JOLIET, Ill. — Kiwi Michael Pickens has only been back in the United States for a short while, but it didn’t take him long to find victory lane with the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League.
The New Zealander scored a big win on the opening night of Illinois SPEED Week, wiring the field in POWRi’s inaugural visit to The Dirt Oval at Route 66.
Pickens won his Speedway Motors heat race from the fourth position, garnering enough points to earn the pole for what would be his ninth Mesilla Valley Transportation feature victory with POWRi.
Leading all 25 laps, Pickens endured multiple yellows and one red on his way to victory lane.
“It’s awesome to be back here,” Pickens said. “This is my car owner’s first win in America, so this is very special to us. It’s awesome racing, the tracks are racy. We love racing them. To be honest, just to beat the Keith Kunz cars … that’s a win in my book. It’s a great accomplishment for our team.”
The only challenger Pickens had to fend off was Spencer Bayston, who ran second for a majority of the feature event, but clipped the infield berm and flipped wildly while applying pressure to Pickens on a restart with less than a handful of laps to go.
Bayston ended up against the turn two retaining wall, his night and chance for victory dashed.
Returning to green-flag racing, Rico Abreu immediately charged to second from third, pouncing on the opportunity to grab position from teammate Ryan Robinson.
With less than five laps remaining, Abreu was unable to challenge Pickens for the lead, settling for second after starting 10th.
“The track was just kind of one lane there,” said Abreu. “The infield berm with all the dry dirt really kills it, where guys can run their left fronts and throw crumbs all the way across the track. If they were to get some tractor tires out there, it would fix a lot of problems with the track. But this is a cool facility; I really looked forward to coming here and look forward to getting back for the outlaw race.”
Robinson was third, with Logan Seavey and Tanner Thorson rounding out the top five.
“Started fifth and couldn’t quite get up there,” Robinson said. “We were kind of struggling with the holes in the middle of the race, which kind of hurt me. I’ve just got to thank Abreu Vineyards, Toyota, IWX, Keith and Big Al; they gave me an excellent car and hopefully we can get it done this week.”
RESULTS: POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League; The Dirt Oval at Route 66; May 31, 2017
Feature (25 laps): 1. Michael Pickens, 2. Rico Abreu, 3. Ryan Robinson, 4. Logan Seavey, 5. Tanner Thorson, 6. Tyler Thomas, 7. Zach Daum, 8. Brad Loyet, 9. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 10. Andrew Felker, 11. Jimi Quin, 12. Andy Malpocker, 13. Jake Neuman, 14. Jodie Robinson, 15. Spencer Bayston, 16. Kade Morton, 17. Chance Morton, 18. Terry Babb, 19. Shelby Bosie, 20. Aiden Roosevans, 21. Noah Key, 22. Austin Brown, 23. Tanner Carrick, 24. Brayton Lynch.
CREDIT: POWRi Communications