Why the Rico Abreu, Keith Kunz Combination Works
Jan 13, 2022
If you can’t beat them, rejoin them.
Christopher Bell spent the past two Januarys at the Tulsa Expo Center driving for Chad Boat. That followed a three-year stint in which he won the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals from 2017-2019 for Keith Kunz Motorsports, the culmination of a larger seven-year stretch that also included the 2013 USAC National Midget Championship, 2013 Belleville Midget Nationals and 2017 Junior Knepper 55.
Kyle Larson left Kunz at the same time but won the past two Golden Drillers driving a car under his own umbrella and wrenched by Paul Silva.
Bell was right there in the mix both years, of course, but Kyle Larson Inc. ultimately prevailed. Thus, if Keith Kunz couldn’t topple Larson either, a reunion with their most successful driver in the Expo Center made sense too.
The No. 71W was back with Bell in the cockpit, but it wasn’t totally the same yet, based on a third-place finish in the Race of Champions on Monday behind Justin Grant and Larson.
"Whenever I went to Chad's two years ago, basically all I did was try to get their cars to drive like what I was accustomed to with KKM cars," Bell said. "My cars felt normal at Chad's and I come back here a couple of years later and I was a little bit lost at the beginning part of the week.
"I still don't feel a hundred percent comfortable just making moves and basically maneuvering the car around from the bottom to the top. I don't feel like I have in the past, so it's been an adjustment, for sure."
The adjustment is still taking place, but Bell got a taste of what he has been missing the past two years when he capitalized on a restart with seven laps to go and completed the pass for the lead on Tanner Thorson with five to go.
Bell has needed to finish races better.
"They’re extremely good at the end of the races," Bell said. "We’ve seen it all week long with Tanner Carrick, Buddy (Kofoid), Rico (Abreu) and myself. These things are really fast at the end of the race. Hopefully that translates well to 55 laps."
Specifically, lap 55, where he led 38 laps in 2020 but chased Larson to the finish line on that final lap. It was the final lap last year where he was running second to Larson when he flipped in Turn 3.
Bell appears back at home, and Kunz looks like the organization to beat based on sweeping the first four days of preliminary action with only one more to go.
"It’s absolutely crazy looking at this week how it’s been four KKM cars," Bell said. "If you just follow the results you would think one team is dominating the race, but I think that is far from the truth. Everybody here has got great equipment. There are probably 80 cars out there that are capable of winning if you have the right setup and the right driver in it. Things are going right for sure for KKM."
B-Features: Top 4 advance to the A-Feature.
B Feature 1 (15 Laps): 1. 77-Stevie Sussex III; 2. 71R-Frankie Guerrini; 3. 71G-Damion Gardner; 4. 25B-Steve Buckwalter; 5. 57B-Daniel Robinson; 6. 2G-JJ Yeley; 7. 14X-Chad Boespflug; 8. 20G-Noah Gass; 9. 71E-Mariah Ede; 10. 14M-Dylan Bloomfield; 11. 4A-Dillon Silverman; 12. 2S-Travis Scott; 13. 75X-Alex Vande Voort; 14. 53R-Sean Robbins; 15. 4Z-Nate Barger; 16. (DNF) 7D-Michelle Decker
B Feature 2 (15 Laps): 1. 21H-Brady Bacon; 2. 29-Tim Buckwalter; 3. 22T-Don Droud Jr; 4. 2E-Whit Gastineau; 5. 3B-Zach Blurton; 6. 17B-Ryan Bickett; 7. 5K-Ben Worth; 8. 0T-Alex Schriever; 9. 60M-Earl McDoulett Jr; 10. 8G-Austin Shores; 11. 20H-Noah Harris; 12. 44C-Tristan Lee; 13. 10C-Dalton Camfield; 14. 60-Cody Gardner; 15. 8AJ-AJ Johnson; 16. 74-Drew Rader
A-Feature: Top 2 advance to Saturday’s A-Feature.
A Feature (30 Laps): 1. 71W-Christopher Bell; 2. 19T-Tanner Thorson; 3. 55V-CJ Leary; 4. 29-Tim Buckwalter; 5. 17W-Shane Golobic; 6. 21H-Brady Bacon; 7. 81X-Dillon Welch; 8. 2D-Matt Sherrell; 9. 39B-Emerson Axsom; 10. 22T-Don Droud Jr; 11. 68W-Shane Cottle; 12. 1S-Spencer Bayston; 13. 25B-Steve Buckwalter; 14. 51B-Joe B Miller; 15. 9-Mitchell Davis; 16. 71R-Frankie Guerrini; 17. 47X-Danny Stratton; 18. (DNF) 15D-Andrew Deal; 19. (DNF) 71G-Damion Gardner; 20. (DNF) 86-Brent Crews; 21. (DNF) 77-Stevie Sussex III; 22. (DNF) 4M-Brody Fuson; 23. (DNF) 57-Maria Cofer; 24. (DNF) 2E-Whit Gastineau