A flag-to-flag 30-lap victory saw Auckland driver Michael Pickens extend his tally of New Zealand Speedway titles into double figures at Baypark Speedway on Saturday night.
The nine-time national Midget Car champion achieved a long-awaited success in the Daltons New Zealand Sprint Car Championship, taking his New Zealand title win tally to 10.
“It’s been eight or so years we’ve been trying with some seconds and thirds and we finally did it,’’ said Pickens after leading home California’s Jonathan Allard and Hamilton’s Daniel Thomas in a fast-paced 30-lap final.
“I was fortunate enough to get a good start and just tried to maintain the lead from there. It was hammer down the whole way and it was funny not having any cautions.’’
Allard had to race his way past Thomas to reach second spot and closed the leading margin in the final laps but crossed the finish line 2.0secs behind Pickens.
It was the first time Allard had been beaten in a New Zealand title at Baypark after winning in 2011 and 2016.
“He [Pickens] got a great start and it took me a long time to get past Daniel Thomas who was driving very well,’’ said Allard.
“I was hoping lapped traffic or a yellow might help me.
“But I’m happy. After only racing only a handful of times the last two or three years we have put together a really good team with the Daltons family. It’s great to race for people who believe in me.’’
Hamilton’s Daniel Thomas was impressive throughout both nights and bagged his first podium in the Sprint Car title.
“Right from the start of this season we’ve been coming here [Baypark] in an effort to do well at the New Zealand Champs. I couldn’t be happier,’’ said Thomas.
Former champ Jamie McDonald (Auckland) finished fourth ahead of two other former champions, Christchurch racer Jamie Duff and Hamilton’s Dean Brindle. Defending champion Jamie Larsen (Kapiti) finished ninth.
While the main event ran uninterrupted but there were several incidents in the earlier races. The most spectacular ended the hopes of former champion Rodney Wood (Tauranga) who clipped the back straight wall and rolled his car end-for-end. His only injury was a bruised ankle.