By Jenna Fryer
AP Auto Racing Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With nearly a dozen career races at Eldora Speedway, Rico Abreu will be one of the most experienced drivers in the field for next week’s Truck Series race.
It should be his best shot at winning his first career national NASCAR race and earning a spot in the Truck Series’ playoffs.
Abreu doesn’t look at it that way.
“I think I can win on a mile-and-a-half,” Abreu said Wednesday. “I think it’s a chance for me to win, I think it’s a good shot. But I know if I don’t win, I have plenty of other opportunities.”
Abreu was going to get to test the dirt at Eldora earlier than most of the Truck Series drivers because he was scheduled to race this weekend at the Rossburg, Ohio, track in the Kings Royal, one of the most prestigious late model races in the country.
He was due to fly to Indianapolis in a plane piloted by Tony Stewart, owner of Eldora, who takes a participatory interest in track preparation in anticipation of next Wednesday’s truck race.
Abreu loves Eldora — he’s won a USAC race there and an All-Star Series race — and should be equal to Christopher Bell in terms of experience and success levels at the track when the green flag falls on the truck race. Bell won last year’s truck race, the third at Eldora.
“I think the racing there, the style suits my driving style,” Abreu said. “It’s fast paced, you race up by the wall and it’s just a place I really enjoy.”
It’s got many believing Abreu, a rookie in trucks, should be a favorite next week. He’s not sure, though, based on some mediocre first 10 races to the season.
“I haven’t been doing that good,” he said.
Abreu is 14th in the points with two top-10 finishes and is still adapting to the truck.
“I have speed at the wrong times of the race, and I just make a lot of little mistakes,” he said. “I haven’t been qualifying good the last few weeks. I feel like truck racing relies a lot on track position and that’s not something I am good at just yet.”
Abreu is also discouraged by his sprint car season, which has seen just seven wins so far despite racing about four times a week. He had 13 at this time last year, but he also had a much heavier schedule.
Because trucks take up the entire weekend, Abreu has cut his sprint car schedule from 80 races last year to 40. In all, he expects to race about 85 total events after 110 last year.
“I think I am just trying a lot harder,” Abreu said. “It’s harder to win races and everyone is getting better and equipment is getting better. I also think it’s been harder for me to go back and forth to all these cars. But I only have 10 sprint car races left this year, then it’s all trucks.”
ELDORA NEW NAME: Major League Baseball balked at the name of Eldora Speedway’s annual Truck Series race, so the Tony Stewart-owned dirt track has found a new title sponsor for the July 20 event.
The race had been called the Mudsummer Classic in each of its first three years. MLB raised issues about the name being too similar to its All-Star game, the Midsummer Classic.
Aspen Dental has now signed on as title sponsor for the truck race and it will now be called the Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby. The race is NASCAR’s only national event on a dirt track.
Aspen Dental is one of the primary sponsors for Danica Patrick, who drives the No. 10 in the Sprint Cup Series for Stewart-Haas Racing.
“Aspen Dental has leveraged its partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing and Danica Patrick really well and this new role with Eldora Speedway gives them another strong platform,” said Stewart.