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  • By Gary Thomas

Rico Abreu rides the high-side to grab Sprint Car Challenge Tour victory on opening night of the Pet

Tulare, CA – When it pertains to exciting sprint car drivers around the country they don’t come much more show stopping than Rutherford’s Rico Abreu and that was certainly proven once again this past Friday at Tulare’s Thunderbowl Raceway.

The two-time Chili Bowl champion charged around the high-line, shooting past Roseville’s Sean Becker with just four-laps remaining in the feature, en route to claiming the $3,500 top prize on opening night of the fourth annual Peter Murphy Classic. The victory made Abreu the third different winner in the first three races with the Elk Grove Ford Sprint Car Challenge Tour presented by Abreu Vineyards.

“This is the first time I’ve been able to compete at the Peter Murphy Classic so it feels awesome to get a win here tonight,” commented the driver of the Abreu Vineyards No. 24 machine. “Sean (Becker) is one of the best there is out here in California, so I really tried to keep my momentum up on the top and luckily the cautions worked out in our favor. I want to thank Paul Silva and my entire team for giving me a great car. That was a fun race tonight and I hope all the fans enjoyed it.”

Becker was in search of his first career Thunderbowl Raceway victory and held command for much of the way in the 35-lapper, with some heated action going on behind him. Various cautions made for multiple double file restarts that definitely shook things up over the course of the feature. Paradise, CA’s Kyle Hirst and Abreu kept the crowd on the edge of their seats the final half of the race, while banging the familiar Thunderbowl “boards” in an attempt to close in on Becker, who was doing a phenomenal job rolling the bottom.

One final restart with 10-laps to go however saw Abreu slice under Hirst for second and then charge after the leader, before rocketing past him on lap 31. Becker didn’t let him escape though and the pair proceeded to thrill the crowd over the final few circuits. The driver known as the “Shark” gave it one final shot on the last lap, but Abreu was able to take the checkered flag with a slim 0.498 second margin of victory.

Becker came home in second at the helm of the Menne Motorsports No. 75, earning his second podium of the Elk Grove Ford Sprint Car Challenge Tour presented by Abreu Vineyards season. Hirst also did a fabulous job in the feature and rounded out the podium aboard the Roth Motorsports No. 83 sprinter. It marked his second straight third place effort with SCCT. Kingsburg’s Cory Eliason and Hollister’s Ryan Bernal completed the top-five in the entertaining contest.

The remainder of the top-10 was filled out by 13th starter Gio Scelzi of Fresno, 14th starter Shane Golobic of Fremont, Pit Stop USA Hard Charger Mason Moore of Princeton, who lined up from the 18th starting position, Carson Macedo of Lemoore and Hollister’s Tony Gualda. With the Peter Murphy Classic featuring extra money up for grabs the main event paid a minimum of $500-to-start. Full results will be available at

A-main finish: 1. 24 Rico Abreu, 2. 75 Sean Becker, 3. 83 Kyle Hirst, 4. 83sa Cory Eliason, 5. 56 Ryan Bernal, 6. 83jr Gio Scelzi, 7. 22 Shane Golobic, 8. X1 Mason Moore, 9. 21x Carson Macedo, 10. 7c Tony Gualda, 11. X1jr Colby Copeland, 12. 72w Kurt Nelson, 13. 37 Mitchell Faccinto, 14. 16 Andy Gregg, 15. 4s Buddy Kofoid, 16. 29 Willie Croft, 17. 94 Steven Tiner, 18. 3c DJ Netto, 19. 26 Taylor Malsam, 20. 17w Justin Sanders, 21. 14 Jason Meyers, 22. 3 Craig Stidham

The Finley Farms B-main was captured by Gio Scelzi, while the two C-mains were won by Jared Petersen and Mitchell Faccinto. Sean Becker won the Pole Shuffle and took home an extra $400 by doing so. The Pole Shuffle was a major highlight of the night, with the crowd loving every second of the exciting match race style dash.

The All Star Performance opening heat race went to Tony Gualda, the A.R.T. Speed Equipment heat race was captured by Colby Copeland, the BR Motorsports heat was won by Willie Croft, the King Racing Products heat was picked off by Rico Abreu and the Driven2SaveLives heat race was scooped up by Kyle Hirst. Cory Eliason began the night by setting the LRB Inc. / ADCO Driveline and Custom Exhaust fast time in the 51-car field, clocking a 13.952 around the Thunderbowl Raceway.

The Elk Grove Ford Sprint Car Challenge Tour presented by Abreu Vineyards will return to action next Saturday April 29 with the first of two season appearances at the Petaluma Speedway.

The Sprint Car Challenge Tour is proudly sponsored by Elk Grove Ford, Abreu Vineyards, Hoosier Racing Tires, Bianchi Farms, Kyle Larson Racing, All Star Performance, ART Speed Equipment, BR Motorsports, King Racing Products, Auto Meter, ADCO Driveline & Exhaust, Bullard Construction, Chris Kenner Racing Specialties/ Security Race Products, CRV Carbon Solutions, Driven2SaveLives, Dynachrome, Finley Farms, Flying Squirrel, Garth Moore Insurance and Financial Services, Jockos Sprint Parts, Keizer Wheels, Light Up the World Beverages, LRB Inc., Menne Hay Inc., Moto Wear, Metal Works, Naake Suspension, Pit Stop USA, PT Shocks, Pyrotect Racing Cells,, R&R Racewear, Saldana Racing Products, Sellers Race Wings, Shifty Illusions, Team Ford of Woodland and Walker Performance Filtration.

Photos courtesy of RCM Design

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