An interview with Rico Abreu – Teleconference Transcript

January 20, 2015

THE MODERATOR:  Good morning everyone and welcome to today’s teleconference with the newest full-time driver at HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks, Rico Abreu. Rico won the 2015 Chili Bowl last weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and as previously mentioned has secured his first full-time ride in NASCAR.

Congratulations, Rico. Thank you for joining us today.
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RICO ABREU:  Thank you, guys. I’m really excited for what is to come and looking forward to all my new goals and accomplishments.

  1. With this coming a couple days after the Chili Bowl, I would assume that it was signed before or did you sign it after? Did winning the Chili Bowl have any effect on it?

RICO ABREU:  No, no effect at all. The Chili Bowl is what I look forward to the whole year. Then again, this whole K&N East schedule with Harry and Justin, it’s just been a tremendous 2014, and I’m looking to build off it for 2015.

  1. The kind of alterations to the pedals and seats in a stock car, is it any different than what it would be in the sprint cars that you’ve been driving?

RICO ABREU:  Yeah, the sprint car is a lot different because you sit down like you sit in a chair when you sit in a sprint car. So your legs are underneath you. My sprint car, the pedal location, there are foot blocks that allow my feet to reach the pedals. Then the seat is pushed forward about six inches. So it’s a little different than the stock car where you’re more sat down and your legs are in front of you and the pedals are moved toward you like you sit in a vehicle you drive daily. All the modifications are really simple.  Nothing is way off the radar that they did and it’s really safe. Everyone agreed with every decision and every modification they made. So I’m really excited and really comfortable sitting in a car that I haven’t even raced yet.

  1. Talk about your hopes and dreams of being in NASCAR and how you see your career laying out ahead of you now?

RICO ABREU:  I think it’s a big step, really, just because I come from the open wheel world where everyone knows everyone. And there are so many more NASCAR fans that don’t follow dirt racing and don’t know what I do, so I’m really looking forward to it. I don’t know. I think the fans will react a lot differently than the average driver — average-looking driver coming to NASCAR. I’m excited to see how it goes. I think it’s going to be just fine.

I think I’m planning on having a lot of success. The people that I’ve surrounded myself with are phenomenal people, and I think that raises the bar and raises my confidence level and support.

  1. I got a kick out of the picture. I think you tweeted it. Tony Stewart was getting the surface ready and you were talking and obviously he thinks a lot of you. What race car drivers in any division are you friends with? You’ve been around a while and talking to them and hanging out with them.

RICO ABREU:  Yeah, I really got to know Tony through one of my best friends Kyle Larson. Kyle has made a really big impression in the sport over the last year just with all the success he’s had. I’ve known Kyle for the last six years, and I consider him a brother. His parents really could be my mom and dad just how close we are or how close I am to his family and him.

So Kyle is definitely the one I really look up to and the one I can go to for anything just because our close friendship and relationship we have together. Then the people I’ve met through Kyle like Tony and Kasey, and there are so many other drivers I feel I can go to for support and that will support me. My confidence is so high. I’m just really looking forward to it. I don’t think I’m going to have too many problems to deal with.

  1. Congratulations, Rico on the new opportunity. It came a little faster than we anticipated. But talk about going to New Smyrna this weekend and the challenges that lay ahead there? Because from your conversation with us Saturday night this will be your first opportunity getting in a stock car and actually racing; is that correct?

RICO ABREU:  Yes, I’ve never even raced one. Like yesterday I just drove it around the parking lot for the first time, a late model. So my whole goal on going to New Smyrna is just getting laps in and making sure I’m comfortable in the race car. I started reading a book yesterday that Ross Bentley has wrote, and he says in it the most important thing is being comfortable in your race car and that is so right. So that’s my whole goal about this weekend is getting comfortable and making sure that everything is right just so I don’t run into problems down the road where I’m not comfortable. Because you have to be a hundred percent in these race cars and you can’t lose concentration when you’re racing about being uncomfortable. So that is my biggest thing about this weekend is just making sure I’m in my comfort zone and making sure everything’s right and getting in as many laps as I can on the track.

  1. Following up, Rico, it was mentioned that the set-up in sprint cars is with the blocks. Is the set-up going to be similar to that in the stock cars do you think?

RICO ABREU:  It’s somewhat similar, like the spacing behind the seat is really the same. There’s not a big spacer, but there is a decent sized spacer behind my seat to get me closer to the steering wheel because NASCAR has so many rules where you can’t be too far away from the seat — the tubing on the frame of the car. The pedals are mounted right under the dashboard and the dashboard is moved up closer to me where I can reach all the electronics. Everything is correct, and nothing is way far off, like I said, the radar that they did. If you look in my cockpit, it’s hard to tell there is a difference. The only difference is I’m sitting a lot closer and the pedals are closer to me, but the adjustments aren’t that bad.

  1. Have you been working hand-in-hand with NASCAR to get prepared for the modified for the K&N races?

RICO ABREU:  Yeah, NASCAR came and saw all the improvements and they’re fine with it all. So it’s pretty cool that they got it all done in one try, and they didn’t have to really change anything. They’re satisfied with all the adjustments that they did. They said everything is safe and looks safe, and I feel safe in the race car so I think that is the big first step.

  1. You mentioned that a lot of NASCAR fans might not follow the sprint car racing as much and might not know what you do. But I would think over the last three days a lot of them probably do know who you are. Can you talk about what things have been like since Saturday and do you sense that this announcement’s coming at the right time with everybody learning who you are right now?

RICO ABREU:  Yeah, it’s pretty cool. Saturday was a big night for me just because of all the coverage that the Chili Bowl has gotten and the people that have attended that event Saturday night. I was watching the race in the infield of the track, and I look over and see Roger Penske. It was his first time at the event, and he came and introduced himself, and I asked him what he thought and he said this is unbelievable. And Kurt Busch was there and Danica and all these people were so intrigued.

Without testing — NASCAR taking the testing policies away all these drivers are looking for something to do, and I think the Chili Bowl is the event to go to in January. Then let alone me winning it in front of such a big crowd, it’s just been a phenomenal week and weekend. People don’t experience many situations like that, and it’s definitely one I’ll never forget, and I’m so glad that all these people that are associated with me were a part of it all.

  1. Rick, a lot of people on Twitter posted throughout the Chili Bowl weekend that someone should give you a shot in NASCAR. I was just wondering, what was it like for you reading those? Does that give you more confidence going into this deal?

RICO ABREU:  Definitely humbling, that’s for sure. You know, when I grew up I played sports and I wrestled in middle school, and all my friends and classmates kind of outgrew me. I was limited to the things I could do and I became a big race fan. Well, I didn’t even think I could race until I did it for the first time, let alone be so competitive so quickly in my career.

It’s just so cool to have the feeling that people really believe in you and would like to see you achieve. Then let alone winning the Chili Bowl and all the prestigious races I got to win last year. I think a lot of people believe in me, and it gives me a lot of confidence and humbles me. So I’m glad that people can really see who I am and they don’t judge me for what I look like or why I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I’m a racer and I love the sport.

  1. Rico, a lot of very good racers have made careers out of racing in sprints. Was the opportunity to compete in NASCAR a goal that you set for yourself?

RICO ABREU:  Last year it wasn’t. Until I had all my success this year, I set goals last year that I never thought I would achieve and I achieved them. So the end of last year the discussion came up and the opportunity was there, and I said why don’t we give it a shot? Because I can always come back to sprint car racing if NASCAR doesn’t work out or if something happens where I can’t race or you’re not competitive. Which I don’t feel — I feel I will be competitive just with all the experience I’ve already gained racing a hundred times a year.

You know, I’m on the same path as a lot of these NASCAR standouts were on. So I’m pretty confident about all of it, and I’m really excited to see what happens in the next few months.

  1. Speaking of how often you were racing before, you’re down for, I guess, it’s 14 or whatever K&N races. How will that schedule impact your sprint car schedule? Will there be any big races on the sprint car side that you’ll have to miss or anything because of the K&N schedule?

RICO ABREU:  A few races. It won’t impact my sprint car schedule at all. The K&N schedule is going to be my priority, and then I’ll race sprint car races and midget races around it. I’m planning on racing 120 times this year and as many as I can get in.

I was talking to Tony at the Chili Bowl, and I told him there is a conflict where the K&N guys are at Dover, and there are three sprint car races at Williams Grove, and he said don’t worry about that, I’ll get you there. So it’s pretty cool that I have Tony behind me on all this and Kyle. It just allows me to race even more than I was already planning on.

Next year — my goals this year are pretty high to just finish all these K&N races and be there at the end of them. If I could win some of them, or win one of them I’d be in awe.  I’m really looking forward to racing with Harry and Justin Marks and the whole organization they’ve built together.

  1. Congrats again, the whole dirt community is proud of you. First off we have Keith Kunz coming on Winged Nation today. How much do you attest your quick success so far in the past five years, even the last three years with him on him and Pete Willoughby’s success with midgets?

RICO ABREU:  Keith and Pete have been a big part of my career. If it wasn’t for those two guys there’s no way I’d be here where I’m at today let alone all the success I’ve had.  Pete and Keith are someone I’ve really looked up to. Over the past few years that I’ve gotten to know them, I’ve stayed at his house, and we do a lot of things outside of racing and just having a great friendship. Let alone the career success they’ve had together, those two, I’m pretty sure they’ve been together for 19 years this year racing midgets, and that is an unbelievable success that they’ve had with the championship and winning the Chili Bowl and winning the Belleville Midget Nationals twice, and all the major midget events. There are so many great drivers that have come out of their camp to NASCAR I’m just honored to be a part of their team still.

  1. You had been in an outlaw car five years ago.  Did you ever dream this day would come?

RICO ABREU:  No, I had no idea. It’s so cool to see what’s been going on and to be a part of it.  It’s all about the people I’ve surrounded myself by and gotten to know. They’ve all been a part of it, and I’ve had a lot of great opportunities that I’ve taken advantage of, and it’s been so much fun. I’m really looking forward to the future.

  1. When did it sink in for you that you won the Chili Bowl or has it sunk in yet?

RICO ABREU:  Yeah, probably Sunday morning on the way to the airport when I got to the airport and all these fans were wanting pictures and autographs right before we got on the plane. Then I got on the plane and flew to Chicago, and when we landed they announced on the plane that the Chili Bowl National winner is on this flight, Rico Abreu, they actually said Rich Ab Roe, and then they came back and said Rico Abreu.

So I never thought this day would come, but now that I think about it, it’s so cool to win the Chili Bowl because there are not too many drivers that have. The race has been put on for 29 years in a row, and there have only been 18 different drivers to win it. So it’s pretty cool the car count they get and the fan base they’ve built and the build up around the event, and then let alone win it is unbelievable. It’s definitely one of the biggest wins in my career and one I’ll never forget about.

  1. Based off what we saw on social media, your win was very popular in the motorsports community. Out of all the congratulatory messages you received publicly or privately, was there someone you heard from that you weren’t expecting and meant more than the others?

RICO ABREU:  No, you know, everyone that usually congratulates me after I win any race was there to congratulate me. Then all the people that I’ve gotten to meet over the last year that are in NASCAR congratulated me that I’m well aware of.  It’s just pretty cool to win and to see all the congrats is very humbling.

Probably the biggest one was just my family. They don’t get to many races and they were there.  So they got to see me win in front of such a big crowd, I think that was the coolest part of it overall, the congrats. Then my mom and dad were there, and they were just so proud. That’s really the one that means the most to me.

  1. Rico, congratulations on today’s announcement.  Do you have sponsorship ironed out for the 14 NASCAR K&N East races this year?

RICO ABREU:  They’re still working on it. I’m not sure who the primary sponsor is going to be.  I think they’re going to announce it soon. But as of right now it’s going to be Harry Scott with Justin Marks Racing.

  1. Can you talk about your relationship with Justin Marks?

RICO ABREU:  Yeah, I’ve gotten to really know Justin over the past few years just being, obviously friends with Kyle and a part of their sprint car team that they built together. I think it’s so cool that he’s become a part of Harry’s K&N East team and co-owner in it, and he’s going to get to run some races this year for their team. So I think Justin’s a big influence on that whole program and he’ll help it even more.

Justin’s a very smart man, and in all sorts of situations, business, and let alone just being a friend I think he’s going to be really fun to be around all year. He’ll be on the majority of the races and someone I’ll be able to go to and talk about racing or just talk about being friends.

  1. Final question is how is your test going today at Motor Mile?

RICO ABREU:  It’s in like five minutes when I get off the phone with you guys.

  1. Two questions, one, with racing, and one sort of about a hobby I’ve seen you enjoy doing. The first question is so you’re planning on doing the majority of your outlaw and midget stuff and K&N?

RICO ABREU:  Correct. The K&N East schedule will be my priority, and then I’ll fill in sprint car and midget races around the schedule and plan on running 110 to 120 races this year like I did last year. I feel like I’m more capable of doing that with all three teams, but I’ll be associated with the midgets and the sprint car and the K&N East cars.

I think the year Kyle ran the K&N East schedule he raced 130 times, so I think I’m more than capable of running 110 to 120 this year.

  1. I’m seeing a couple pictures. I also write and do photography.  Is photography a hobby of yours? I’ve seen a couple pictures of you shooting at the Chili Bowl.

RICO ABREU:  Not so much. I do enjoy nice photography pictures, but I’m not into photography or anything. I was just someone took a picture of me taking a picture.

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