Eight-time New Zealand midget car champion Michael Pickens, of Auckland, grabbed a timely lead to win Saturday night's international feature race at Baypark Speedway, despite 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 frontrunners Hayden Williams, of Auckland, and recently crowned United States Auto Club National Midget Car champion Tyler Courtney from Indiana.
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Williams and Courtney 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.
"It got shortened but we'll take it," Pickens said.
"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 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, of Christchurch, was sixth ahead of Victoria's Travis Mills who was the best of the Australian trio in seventh spot.
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Plenty going on over January for Tauranga
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, of 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.
Dan Corrin led home Matt Smith and Bodie Abrahamson in the Super Saloon car feature race.
Super saloon success
Tauranga's Sam Waddell is the most recent winner in the Burger King Pro Dirt Super Saloon Car Series after a victory at Napier's Meeanee Speedway on Friday night.
Waddell led home fellow Baypark racer Matt Smith in the 30-lap feature race with round three winner Steve Flynn, of Napier, completing the podium and Baypark racer Scott Hayward taking fourth place.
With four of the seven rounds completed, Waddell leads Cowling 918 points to 900 with Hayward third on 885.