Sprint Car racing is Rico Abreu’s life passion. Aside from family and loved ones, and his dog Gus, ripping around the cushion at a dirt track tops the list and is like his personal heaven.

It’s been that way throughout his career. Abreu wears it on his face every time he’s in the pit area … there is a wide smile, and he, genuinely, looks happy to be there.

The California native has been traveling around the country for 11 seasons, running a “True Outlaw” or pick-and-choose schedule. Now, he is ready to embark on new territory and commit to a national series that demands excellence every night.

In a move that is surprising to some in the racing industry, Abreu has decided to compete full time with High Limit Racing. The plan is to run all 60-plus shows on the coast-to-coast schedule and compete for the Midweek and overall series titles.

“One of the reasons is that I really cherish my relationship with Brad [Sweet] and Kyle [Larson], and I appreciate what they’re doing for the sport, and it’s allowed me to see their vision of growth for Sprint Car racing.

Rico Abreu will run with a national series for the first time when he competes with High Limit in 2024. (Brent Smith Photography)

“I think what they are doing is very important to our industry. What they’ve been doing internally behind the scenes that not everybody sees, with the safety team and understanding the charter side of the business with the revenue share, these are major things that have potential and can grow Flo and High Limit together.”

It wasn’t hard getting Abreu to buy into the High Limit plan. Sweet, Larson, and the rest of the team have put together a package that appeals to the 31-year-old driver’s love for the game.

The schedule is not too cumbersome as far as the number of events, and there are built-in weeks off. The $4.7 million in purse money, along with $1 million in point-fund money doesn’t hurt the equation.

But there are other things to sweeten the High Limit pot. Guaranteed tow money has been added, as well as a future revenue-sharing model that is new to Sprint Car racing and could somewhat stabilize owning one of these teams.

“I envision that in the future of our sport — being a part of that myself with my father and the business of this race team — and it would be very unique if you could fund a race team off of revenue streaming, or sharing, which is essentially what they’re trying to build a few years down the road.

“So, it’s just exciting. I feel like they’ve structured a schedule that really fits around mine … a True Outlaw schedule. Their regulations are that you can go race other races, and you can sell your T-Shirts at every race. You can’t really pick any flaws out of what they’ve structured here, and they’re not racing against any of the massive races. How can you not support somebody like that?”

Getting a chance to put his name along the likes of Steve Kinser, Doug Wolfgang, Sammy Swindell, and other legends on the crown-jewel win list is critical to Abreu. It’s what piqued his interest in the sport.

The Kings Royal and Knoxville Nationals jump to the top of the list. He indicated, with no disrespect to the National Open or any other crown jewels, the No. 1 goal is still to win one, or both, of those events. Competing with High Limit affords him that opportunity and gives him a chance to rack up other victories.

Over the last year, Abreu won plenty. He topped the field 13 times and recorded earnings of just over $506,000 to complete a career season. The only blemish was failing to win a crown jewel, something he is looking to rectify this year while working on his craft and chasing a High Limit title.

“I want to continue to have that respect on the racetrack every night and every weekend,” Abreu said. “I want to execute like we’ve been doing as a team from qualifying, to heat races, to the main events, and continue that focus of being in the hunt at the end of these races.

“I’ve really driven myself to do that, and a lot of that has been Ricky Warner and what he’s brought to my team. He’s allowed me to polish my maturity as a racecar driver and focus on those little things that I didn’t understand how to fix … the things that make you a championship-based driver or winning driver, consistently.”

Continued Abreu, “He’s brought those tools to me, and it’s the way he presents it. It’s not in a grueling or degrading way, and we know we are in this together. I think it’s very important for the younger generation to understand that it’s OK to make mistakes in this sport and mistakes on the racetrack and not be so critical of yourself. I think it’s important to find that person in your life who can sit down, break down film, and go over race passes and setups without saying you’re not good enough.

“I always knew I had the skills to be a consistent, winning racecar driver. I just didn’t know I had the skills to focus on my craft as a racecar driver. It took Ricky Warner for me to do that, and we can have the whole package here in this business.”

The High Limit schedule will test the resolve of Abreu and the rest of the roster. Sure, there are breaks, but the four-week stretch from the Knoxville Nationals through the Tuscarora 50 will be the most pressure-filled of the season.

It’s not just the big paydays, although the $185,000 to win the Knoxville Nationals, $100,000 winner’s checks for the Gold Cup and Skagit Nationals, as well as $57,000 to win the Tuscarora 50, would be enough. The travel from the Midwest to the West Coast and then a 40-hour trip back to Port Royal Speedway in Pennsylvania is significant and daunting for a team if things aren’t going well.

To compensate, Abreu plans to take a week off before the Nationals, which is also a dark period in the High Limit schedule. The idea is to make sure his team is fresh and doing what is needed to compete at the highest level in those huge events and throughout the High Limit schedule.

“I think it’s important to take that week off and just allow everybody to regroup to make an eight-week swing like that to California and then back to Pennsylvania and be there for a few weeks,” Abreu said. “You have to be prepared for any scenario that comes up in racing.

“I just want to go to every single one of these races and treat it no different than I treated them last season or the last 10 years. I want to do the best I can do and focus on winning the races. If we don’t win and don’t execute, you fix those mistakes. Then, you do it again, and you work on it the next night and the next weekend.

“I look at the High Limit thing as a three-year project and a three-year investment. You absorb everything the first year, and the second year you fix those things. Then in the third year, you really compete and go after a title.”

Abreu will be one of the favorites to win both High Limit championships. He battled Kyle Larson to the finish in the 2023 Midweek Series and will do so again next season. As for the overall title, he will be dicing with Brad Sweet, the World of Outlaws champion the last five seasons, and others for the High Limit crown.

Regardless of the result, Abreu is comfortable with his choice. More important, he is optimistic about High Limit and the direction of Sprint Car racing moving forward.

“I think it’s great,” Abreu said. “I think you have some great people behind the scenes who have a healthy vision for the sport. We’re racing for a million dollars more in race winnings, and we had a million dollar-to-win race last year. You push that aside, and there’s another couple of million dollars being pumped into the industry. I think that’s real important for people to see.

“Growing up in the Napa Valley, people entering the wine industry buy land and build these massive facilities, and they inject growth into the Napa Valley. I see a lot of that with Flo and the importance they bring to the sport. It’s a big deal.

“They are raising the bar, and Brad and Kyle are raising the bar. You really want to see that. For me, I want to be behind people who are doing that and who are supportive of that. I think it’s very healthy for the sport, and I know it’s going in a good direction.”