Aucklander Michael Pickens delighted fans by beating the Americans to win his fourth World 50-lap Classic midget car event at Western Springs.
Aucklander Michael Pickens delighted hometown fans by beating the Americans to win his fourth World 50-lap Classic midget car event at WXC Speedway, Western Springs, on Saturday night.
The crowd of 14,500 roared with every passing manoeuvre made by Kiwis Pickens and Brad Mosen.
"That crowd was just awesome, man, this is the only place in the world that you can come to race and have thousands of people on their feet cheering, and I mean that," said New Zealand champion Pickens. "People probably don't realise how wicked this place is, but it's truly magic."
Pickens started on pole after advancing forward in the qualifying heats and saw off a fierce challenge by American Rico Abreu in the early stages of the race, before Abreu dropped a cylinder in his engine.
The next group of Americans to make it difficult for the Kiwi was Christopher Bell, Darren Hagen and Bryan Clauson.
But with 12 laps remaining all three US drivers were involved in a tangle, that also took out hard-charging Mosen, who had passed 18 cars and was showing promise.
In the end, though, it was Pickens who took the chequered flag, followed by a restarted Clauson and Brock Mascovich.
"Those Americans had their noses in front a few times but I was getting out wide on those restarts which seemed to be helping," said Pickens.
"Those guys are the best in the world so it's special to beat them."
The midgets will be taking a short break from the New Zealand scene as they head to Australia for three rounds of the Midget World Series.
Meanwhile, Pickens will soon return to the sprintcar division, where he has plied his trade with limited success this season.
"I've been out of the sprintcar for a while now, but we have the New Zealand championships coming up and we should be okay once I get a bit of seat time," he said.
The next meeting at Western Springs is the Barry Butterworth Classic on February 22, in which the fastest cars will come from the rear of the grid in all classes.