TULSA, Okla. – On a night that reminded us once again how dangerous motorsports can be, Rico Abreu made a dramatic last-lap pass to win his sixth straight Wednesday night preliminary race at the Chili Bowl Nationals.
The victory in Smiley Racing Products Qualifying Night’s A Feature was shrouded by an early accident that saw teenager Ashton Torgerson ejected from his car during an end-over-end flip with 19 laps left in the 30-lap race.
Torgerson, awake and talking, was transported from the indoor Tulsa Expo Raceway to a local hospital as the Chili Bowl community waited for an update on his condition.
“It’s tough racing out there thinking about something like that,” said a subdued Abreu, who ripped the top and got around leader Mitchel Moles on the final circuit.
Both Abreu and Moles, who led all but the final lap, locked into Saturday night’s A Feature. Fourteen-year-old Brent Crews ran third, followed by Blake Hahn.
“I’m tired of losing here—as a race car driver, you want to win,” Moles said. “The goal for the team is to run top-two and lock into the Saturday show… I didn’t want to go up there (to the top) and wreck like I did last year.
“What are you going to do? You’re a sitting duck, and Rico’s a hell of a driver, especially in this building.”
Abreu got his chance at the win when the midget race car of Jake Andreotti turned sideways with six laps left. The resulting caution bunched the field. Restarting third, Abreu first had to pass Crews and then took off after Moles, maintaining impressive momentum at the top of the track in his No. 24 Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota.
Moles started from the pole and was out front when the midget of Torgerson flipped wildly on the backstretch, throwing the 16-year-old driver from the car. Torgerson’s helmeted head appeared to impact the track as he and his car turned upside-down.
Torgerson lay on the track and was described as “awake, alert and talking to officials” before he was transported to a local hospital by ambulance.
The remaining drivers exited their cars, met briefly in Turn 2 and were set to resume racing after a 10-minute open red-flag period, with the cars pushed to the infield during the stoppage.
Abreu, who has won eight of the last nine Wednesday night preliminaries, said there was no discussion among the drivers about stopping the event.
“The conversation was about bringing everybody back together, and we said a little prayer there while we were in that huddle,” Abreu said. “Understanding the circumstances everybody was in, there was no discussion about race cancelation or the race not going further.”
The aftermath of the race brought encouraging news about Torgerson’s condition. The public relations firm Peterson Media provided the following update:
“Ashton is awake and alert at the hospital. He has feeling in hands and feet and has passed his tests so far. He’s now going into scans. We will continue to keep you posted.”
Kevin Thomas Jr. finished fifth on Wednesday night, followed by Ricky Thornton Jr., who advanced from the second B Feature and started 22nd in the A-Main. Taylor Reimer was seventh, with Thomas Meseraull, Jake Swanson and Trey Gropp completing the top 10.