DUQUOIN, Ill. — Chett Gehrke will continue his comeback from an injury that ended his strong regular season in August in the third annual Battle at the Center on Dec. 15, a non-points event sanctioned by the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series at the Southern Illinois Center’s Mini Magic Mile.
Gehrke had clinched the inaugural championship in the POWRi Lucas Oil West Series and was second, 50 points behind to Andrew Felker when he suffered a broken collarbone in a crash in the POWRi National feature at Belle-Clair Speedway on Aug. 12. The 28-year-old was eighth in the POWRi National championship despite missing the last nine events.
Gehrke, driving in the Ecotec/Focus Midget feature, finished second in his return to racing last Saturday (Dec. 1) in the Longhorn Shootout at Diamond W Arena in Alvarado, Texas. It was the first time he’d driven since being injured.
“I led every lap until coming down the front straight (on the final lap) and got passed by Tyler Thomas,” Gehrke said. “He moved me out of the way. But I guess it was still pretty good. I felt all right in the car.”
Gehrke will also drive his Ecotec-powered Midget at Du Quoin. It produces 240 horsepower, about 140 less than the full-powered Midget engines from Fontana, Esslinger and Toyota, but he finished third with it a year ago in the Battle of the Center on the tight one-sixth mile track.
“There were different places on the track that I needed more horsepower, but it kept up (with the higher-powered cars),” Gehrke said. “I like racing this car. It’s fun to drive.”
Gehrke has driven for car owner Skip Matteson of Salina, Kan., for the past four seasons and will continue with him in 2013, but that Midget is being prepared for January’s Chili Bowl.
Gehrke had seven top fives and nine top 10s in 18 events in POWRi National Midgets this season. He was fifth in the series in 2011 with three top fives and 11 top 10s in 22 events.
Prior to focusing on POWRi, Gehrke won the Southern Midget Racing Series championship in 2010 and the USAC Indiana Ford Focus title in 2007.