American Bryan Clauson beat off all challengers to win the King of the Springs 40-lap midget event at WXC Speedway, Western Springs on Wednesday night.
Indiana-native Clauson was locked deep in battles for the entire race as fellow Americans Rico Abreu and Darren Hagen, as well as Kiwi Michael Pickens, threw everything they had at the 24-year-old.
Forty laps is a tough distance, however, and in the end Clauson was the only driver of those four battlers to finish on the podium.
"I knew the longer the race went, the better we would get. It's just kind of the way it always goes for me, so I just tried to stay patient early on in the race and keep it on all four wheels," said two-time USAC National Midget Series champion Clauson.
"I wanted to try the bottom of the racetrack but when Pickens took away the line there we had to go up high. I made a few adjustments in the cockpit and saddled up for elbows up-style racing. We knew we were faster on equal track and eventually got there around the outside.
"I had a couple of fierce battles in that one so just happy we could get up and find a way to the line first."
Local youngster Brock Mascovich emerged second while Australian Nathan Smee passed two cars on the last corner of the race to finish third.
Clauson, who competed in the 2012 Indy 500, was left out of Team USA on Boxing Day and admitted there was an element of redemption in getting this win.
"It definitely puts a chip on your shoulder to not be selected for something like that when you've come all this way.
"It makes you want to sweep every night to prove a point, so this was really good for us and hopefully we can keep it going," he said.
Saturday night hosts the race of the season at WXC Speedway - Western Springs: the World 50-lap Midget Classic. Gates open at 4pm with racing starting at 6.15pm.
"I'm ready for the 50 [-lap race] here in Auckland now. I've won the 25, the 30 and the 40 twice now, but there's still one gaping hole to fill, and I like our chances," said Clauson.