PONTOON BEACH, Ill. — Terry Babb drove to his first victory in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series Thursday, leading the final 22 laps and finishing six car lengths in front of Zach Daum at Tri-City Speedway.
The 47-year-old Babb is a veteran sprint car, Silver Crown and dirt late model racer, but this is his first season in a midget. It came in his 15th midget start, all in POWRi.
“It’s cool,” Babb said. “We’ve got this new Fontana (engine) and there’s no way we could have competed with our old motor on this track.”
Babb traded a sprint car for the midget, a five-year-old Spike, late last year and decided to try it out at POWRi’s non-points Battle at the Center on the indoor track at Du Quoin, Ill., in December.
“I really don’t know why I did it,” Babb said of the trade. “I’d never driven a midget at all. I decided to enter Du Quoin and had a whole lot of fun.”
Babb opened the season with a 20-year-old Ford/Fontana motor and used it in the opening nine races of the season. He had respectable results, making eight features with a pair of 11ths his best finishes.
“My buddy Mike Schlattweiler stepped in and bought me a new Fontana,” Babb said.
Babb won his heat, started on pole and led the opening two laps on the high line. Second-starting Daum ran the inside, took the lead on the third lap and pulled away.
Babb regained the lead on the first restart on the ninth lap and pulled out to a commanding advantage. Shane Cockrum passed Daum on the 17th lap for second and began closing the gap to Babb. Cockrum got the caution he needed to move within striking distance on the 25th lap, but fell out when the box that holds the battery fell off the chassis under the yellow and disconnected it.
Daum was second, with two lapped cars between him and Babb, for the restart with six laps remaining, and wasn’t able to challenge in his Toyota-powered Eagle.
“Our car was really good early, but I knew something had gone wrong by the first yellow,” Daum said. “We had a shock spacer fall off the left front and it upset our handling”
Daum entered the 14th event of the POWRi season in second place in the points, trailing Andrew Felker by 340 points. The rear end on Felker’s Spike-Fontana failed when his team began to push it to the grid and he was unable to start. Daum chopped Felker’s lead to 160 points, 2,070-1,910.
“I hate it for him because they’re a good team and good people and they’re friends of mine,” Daum said. “Andrew had been so consistent that even when we finished in front of him, we were gaining points 10 and 20 at a time. We needed a big gain and we got it.”
Blackhurst’s third was his best finish of the season. The 17-year-old started seventh and was running fifth for the final restart on lap 25.
“The caution saved us,” Blackhurst said. “I was as loose as you could be and was able to adjust the shocks under the caution and tighten it up. I put it on top and ran the heck out of it after the last restart. I’m really happy with third.”
Justin Grant, who moved into Steve Hmiel’s 3 Wide Life Midget when Levi Jones retired earlier this season, finished fourth and Tyler Robbins was fifth.
Terry Babb, Zach Daum, Jake Blackhurst, Justin Grant, Tyler Robbins, Parker Price-Miller, Tyler Thomas, Chett Gehrke, Seth Motsinger, Alex Sewell, Colten Cottle, Daniel Adler, Danny Frye, Austin Brown, Shane Cockrum, Nick Knepper, Garrett Aitken, Jake Neuman, Andy Malpocker, Brian Reick, Andrew Felker, Ted Kirkpatrick.