Tyler Thomas and Jake Blackhurst will be attempting to capitalize on POWRi Racing’s inaugural Speed Week, four events in four consecutive nights on tracks in Illinois starting Thursday (June 6) at Jacksonville Speedway, to solidify their contention for the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series championship.
Badger will co-sanctioning the Midgets and Speed Week also includes New Zealand’s Michael Pickens and Brad Mosen, USAC triple crown winner Jerry Coons Jr. and, at Jacksonville, NASCAR Nationwide regular Justin Allgaier in a Spike-Esslinger for owner Ebby Bergfield.
The POWRi Speedway Motors 600cc Outlaw Micro Series is also racing in the four Speed Week events.
After Jacksonville, Speed Week travels to Lincoln Speedway on Friday, Macon Speedway on Saturday and Vermillion County Speedway in Danville on Sunday. The winner’s purse at Vermillion County for midgets will be $3,000 and for micros $1,000, above the normal POWRi payouts of $2,000 for midgets and $700 for micros.
Thomas is third with 490 points and Blackhurst is fourth with 460. Andrew Felker is the leader with 610 and Zach Daum is second with 520.
Thomas and Blackhurst are 17 years old and in their third season in POWRi Midgets. POWRi’s Midgets have run only four events because of rainouts this season and both drivers are ready to tackle the demanding competition and pace of Speed Week.
“I’m really excited about it,” Thomas said. “I want to race as much as I possibly can. Getting in a rhythm is probably the key to midget week. The setups and tracks are all different. I’ve been fortunate to have been to all the tracks I have and being able to adapt to them really quickly. I’ve never been to Vermillion county and I’m excited about it because I love going to new tracks.”
Thomas finished sixth at Jacksonville on April 26 and second at Macon on May 18. He won at Macon in the next-to-last race of 2012.
“I think we can get our first win this week,” Thomas said. “I really enjoy going to Jacksonville, it’s my favorite track, and we’ve had some good runs there. We have a good shot at our first win of the season, maybe two.
“Any POWRi race, the competition is tough with Felker, Daum, Blackhurst and some others. Brad Kuhn is always tough to beat and he’s leading the Badger points. I’m sure Speed Week will bring some of the USAC drivers. I’m excited about running against them.”
Blackhurst, the POWRi Midget Rookie of the Year in 2011 and fourth in the championship a year ago, finished eighth at Jacksonville and sixth at Macon this season. He was sixth and fourth in the two stops at Jacksonville last season.
“I love Jacksonville,” Blackhurst said. “I think we’ve got a pretty good shot at winning there. We came up to fifth earlier this year and fell back. Macon is one of my favorite tracks, definitely a driver’s track. We started towards the back and moved up to sixth and ran out of laps.
“I’d imagine we’ll have some pretty big names in Speed Week. Lately, I’ve been running good, running right there with them. At Macon, I was trying to pass (Bryan) Clauson (who finished fourth) and Jerry Coons (who fell out, finishing 18th) and it makes you more excited and you push hard to pass them. I’m chasing the championship and there isn’t any reason we shouldn’t finish in the top five every race. I learned a lot last year and I think we’ll get a few wins this year. We just need to take the races one at a time.”
Pickens enters Speed Week with victories in five straight starts in POWRi Midgets. He won at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wis., to open his American tour on May 25. Mosen was fourth.