Michael Pickens was declared the winner of the second United Truck Parts International Midget Car Series round at Baypark Speedway after to race was cut short, leaving same teams disappointed with the decision.
After NASCAR star Christopher Bell was pulled from the five-round championship, fellow American driver Kyle Larson failed to appear after he crashed his car in the Boxing Day bash.
A field of 27 cars signed in to Baypark Speedway in Mount Maunganui at a track that had large amounts of rainfall prior to the event. The race format on offer not to the liking of teams to the degree it was changed to a more familiar four-heat, B-Main and A-Main formula.
The first 10-lap heat saw West Auckland’s Brock Maskovich take the win followed by his brother-in-law Pickens and Hayden Williams who muscled his way through a Midget sandwich in the first turn on the wet and greasy track.
Heat 2 had Hamish Dobbyn lead into the first turn but was soon passed by the current USAC National Midget Champion Tyler Courtney who led all laps and won convincingly with BSL Racing team driver Hayden Guptill second followed by Australians Travis Mills and Kaidon Brown.
Max Guilford cartwheeled his car along the wall and out for the night during heat three. Williams taking out this race and earning a pole position start for the Feature race. Jeremy Webb held out a 10th place starting Courtney for second.
American Zeb Wise won the final heat over former Sprintcar driver Ryan O’Connor and Veteran and 3NZ Shayne Alach. Pickens looming but unable to chase down Alach in the closing stages.
Heat race attrition laid waste to several cars, constituting a 10-lap B-Main where all but one of the nine cars entered would make the 24-car starting field for the scheduled 40-lap A-Main.
Waikato’s Kane Buck led green to chequers but was relegated two spots for jumping the start handing the win to Zach Daum and Brown second place.
The undulating surface that upset many cars during the heat racing was still treacherous, promising an element of chance in the nights Feature event.
As the cars rolled out on the track the curfew had become a major threat as the preceding Sprintcar race had torn down a substantial length of safety fencing necessitating a temporary repair and swallowing more precious time.
When the race got under way Williams and Courtney occupied the front row followed by Maskovich, Wise Pickens and Mills.
As the cars passed through turn one for the first time Pickens ran a tight line and came out ahead but not before contact with Williams.
Williams, not content with second, returned the favour smearing his car down the inside of the 8 time National Champion and back into the lead but the move was rescinded when Jayden dodge got tangled with another car, bringing out the caution.
Upon resumption Pickens uncharacteristically botched his P1 staring spot. Pushing and spinning his wheels in the greasy pole line quagmire allowing Williams, Maskovich, Courtney and Mills past.
Courtney then set to work passing first Maskovich then Williams to take the lead and open a small gap which was ended with a yellow flag for 1st time visitor, Australian Robert Heard.
This was followed by several more cautions draining the curfew hourglass of time and 29 laps of racing remaining.
Pickens now restarting in third with a flat left front tyre after contact with Maskovich. Wise in the Seamount Racing car restating beside Pickens in the second row.
The front row paring of Williams and Courtney resumed their high speed chess game at the head of the field. The two drivers balancing speed and stability across the rough track surface.
Three laps shy of the half way mark with no time remaining the race resumed after the final stoppage of the night for Brown who ended on his lid. The green flag waived and Courtney took the lead hugging the pole into turn one and Williams cut a high line.
Courtney hit a wet patch and moved up the track as he re-gathered. This gave a low running Pickens the opportunity to slip by and into the lead. As the lead pair passed under the flag stand the white flag was hastily displayed.
As the field entered the front straight on the 18th lap the chequered flag was displayed to a jubilant Pickens who slapped his mount in appreciation on the cool down lap.
Pickens delighted and surprised of his win said: “I still can’t believe I won that with the left front going down or dead flat.
“That was crazy, it was just so, so treacherous the track! We managed to get two [laps] good enough to give us the lead.”
A third place finishing Williams remarking: “Every time we come here [to Baypark] we never seem to get our Features in which is a bit of a shame.
“It would have been nice to try and race Michael and these guys back. I made one little mistake and all of a sudden the chequered flag comes out, so it’s a bit disappointing.”
Second place Courtney also bemused by the premature finish said: “It’s just kind of frustrating to come all the way across the world to not get to run the full Feature.”
The American professional Champion vented: “If we got to run the full 40 laps I felt like we had a good enough race car to win.”
Guptill, Wise, Webb, Mills, James Cossey, Maskovich and Daum finishing in the top 10.
Pickens now leads the series 74 points to Courtney’s 46 with Daum on 44.
The next round is at Western Springs Speedway on 30 December for the World 30 Lap Derby.
Catch all the action from this meeting on demand at www.speedshifttv.com