U.S. drivers sweep at Bullring

June 6, 2014 11 Comments

ameicanflagThrow another checkered flag on the barbie, mate?

Not so fast.

U.S. drivers led a podium sweep of Thursday night’s leg of the Lucas Oil POWRi Midget World Championship at Quincy Raceways, a 16-race series that began in December in Australia and New Zealand and concludes with four races this week in Illinois.

Darren Hagen

Darren Hagen

Darren Hagen, Tanner Thorston and Zach Daum made up the American trio who stole the thunder from the Down Under boys in front of a World Cup-esque crowd that saw Australian and New Zealand contingents waving several of their countries’ flags.

Hagen, who calls Riverside, Calif., home and is nicknamed “The Hawk,” could only talk about the crowd after beating Thorson to the finish line by .557 of a second.

“We thank you guys,” said Hagen in a post-race interview on the track, pointing to the appreciative crowd in the stands. “Without you, we wouldn’t be here. And I can’t thank the fans enough who came from New Zealand and Australia.”

Those New Zealand and Australian fans, who probably numbered about 30 or so, had fully expected to see New Zealand superstar Michael Pickens gain the victory. Pickens, who lives in Auckland where crowds of 10,000 are commonplace for the midgets, looked well on his way to the victory through the first half of the 30-lap feature. He dominated the first 15 laps.

Michael Pickens

Michael Pickens

Hagen gradually wore Pickens down, passed him and controlled the race for about 10 laps until a late caution bunched the field together for the restart. Shortly after the restart, Thorson and Pickens — who are teammates — got tangled up between turns and one and two on lap 27. Pickens got the worst of the deal and was forced from the race.

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

Ironically, it is that kind of spirited racing that attracts the 31-year-old Pickens to America. There is no better feeling than being behind the wheel of a race car in the United States, he says.

“It’s the competition, it’s the intensity,” said Pickens, who once had a shot at landing a NASCAR ride with Roush Racing, but was the last driver cut from the team’s development program in 2005.

Surprisingly, Pickens was the only Aussie or New Zealander to make the 23-car lineup for the feature. The rest of the handful of foreign drivers who were in the pits were all eliminated during the prelims.

Tanner Thorson

Tanner Thorson

Ironically, it is Thorson, 18, who may be on the fast track to some sort of NASCAR ride. He’s moving through the ranks at a rapid pace, already having “four or five years” of outlaw karts, plus the world-class POWRi and USAC (United States Auto Club) series on his resume.

“I’ve been able to adapt pretty fast,” said Thorson, who is from Mendon, Nev. “I’d eventually like to reach NASCAR.”

Thorson apologized for the incident with Pickens and accepted the blame.

“I don’t what happened, but I’m sorry about going over top of Michael,” he said.

THORSON, REDDICK FROM SAME MOLD?

Thorson reminds some of another teenager, Tyler Reddick, the “California Kid” who raced a late model twice last year in Quincy. Reddick and his family moved to Illinois specifically to race on the dirt and hopefully attract some attention from NASCAR. He did just that, landing a contract to run more than half of this year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Zach Daum

Zach Daum

Daum, 23, is the defending POWRi champ who will likely end up second this year to Christopher Bell of Norman, Okla. Bell was not in attendance in Quincy, but is expected to rejoin the tour later this week.

Daum, who hails from Pocahontas, Ill., could eventually wind up in a winged sprint car or even a late model. He enjoys both.

“I love the midgets, but they’re a lot more expensive,” Daum said.

A typical midget weighs about 1,000 pounds and produces up to 300 horsepower from its four-cylinder engine. They are intended to be driven for races of relatively short distances, usually 2.5 to 25 miles.

DAUM AGREES WITH PICKENS

The POWRi (Performance Open Wheeled Racing, inc.) cars are part of the Lucas Oil National Midget Series and a rival to the USAC National Midget Series.

Daum also sides with Pickens when it comes to comparing the overall racing experience in Australia and New Zealand to what is found in America.

“It is totally different over there,” Daum said. “We take it more seriously here. It’s like a job. Over there, it’s more like a hobby.”

There were 35 midgets, 39 micro sprints and seven Quincy Raceways UMP modifieds on hand Thursday night.

The midget drivers represented 10 different states.

Frank Flud of Pryor, Okla., won the 20-lap micro sprint main event, holding off Chris Openshaw of Bessemer, Ala. Seven different states were represented in the lineup of micro sprint drivers.

Michael Long

Michael Long

LONG TAKES MODIFIED FEATURE

Michael Long won his second modified feature of the season, taking the lead of from Dave Wietholder on lap 14 of the 20-lap finale. Long and Wietholder battled door-to-door for more than half the race.

The victory helped soothe the memory of last Sunday when Long was leading comfortably in the feature, only to bow out late in the race.

“We broke an axle and we had to put a new rear end in the car (before Thursday night),” Long said.

Long, a two-time track champ, lauded good-friend Wietholder afterward.

“We run each other hard,” Long said. “It’s always fun to go against him.”

Wietholder, who has finished second the last two mod features, ran his streak of consecutive feature starts to 264.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here.

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  1. Travisgrotz says:

    Kenny d good show hope ya bring midgets back to Quincy I would really like to know is why after 3 inces of rain tuesdY night the track was in great shape but last Sunday when it was nice all week and weekend the track was terriable dont quite understand what going here maybe that’s why u only had 7 mods last nite just a thought .

  2. Scott Davidsmeier says:

    Steve, Just a slight correction from your article about the Power-I Midget show last night. Michael Pickens was not the only New Zealander to make the midget feature. Brad Mosen also made the main and was battling for the lead when he and Pickens got together on a re-start. Unfortuately for us all he flipped and was unable to return. Overall, considering the amount of rain they had to deal with to get the showran….Good show! I hadn’t been to Quincy for a couple years, but your coverage of the sprints and especially Paul N. got my attention. Glad I made the trip! Mod’s were awesome last night, Midget feature was good also….keep up the GREAT work!

  3. 2ha says:

    I Say GeT Rid Of The Demo Class On Sundays And Bring Micros To The Weekly Show Ever Sunday You Will Get More Fans And More Cars And Tear A Hell Of Alot Less Stuff Up And Less CautioNs

  4. Keith Pratt says:

    First off, track was great last night. Thank you ciltrac! Let’s hope this is a step in the right direction.

    Second, come on with it dirt wiz! I deserve whatever you can come up with. Classic case of over driving the car.

  5. SKIPP says:

    PERTY GOOD SHOW FELLERS ….
    THOUT IT WAS MIDGET RACES THO ????
    SHORTEST PERSON I SEEN ALL NITE WAS HOFFMAN … THATS WIERD
    .
    SEE YA SUNDAY
    .
    GO AHEAD AND CALL … I AINT DOIN NUTN TDAY

  6. dirt wizard says:

    I don’t know what to say pratt?? Other than the car looked fast until u unloaded it and got in it. Hey at least it wasn’t for points. Your average should still be somewhere around 5 or 6. U basically only finished one car behind ur norm. Good run Pratt racing.

    Dirt Wizard

  7. Drone says:

    I agree on a great track. However it should not have been touched b4 the last two features. Last night in Eldora in sure they didn’t rotilla their track up b4 the a-main.

    But what do I know. …..

    Tommys new nickname is “SINATRA” cuz he’s gonna do it his way. ….

    Drone

    Call the king of track prep cuz he has all the answers

  8. Kenny D says:

    The main thing Tommy was doing with the Roterra prior to the Midget feature was trying to give the midgets a little bite up top in turns 2 and 4 so that the slider could work and put on a good show. We’ve been to plenty of midget races where it’s all around the bottom or all on the cushion with little passing and it’s not great racing. One of the more exciting parts of a midget race are the big sliders and he was wanting to make sure they could find something to munch on at the end of it.

    We talked about it and decided to do it after the Modified race so all of the local guys could have the track they wanted to race on… but still have the most racy possible track for the midgets since it was their first time here and we had a lot of hard core midget fans in the house that came a long way to see a good race. It worked out… this time. It won’t all the time.

  9. KENNY PRATT says:

    Drone: I spoke to Tommy last night and there were some dust concerns by several fans. Great track though, best it’s been all year.

    BIG KP

    Dont call Skipp on Tuesday, he plays softball……

  10. LK says:

    MIDGETS WERE FUN TO WATCH. QR SHOULD GET A FEW OF THEM TO RUN WEEKLY TO BLOW THE CRUMBS OFF THE TOP FOR OUR WEEKLY GUYS. GOOD SHOW CILTRACK. ALWAYS LOVE A GOOD HIGH SIDE RUN.

  11. Gene says:

    Being an open wheel fan I feel like if you dont get dirty at the races you aint been to the races. What a great week for Quincys open wheel fans. Best open wheel week since the Quincy track has been built. Mr Dobson has discovered what people in Quincy have wanted to see for years but previous promoters for whatever reason wouldnt provide By looking at the size of the crowd on last Sunday and Thursday nites I woukd say a huge opportunity has been missed for years by previous promoters.Please bring on more events like these so we can watch real race cars race

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