SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (Sept. 1, 2013)—Zach Daum stretched his feature winning streak in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series to three Sunday in the 33rd Pepsi Nationals, co-sanctioned by the Stark Automotive Group/Mid-State Equipment Badger Midget Series, at Angell Park Speedway.
It was Daum’s third POWRi Midget victory in five days. The 22-year-old from Pocahontas, Ill., won the Great Clips Jason Leffler Memorial at Wayne County (Ill.) Speedway on Wednesday and the opening night of the Pepsi Nationals on Saturday. Daum earned $4,000 for his triumph in the 50-lap feature Sunday, $5,000 for his victory in the Leffler Memorial and $2,000 for his Saturday win.
Daum also strengthened his hold on the POWRi championship. He leads Andrew Felker by 240 points, 3,500-3,260, with eight events remaining.
“Between this and winning the Leffler in the same week, I’m ecstatic,” Daum said. “I never would have thought it possible I could have won one of them, much less two and we got the third win in the middle. The Pepsi Nationals is one that you want on your resume. It’s up there with the (USAC) Hut Hundred and the Night Before the 500 (at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis as a prestigious win.
“We’d had a hard time figuring this place out. We had a couple of top fives in POWRi races, but I guess we’ve figured it out now.”
Daum did win a Badger feature on June 30 at Angell Park, but the co-sanctioned races bring in a deeper field and the distance and speed on a fast one-third mile track made Sunday’s race one of the most demanding in midget racing. The cushion was treacherous. Darren Hagen was leading on lap 35 when he jumped it in turn three and whacked the wall; Dalton Armstrong, who was on pole, and brother Caleb Armstrong were eliminated from contact with the wall. Tyler Thomas bounced on the cushion and rolled over hard. None of the drivers were injured.
“The cushion was nasty,” Thomas said. “There were quite a few cars that bit it on the cushion. I was in the wrong place and hit the cushion the wrong way and it rolled me.
Daum had started seventh in his Toyota-powered Eagle and steadily moved up. He was third for a lap 20 restart behind Hagen, who had taken the lead on lap eight after Dalton Armstrong went out, and Billy Balog.
Daum passed Balog with a slide job in turns one and two on the 27th lap. Hagen had a quarter-lap lead.
Caleb Armstrong hit the turn three wall to bring out a yellow on the 35th lap.
Hagen was next to fall out after the restart, putting Daum in front for the final 16 laps.
“I rode around at the beginning and stayed out of trouble,” Daum said. “I’ve driven in the Hut Hundred (winning it in 2011) and some of the (USAC) Silver Crown races and they’re longer than most of the drivers have done. You learn to pace yourself.
“There wasn’t much there on the bottom, so I had to go to the cushion and everybody else was up there. I wasn’t entering the turns on the cushion and used it only when I needed it. I ran right below it.”
After the final restart on lap 37, Daum bolted to a commanding lead and kept extending it. He won by a quarter lap over second-place Brad Kuhn of Avon, Ind.
Kuhn had started 10th and had to pit under caution on lap 19 to change a right rear tire. He barely beat the pace car out to prevent going a lap down. Kuhn was sixth for the final restart.
Kuhn passed Jake Blackhurst and Danny Stratton and was up to fourth two laps later. Billy Ballog was running second and Parker Price-Miller third.
“Guys ahead of me were flipping and I was lucky to miss several of them,” Kuhn said.
Price-Miller fell back with a severe wheel vibration and Kuhn slid past Balog in turns three and four on the 43rd lap to take second.
Kuhn wrapped up his fourth Badger Midget title and also delivered the Badger owner championship to Bill Ecker and Amy Reisdorf. But the Pepsi Nationals was also a disappointment and farewell for Kuhn.
“It’s the last Badger race and the last race at Angell Park I’ll ever run,” Kuhn said. “I won a lot of Badger races, but never this one and I wanted to win it. It’s nice to win my fourth championship. There are three other guys with championships and it’s distinguished company.”
Kuhn plans on driving the remainder of the POWRi schedule with the exception of Macon (Ill.) Speedway on Sept. 21 and the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl in Tulsa next January before retiring.
“I’m done after the Chili Bowl,” he said.
Balog finished third. The 34-year-old from Heartland, Wis., a five-time champion in the Interstate Racing Association Outlaw (410 c.i.) Sprints and with 13 victories this season, is working on sixth. He rarely drives midgets.
“It’s (third) a win for us,” Balog said.
Jake Blackhurst of Mapleton, Ill., finished fourth and Felker of Carl Junction, Mo., was fifth. Felker almost didn’t take the green to start the feature. A heim bolt broke on the left rear arm of the suspension on the pace laps and he was able to pull in and his team and several other volunteers repaired it just in time to get on the track and into position for the start.
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series feature results (50 laps): 1. Zach Daum, 2. Brad Kuhn, 3. Billy Balog, 4. Jake Blackhurst, 5. Andrew Felker, 6. Danny Stratton, 7. Parker Price-Miller, 8. Davey Ray, 9. Seth Motsinger, 10. Brandon Waelti, 11. Kurt Mayhew, 12, Cody Weisensel, 13. Bryon Walters, 14. Tyler Thomas, 15. Darren Hagen, 16. Caleb Armstrong, 17. Dalton Armstrong,18. Garrett Aitken, 19. Daniel Robinson.
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PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Arns