GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. (June 8, 2012)—New Zealand star Michael Pickens finished two car lengths ahead of Brett Anderson to win the combined POWRi Lucas Oil National/West Midget Series event Friday at Valley Speedway.
It was the third straight POWRi victory over the past two seasons for Pickens, a four-time New Zealand Midget champion. The 29-year-old went two-for-two in 2011, winning at Fayette County Speedway in Brownstown, Ill., and Peoria (Ill.) Speedway. Pickens also has POWRi victories in 2005 and 2007 and has additional victories in major series in Australia and the United States.
Pickens and Anderson, the 2008 POWRi champion and 2012 points leader, dueled furiously following a restart with two laps remaining on the fast one-third mile track. Pickens, driving his Breka-Esslinger that was shipped from New Zealand, started on the outside of the front row next to Tyler Thomas and passed the pole sitter for the lead on the eighth of 30 laps. Anderson’s Fontana-powered XXX had started seventh, the inside of the fourth row, and had passed Thomas for second on the 27th lap.
Anderson, of Belleville, Ill., tried to pass Pickens on the final lap, diving low in Turn Three and sliding briefly in front at the entrance to Turn Four. But Pickens was able to put the power down and accelerate out of the corner to the checkered flag in front of Anderson.
“It was an awesome finish,” Pickens said.
“I thought we had him, but I couldn’t’ make it stick,” Anderson said.
Pickens was able to overtake Thomas by changing lines from the outside to the inside. He had a tremendous restart on the sixth lap to stay inches behind Thomas, who was running the outside line, for two laps before gong into the lead exiting Turn Two on the inside.
“The track changed,” Pickens said. “We went from the top to the middle to the bottom. I chose to run the bottom on the restart and it’s how I got past him.”
Anderson was attempting to win his third straight race at Valley.
“I wanted to get it, but second is not bad,” Anderson said. “There was a lot of tough competition here.”
Thomas was third for the final restart, but had lost his brakes. Rico Abreu of Rutherford, Calif., driving a Toyota-powered Bullet for Keith Kunz Motorsports, passed Thomas exiting Turn Two and finished third. Abreu had started 11th, the inside of the sixth row.
“I searched the race track and when the track got slicker, I started driving a lot straighter and passed,” Abreu said. “I got a big run off the top in Turn Two on the final lap and passed Thomas.”
Jonathan Beason of Broken Arrow, Okla, finished fourth and Blake Hahn of Sapulpa, Okla., was fifth.
Thomas, of Collinsville, Okla., faded to ninth.
“I had an awesome race car,” he said. “You need brakes to turn it. We’ve been fast a lot this season and one of these days, I’m going to close the deal.”
The POWRi National/West Midget Series races tonight (Saturday, June 9) at Springfield (Mo.) Raceway. Pickens says he’ll be there for his final POWRi event of the season.
POWRi Lucas Oil National/West Midget Series results (30 laps): 1. Michael Pickens, 2. Brett Anderson, 3. Rico Abreu, 4. Jonathan Beason, 5. Blake Hahn, 6. Chett Gehrke, 7. Ryan Criswell, 8. Austin Brown, 9. Tyler Thomas, 10. Brad Kuhn, 11. Tyler Robbins, 12. Ryan Bernal, 13. Chris Bell, 14. Cameron Hagin, 15. Andrew Felker, 16. Riley Emmel, 17. Gavin Galbraith, 18. Todd McVay, 19. Andy Malpocker, 20. Tim Siner, 21. Jake Blackhurst, 22. Dillon Welch.
For more information, go to www.POWRi.com.