AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Michael Pickens ran the table during Thursday’s Boxing Day Bash at Western Springs Speedway, taking both the midget and sprint car feature wins.
Pickens came out on top of a war of slide jobs with Peter Hunnibell, who led the first 10 laps of the 30-lapper for the United Truck Parts Int’l Midget Series, then roared away from the field down the stretch to take the win by 1.045 seconds over American Zach Daum.
The first 26 laps of the main event went caution-free, before a flip by Aaron Hodgson set up a four-lap dash to the finish, but Pickens never faltered following the restart.
Thursday’s midget win put to rest several near misses by the New Zealand ace in the United States of late, after he came out on the losing end of a pair of close battles with NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Larson.
“We tried a couple of things on the car since we’ve been running (in) America lately, and I’ve got to take my hat of to Justin Insley (of King Chassis), my crew chief. He got it right on tonight,” Pickens said in victory lane. “We’re maybe lacking a little bit when there’s a big curb like that, but our car was faultless. It was faultless all night.
“This group is a whole bunch of people just going racing and having fun, and we definitely had some fun tonight.”
Pickens, an eight-time New Zealand midget champion, won in his home land on a night when neither Kyle Larson nor Christopher Bell took the green flag.
Larson was eliminated by a heavy flip during the teams heats for top nation honors, while Bell’s evening came to an end during the B-main.
Despite that misfortune for his competitors, Pickens was elated with his victory.
“It’s pretty special,” said Pickens of winning the Boxing Day Bash in his home country. “That international race was pretty unfortunate, because those two guys (Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell) were battling hard before their crashes, and there’s no one better in the world, period, than they are right now. To not have them in the feature … you want to beat them, but we’ll take the win anyhow.”
Daum’s runner-up result was the best by any American in the field, followed by Australians Kaidon Brown and Max Guildford.
“I don’t know if I could have caught him,” said Daum of Pickens. “I was way too tight to run the top like he could. A late-race restart, I might have been able to make him make a mistake, but congrats to him. Pickens ran a great race.”
Tyler Courtney was running fifth at the white flag when he crashed on the last lap and collected fellow Indiana native Zeb Wise, with both cars failing to make it to the finish line.
The sprint car feature saw Pickens lead from wire to wire in that 20-lap affair, beating out Jamie Larsen, Keaton Dahm, Daniel Eggleton and James Dahm.
Midgets (30 laps): 1. 1NZ-Michael Pickens; 2. 9USA-Zach Daum; 3. 3. 97AUS-Kaidon Brown; 4. 79A-Max Guildford; 5. 5A-Brock Maskovich; 6. 91A-Hayden Guptill; 7. 39A-Peter Hunnibell; 8. 7USA-Tyler Courtney; 9. 10USA-Logan Seavey; 10. 4USA-Zeb Wise; 11. 3NZ-Shayne Alach; 12. 10AUS-Travis Mills; 13. 98A-Ryan O’Connor; 14. 18A-Brett Morris Jr.; 15. 99A-Nathan Howard; 16. 57AUS-Robert Heard; 17. 33A-James Cossey; 18. 5USA-Chris Windom; 19. 27A-Hayden Williams; 20. 25A-Aaron Hodgson.
Sprint Cars (20 laps): 1. 3NZ-Michael Pickens; 2. 2NZ-Jamie Larsen; 3. 88M-Keaton Dahm; 4. 78A-Daniel Eggleton; 5. 6M-James Dahm; 6. 22A-Dean Brindle; 7. 12A-Dean Shadbolt; 8. 7USA-Craig Dollansky; 9. 21A-Kerry Brocas; 10. 62A-Dave Witton; 11. 23A-Adam Child; 12. 35A-Rob Vazey; 13. 24A-Tyler Radovan; 14. 78C-Matthew Leversedge; 15. 84P-Dean Cooper; 16. 7A-Dion Kendall (DNS); 17. 92A-Chris Kernohan (DNS); 18. 76A-Steve Smith (DNS); 19. 10A-Glen Torpey (DNS).