Kiwi speedway ace Michael Pickens sets up his own team
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New Zealand's leading speedway racer will run his own team this season with Michael Pickens going out on his own.
The national midget champion will contest a full summer in both midgets and sprint cars after confirming his own team in the midget class to run the GVI CRC 1NZ car.
"It will be my first time running my own race car," Pickens told The Herald. "It has its advantages - the lack of outlay where you just turn up and drive - but owning your own race car you do get a bit more control over what happens and when it happens."
Pickens enjoyed a good relationship with Seamount Racing, who ran his midget for him last season, but he was forced to find a different drive heading into the 2017-18 season.
"Seamount Racing decided they didn't want to field any cars anymore so that left us in a position where I felt it would be a good opportunity to do it myself while keeping all the same people around me.
"We started from scratch. Justin Insley, who built the cars for Seamount, is building the car for us and he will crew chief it.
"It is essentially the same car and I am confident it will be a great package."
Pickens will defend his midget crown while also having a serious crack at winning the sprint car title after the schedules allowed for an attempt at both.
"That is the plan to run both cars almost every night at the Springs and then we have the Rolling Thunder series, which we will run both cars in. It is a pretty packed schedule but I am confident we can nail it.
"That has always been the goal - to win both. In the past we have struggled to compete in both because there are usually clashes. This year the sprint cars are at Western Springs and the midgets are at Huntly and they are only one week apart."
Pickens is also looking forward to taking on one of the best in the business at home. After a successful winter, where he impressed against the world's best drivers in the United States, the Aucklander will get to go head-to-head with NASCAR legend Tony Stewart, who is making a cameo appearance in New Zealand in December.
"It is pretty cool - I have raced against him before in a midget but not in a sprint car. He is an absolute legend of the sport and he is quite and ambassador.
"It will be awesome for fans to have Tony Stewart racing in front of them."
The season gets underway in the first week of November.
- Dale Budge, NZ Herald