Michael Pickens made the best possible start to the Auckland speedway season with comfortable wins in the Midget and Sprintcar divisions at Western Springs Speedway
The newly branded ‘Springs Speedway’, held it’s opening night meeting amidst touch and go weather conditions. The Auckland crowd filed through the gates to see fireworks on the track and to close out the event.
The clay oval, having been prepared under threat of rain, delivered a testing surface that yielded a mix of close fast racing throughout the evening but caught several drivers out who ended their opening night parked on the infield.
The Midget class always delivers excitement and opening night was no different. In heat race one HLR Racing’s Chris McCutcheon rocketed out to an impressive lead over Brock Maskovich and eventually won by a straightaway, however, he pulled off in his second race and was unable to start the feature. Other heat race winners were Brad Mosen, Shayne Alach and Michael Pickens who won both his heats.
Pickens, as top qualifier, drew a marble that inverted the front two rows placing Alach and himself on the second row behind Mosen and McCutcheon’s teammate Leon Burgess.
Mosen got out to an early lead but was passed by Pickens on lap three of the 25-lap race on a track that had developed several bottom groove holes to keep all drivers in check. Mosen bobbled after finding a hole in Town Bend that cost him several positions and he ultimately finished the night parked up after a spark plug lead came off on lap 17 .
Kumeu driverJames Earl was taken to hospital for observation after a lap seven feature race tumble saw his Midget car make contact with the wall, which left him dazed and requiring assistance to be removed from his vehicle. He was awake and alert but, like his car, very much second hand.
There were several other stoppages that took out multiple cars with only 11 of the 24 car field finishing.
Pickens was joined on the Midget podium by Maskovich and Alach with Hamilton’s Kane Buck making it a top four result for King Midget Chassis, which continue to dominate the Auckland Midget car scene. Thomas Mclean was the hard charger coming from grid 23to finish fifth.
In Sprintcars national champion Kerry Brocas manoeuvred around the outside of Christchurch’s Matthew Leversedge on the opening lap to win heat one.
Heat two concluded with Kapiti Coast competitor and former national champion Jamie Larsen and Tokaroa’s Keaton Dahm finishing ahead of Dean Brindle who has early season race laps by way of a trip to Valvoline Speedway in Sydney Australia.
In heat three the Enzed sponsored Sprintcar of Daniel Eggleton was relegated two positions after a race start infringement. Eggleton’s night did not improve much after a late feature race spin left him with nowhere to go, deflating his left rear tyre.
With a third-place finish in heat one and winning heat four, Pickens had earned top spot for the 20-lap Final. He won the start but the victory was anything but assured as lap traffic came into play and he found himself confronted with a mid-corner spinning Sprintcar rookie, Steve Smith, who was coming to grips with the 750+ horsepower beneath his foot.
Pickens made a last second cut to the right to avoid the strewn Smith. He was sandwiched by Larsen who attempted to capitalise on the situation slipping down the inside of Smith and Pickens but was unable to retain the spot at the end of the straightaway.
Jamie McDonald started out of grid four and spent most of the race in third but had contact with James Dahm who was unable to continue. MacDonald ended up stationary by the wall but was given a restart and came home a hard fought third ahead of Brindle and Leversedge.
“I guess I’ve been unlucky the previous two weeks so you have to get your breaks when you can,” Pickens said.
“Obviously I made a big mistake and down there [in Pine Tree Bend] and found the wall. Lucky to get away with it” Pickens said of his luck and early season crashes.
“I don’t know if that was good management or good luck but we got around him and that’s all that matters.”
The race proceedings were finished off with a fireworks display that matched the great nights racing at the historic venue.
Next Saturday 10 Sprintcar drivers will have a chance to earn $1 million dollars in a single lap.
Drivers completing their second pole shuffle lap by their exact nominated time by three decimal points, will take home a share of a million New Zealand dollars.
The Kiwikidz Quarter Midgets were a clean sweep for Emerson Vincent who picked up a pair of heat race wins, which put him on pole position for the feature. Vincent lead from the start and pulled away to win in convincing fashion, picking up where he left off last season after dominating the class.Vincent was joined on the podium by Regan Edwards and Dylan Cooke, while Keiano Weir and Cole Robertson rounded out the top five.
Race two for the Kiwikids was declared after Nicholas Pinkerton flipped.
Early heat race wins in the 28-car TQ Midget field went to current Auckland Club champion Scott Baker form the front, TQ engine building maestro Gina Harris and a pair of wins to 2NZ Ryan Baker, younger brother of Scott.
As high point man, Baker opted to start outside the front row alongside Ryan Barry who had a second and a fourth in his heats. Baker won the start and was unchallenged and pulled out to maintain a healthy lead, winning the 12-lap race by over two and a half seconds over Barry while Hawke’s Bay TQ veteran Duane Todd completed the podium. Kaleb Currie and Father of Ryan and Scott, Lawrence Baker rounded out the top five.
The F2 Midgets started their season’s points championship with former karting front runner Aaron Hodgson firing the opening salvo with a heat race win over F2 rookie and son of Midget standout Chris McCutcheon. Dairy Flat’s Corbin Anderson who had two second place finishes in his heat races drove well and opened up a lead on the field in the feature that took him to victory over fellow front row starter and second generation driver Ben Cometti. Third place starter Lindsey Gate maintained his position to come home on the podium ahead of McCutcheon and Eric Smith. Defending series champion Nathan Howard pulled off with one lap to go with engine issues.
If you missed the action the full nights racing can be found on www.speedshifttv.com.