Speedway: Michael Pickens defies a puncture to triumph at Baypark
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Eight-time New Zealand midget car champion Michael Pickens (Auckland) grabbed a timely lead to win Saturday night’s international feature race at Baypark Speedway, in spite of battling with a front puncture for most of the race.
Pickens’ car wasn’t graceful on a rutty track but his third win in four years at Baypark’s holiday season international race came as he battled with front runners Hayden Williams (Auckland) and recently crowned United States Auto Club National Midget Car champion Tyler Courtney from Indiana.
Williams and Courtney both took turns out in front on the challenging track but it was Pickens who surged to the lead on a late restart to win a curfew-shortened event with only 18 of the 40 scheduled laps completed.
International Series podium finishers at Baypark Speedway, Hayden Williams, Michael Pickens and Tyler Courtney
"It got shortened but we’ll take it," said Pickens.
"We had a flat left front [tyre] and the car wasn’t real good. I was limited to running on the bottom [of the track] and it was really tricky to get every lap right but, luckily, we got the last two laps right with no mistakes and got us a win."
It gives Pickens a perfect scorecard after two rounds of the United Truck Parts International Series. He won the Boxing night series opener at Auckland’s Western Springs.
Pickens blasted his Toyota-powered King chassis from the third row of the grid into an early lead but then slipped back on the next couple of restarts, at one point falling as deep in the pack as sixth place before racing back into contention.
He was in position to fire his car underneath Courtney and Williams on the final restart of what turned out to be a two-lap sprint to the curfew-enforced chequered flag.
Fourth place went to Auckland’s Hayden Guptill ahead of 17-year-old Indiana racer Zeb Wise who had shown strong pace in the heat races. South Island champ Jeremy Webb (Christchurch) was sixth ahead of Victoria’s Travis Mills who was the best of the Australian trio in seventh spot.
After big crashes at Western Springs less than 48 hours earlier, the Baypark round didn’t get to see NASCAR stars Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell in action.
Former national champion Rodney Wood (Tauranga) raced clear to win a sprint car feature race that was shortened when second placed Kendall Savage flipped his car and tore down a section of the safety fence.
The International Midget Car Series continues tonight at Western Springs in Auckland and the fourth round visits the Huntly Speedway on January 1.