank all of them enough—Frank, Pennzoil, everybody for making this happen for Jac’s farewell tour. What an iconic car to have out on the track for his final year of racing.”
Haudenschild followed his father’s footsteps into racing. The 63-year-old Wooster, Ohioan was 15 when he started competing in sprinters. His first win came in 1975—when most kids are just obtaining their driver’s licenses. Haudenschild’s 72 WoO’s win rank 11th all time.
Abreu currently plans to run Haud in the Kings Royal, the Brad Doty and the Ironman 55 among others.
“I’m hoping we have a few more moments in us,” Haudenschild said. “I’ve got to perform, but you know, I still feel pretty good. Last year, I felt pretty good. So I’m looking forward to running with Rico this year.”
Abreu was blown away by the speed at Thunder Valley in the Outlaws return following a 20-year hiatus. On Friday, he won the Last Chance Showdown to transfer to the first feature of the Bristol Throwdown. Haudenschild, who received damage to the nose of the No. 22 Pennzoil during his heat, transferred as well.
“It’s really fast,” Abreu said. “You need to experience these things. It’s going to be interesting to see how the racing goes, but hopefully, we’ll be in the mix of it.”
Abreu pauses. With a straight face he turns and says, “I heard we’re going to Talladega next week. They’re putting dirt on it.”
After a chuckle Abreu adds, “This is the fastest I’ve ever gone in a sprint car. These things are extremely fast. You have to respect the sport. You have to respect the cars. And you have to be aware of your surroundings while you’re out there racing, for sure.”
A faulty spark plug wire kept Abreu from completing a lap in Friday night's feature. Haudenschild ran 13 circuits, but damage from the earlier wreck was too much to overcome.
With NASCAR making its debut at Knoxville Raceway later this year, would Abreu have any desire to return to the Camping World Truck Series?
“No,” he says without hesitation. “Not at all. I just love sprint cars. That’s all I want to do. I have a lot of World of Outlaws shows. I have a lot of All-Stars shows. So, I’m just going to bounce back and forth between them.”