Rico Abreu at Antioch Speedway. (Photo by Paul Gould, Track Photographer)

Rico Abreu at Antioch Speedway. (Photo by Paul Gould, Track Photographer)

- Rico Abreu is a rising national star in the ranks of open wheel racing. With three wins and more than 20 top five finishes this season at tracks from coast to coast, the 21 year-old driver from St. Helena, Calif. still dreams of a victory in the World of Outlaws event at Antioch Speedway.

The World of Outlaws professional sprint car tour visits the 3/8-mile high-banked clay oval at the Contra Costa fairgrounds on Sunday, Sept. 8.

“Antioch Speedway is the classic California bullring race track. It’s the kind of racing I grew up watching,” Abreu said this week from Indiana.

He has had great success driving throughout the Midwest, and winning, for famous car owner Keith Kunz.

Indiana may want Abreu, but California is beckoning. He misses being home and driving his family owned, bright blue, number 24 sprint car.

“I can’t wait to get back to California. Antioch Speedway is always packed with fans. You can hear the crowd cheering from the racetrack. It will be a great night.”

Abreu grew up in St. Helena, not far from the historic sprint car track in Calistoga. He saw his first World of Outlaws event at Calistoga Speedway in 1997. He was so impressed with the racecars that he started driving go-karts, with the hopes of moving up to sprint cars some day.

In his karting travels, he met up with Kyle Larson, whose career skyrocketed from sprint cars to NASCAR in recent years. They became close friends. Larson is expected to race with Abreu at Antioch Speedway in the World of Outlaws event.

“We became close friends. He’s a great friend. He motivated me, and to this day he’s there for me,” Abreu explained. “When I was struggling to learn everything there was to drive a sprint car, Kyle (Larson) was there. To this day, he’s always watching me. He tells me what I did right or wrong, and how to get out of situations I may encounter.”

Another mentor, veteran sprint car driver Brent Kaeding helped Abreu in the early stages of his career.

“When I got up to speed, and started passing him, he felt it was time to stop helping me,” said Abreu. “We’re competitors now.”

Abreu finished 12th in the World of Outlaws at Antioch one year ago. He was 13th in the spring event this year.

“To win a World of Outlaws event is a tough thing to do,” he explained. “You are racing against the best drivers in the business. If you beat them, you did a darn good job.”

Abreu is hoping his dream comes true in front of that wild and loud Antioch crowd.

“I dream of winning there,” he added. “If I did it would be one of the most memorable moments of my life.”

The World of Outlaws event at Antioch Speedway will be on Sunday, Sept. 8. Advance tickets are now on sale on the World of Outlaws website http://www.woosprint.com/. Click the ticket button and scroll to Antioch Speedway, Sept. 8. Reserved seating is $40. General admission $35 for adults, $15 for children. Pit passes will be sold on race day for $50.