MARION, Ill. — Chris Andrews led an Oklahoma assault on the opening night of the Keizer Wheels 66 Mike Phillips Memorial, winning the feature Thursday in the POWRi Speedway Motors 600cc Micro Series at Southern Illinois Raceway.
Andrews, a 27-year-old from Tulsa, Okla., led the final six laps in the 30-lap race after Chris Bell dropped out with a drive-chain failure. Bell had been the runaway leader for the initial 24 laps.
Trent Beckinger finished second, followed by Scott Sawyer, Blake Hahn and Trey Marcham. The top-four advanced to Saturday’s feature, which will pay $10,000 to win from a total purse of $35,000.
The second-year event attracted 99 entries and the 24 starters in the feature had to finish in the top-four in six qualifying races.
The format will be repeated Friday with the top four in the feature also earning guaranteed spots in Saturday’s feature. The cars which have advanced will race in a dash Saturday to determine their starting positions in the top eight.
Andrews had never raced at Southern Illinois Raceway, but he found the track to be very similar to his home track of Port City Raceway in Tulsa. Both are one-eighth mile.
“This track a lot like our home track, just a little bit longer,” Andrews said. “That helped. Chris (Bell) was wicked fast and he had the race won. I feel badly for him. I was riding along in second and waiting for Chris to make a mistake and get a chance to pass. I was going to be very happy with finishing in the top four. For our first time here, I’m really pleased. This event is a big, big deal.”
Beckinger, the 2011 POWRi champion and second to Bell in the event-concluding feature a year ago, also achieved his objective of advancing to Saturday’s feature.
“It feels great to be up here and get to rest on Friday,” Beckinger said. “It’s a big advantage. We don’t have all the wear and tear of running an extra day and we can go through the car and make sure we’re ready. We know we’ll be starting in the top eight.
“I’m the only non-Oklahoma driver in the top four. That feels good.”
Perhaps the happiest driver in the top four was Sawyer, who owns the chassis company. The 35-year-old finished third in the featured finale a year ago.
“I couldn’t ask for a better night,” Sawyer said. “It’s amazing. We had seven of the top 10 cars. Our cars are good here. Obviously, they like this race track. I used the same setup from last year. It’s great to be in the (Saturday) feature. You don’t take the chance of getting caught up in someone’s wreck and tearing the car up and you can watch all the racing and see what people are doing. You lose a little track time, but you gain a lot more.”
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