In the southern hemisphere there is no debate the most prestigious Midget car race on this half of the planet is the Western Springs Speedway 50 lap classic.
The 41st running of this world renowned race also capped off the six-round United Truck Parts International Midget Car Series. New Zealand’s Michael Pickens won the opening two rounds, while NASCAR superstar Kyle Larson won round two.
Round four went to current United States Auto Club National Sprintcar Champion Tyler Courtney and in round five Larson got his second when of the series.
The format for this event was different from the previous rounds. This time three cars at a time performed two qualification laps with United States Auto Club National Midget Car champion Logan Seavey with the quickest single lap in a time of 13.868 seconds.
Oklahoma’s Christopher Bell was only 0.086 seconds behind followed by Matt Smith of Australia, Pickens and Australian National Champion Kaidon Brown qualifying fifth.
After the 34-car field time trialled, cars that timed 19th and slower were split into two semi-main 10-lap races with the top four advancing to occupy the rear grids the 50 Lap race.
Former 50 lap winner Shayne Alach started from the front row in the first semi-main but was overtaken by New Zealand test team member Brock Maskovich who went on to win the race with Chris McCutcheon and Caleb Antonio Rooney also advancing through.
The second semi-main saw Auckland’s Max Guilford lead the opening portion of the race until the caution came out for an upside down Brad Hollier.
Upon race resumption Guilford once again lead but the yellow lights were soon on for Hayden Guptill. Going across the start finish line BSL racing driver Guptill was squeezed out to the wall and made contact but continued on seemingly unaffected.
Unbeknownst to all his car incurred damage that set off a horrific spectacle of cartwheeling metal that careered into the fence and wall in town bend
Collective held breaths were released as Guptill was seen to be moving inside the buckled chassis. The car and safety equipment working well and absorbing the majority of the force. Afterwards Guptill complaining only of banging one arm.
Guildford won semi-main two with American Chris Windom, Scott Buckley and James Cossey also locking themselves in to the rear of the feature race grids.
The faster remaining 18 drivers advanced directly from qualifying into the A and B Dash.
Qualifiers 10 to 18 contested the 10 lap B-dash that was won by Larson with Courtney second and Christchurch’s Jeremy Webb in a borrowed car third. Larson and Courtney advanced to the rear of the a-dash.
Finishing order from the a-dash would determine the first five rows of the main race. Pickens and Bell made their way to the front early as Seavey drifted wide in the Turn 4 spinning his wheels and dropping back into third place ahead of Brad Mosen and Seavey teammates Zac Daum
Bell held off Pickens for the win and pole position with Seavey, Mosen and Daum maintaining their top five positions. Courtney and Larson moved up from the back with Hayden Williams, Matt Smith and Brown occupying the next five rows of the 50 Lap Classic.
As the first lap of 50 began Pickens used his outside front row starting position to take the lead as Bell also moved to the high side behind Pickens followed by Mosen and Seavey. Courtney started from grid six and was up to third place buy lap five.
Larson then drove inside and passed Mosen into fifth at the same time Bell began to challenge Pickens for the lead.
Pickens holding off Bell and maintaining point. The majority of the field now running high through the turns. On lap 12 Courtney’s New Zealand tour came to an end when he pulled in with a broken throttle linkage.
The more of the high line that was used the further up the track the cushion moved becoming precariously close to the wall.
With 20 laps in the books the leaders encountered lap traffic as Bell began his assault on Pickens crossing in front of him numerous times only for Pickens to drive back passed until eventually relenting to the ever persistent Bell.
Seavey was just behind the leaders watching the battle and staying close picking off lap traffic. As Bell began to open up a slight advantage over Pickens, Larson went to work on Seavey for third securing the position on lap 27.
At this time Taylor Clarke found himself up and over the cushion and bounced into the path of a following Larson whose car took an impact but continued on as the caution lights came out.
Larson use the restart to great effect working his way up from fourth then into second passed Pickens to sit behind Bell.
Meanwhile mid pack movers were Hunnibell from 14th to eighth, Maskovich from 15th to ninth and Shayne Alach from 19th to 10th.
On lap 37 Seavey got to the tail of Pickens and began throwing slide jobs at the local driver however Pickens was unable to fend him off Seavey moved into third.
With eight laps to go the field was once again bunched together for a double wide restart.
As the leaders went through town bend Larson’s car bicycled up with his inside tyres leaving the ground. Already running the high line, only feet from the wall, Larson’s car tumbled heavily and came to rest all it’s bent haunches.
The driver ok but disappointed to have junked such a quality car. This put Pickens back on tin second behind Bell for the remaining seven laps as Maskovich and Williams worked their way into fourth and fifth to sit behind Seavey now third.
Bell was able to hold off Pickens for the win who was followed closely home by Seavey in third. Maskovich and Daum completing the top five. Williams Hunnibell, Alach, Mosen and Australian Smith finishing in the top 10.
Bell celebrated by performing doughnuts at each end of the track before parking his ride on the infield to an appreciative crowd.
“We’ve been extremely fast all week long and it just hasn’t worked out for us so glad we got to win one down here because I feel like we had the car to win we just haven’t been able to capitalise on bet,” Bell said.
“It’s an honour to come out and race in front of a crowd like this.”
“Chris was the class of the field. We’ve got to remember we are racing against full-time NASCAR guys here they are the best,” P ickens said.
When asked about the lapped traffic Seavey said; “When you’re racing with Chris he’s the best in the world just getting through lap traffic.
“We just kind of got bubbled up on that restart, everyone saw five to go and kind of lost their heads and ran into each other coming to the green,” he added with a grin.
“Which dropped me back a couple of spots but I was able to fight back up to third. Overall a lot of fun and awesome race track and thank you fans for coming out.”