Motorsport: Three nations ready to battle for speedway supremacy at Springs

By Taylor Mosen

National midgets champion Michael Pickens will captain the NZ contingent.
National midgets champion Michael Pickens will captain the NZ contingent.

International Teams Racing returns to WXC Speedway at Western Springs with a vengeance tonight as three countries fight for points, pride and a lofty prize pool.

Australia, the United States and New Zealand will each field three drivers for the two international heat races which, unlike previous years, now also offer individual points towards feature-race grid positions.

"The test races will be about winning for your country, but also accumulating enough points to ensure you start near the front of the feature," said Springs Speedway promoter Greg Mosen.

"This newfound importance on teams racing will make for a more exciting spectacle for the fans, with drivers fighting for every position and every point."

Team USA enter the series as favourites with three professional race drivers on their books.

California's Darren Hagen makes his first visit to New Zealand, coming off two USAC National Midget Championships in 2012, alongside another newcomer in 18-year-old Oklahoman Christopher Bell, who won everything there is to win in the USA this year. These two young guns will be marshalled around by 41-year-old speedway icon and Team USA captain Jerry Coons Jr from Indiana.

"It's an honour they chose me to be captain. Either that or it just means I'm the oldest," said former USAC Triple Crown winner Coons Jr.

"We've got an incredible team with both the 2012 and 2013 USAC National Midget Champions so we're pretty confident for tonight's teams racing, although we know the Kiwis are always strong too, having raced Brad Mosen and Michael Pickens in the States this year."

Current New Zealand champion Pickens will captain the local contingent tonight, alongside former International series champion Mosen and current Western Springs points leader Chris McCutcheon.

"We couldn't be happier with the team we've put together," said one of three New Zealand team selectors, Graham Standring.

"Hopefully with a bit of crowd support and hometrack advantage we can keep the trophy in Auckland."

The Australian team have adopted underdog status for the occasion but are not lacking in confidence nor experience.

Current POWRI Australian Midget Super Series champion Nathan Smee is still fighting fit at 40 years old and will captain the Aussie team.

He will be joined by fellow speedway veteran and two-time national midget champion Adam Clarke, as well as 22-year-old rising star Matthew Jackson, who is coming off his first campaign in the US.

Promoters are expecting about 16,000 fans at the track tonight, ready to witness some of the best midget racing ever seen at WXC Speedway - Western Springs.

"We don't get anywhere near the amount of fans at a midget race in the US like we do at the Springs. It's such a cool atmosphere here in Auckland with all the entertainment that goes on off the track too. We just love coming down here," said Coons Jr.

Racing starts at 6.15pm.

- NZ Herald

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