DUQUOIN, Ill. — Danny Stratton has a couple of concrete reasons for believing he’s a threat to win the third annual Battle at the Center, a non-points event with an all-star field sanctioned by the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series, on Saturday at the Southern Illinois Center’s Mini Magic Mile.
Stratton raised his performance level on POWRi’s smaller tracks this season, winning and finishing third at one-fifth mile Belle-Clair Speedway in Belleville, Ill. He also was third and seventh at one-fifth Macon (lll.) Speedway. The skill on tight tracks should convert nicely to the one-sixth mile indoor track at SIR.
“In the past, I kind of struggled on the smaller tracks and excelled on bigger tracks,” Stratton said. “With age or progression, I’m getting better on the shorter tracks. I had a real good year on them.”
Stratton also had 2012 victories in POWRi Nationals at quarter-mile Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway and quarter-mile Jacksonville (Ill.) Speedway. He also had second places at Jacksonville and Peoria (Ill.) Speedway, another quarter-mile. In total, the 32-year-old Brownsburg, Ind., resident had eight top-fives in 11 events.
“I was really happy with my season,” Stratton said. “Other than the fact we struggled at Sun Prairie (Angell Park Speedway in Wisconsin), everywhere we went, we were a threat to win and that’s what you’re after.”
Stratton’s three wins in POWRi were driving for car owner Hans Lien of Edgerton, Wis., and they’ll be united in the Battle at the Center and the Chili Bowl on Jan. 8-12 in Tulsa, Okla. Stratton thinks the performance level of the car, a Spike-Esslinger, has been raised, too.
“I’m coming out with a new car I spent the off-season building,” Stratton said. “We’re kind of shaking it down for the Chili Bowl, but we’re not going there (SIR) and not try to do our best. Hans asked me to drive for him at Du Quoin and the Chili Bowl. I’ve learned some stuff over the years and wanted to incorporate them into a new car. He gave me everything I asked for this race and the Chili Bowl.”
The Battle of the Center has 65 entries that includes three-time National Midget Driver of the Year Bryan Clauson of Noblesville, Ind., 2012 POWRi National Midget champion Andrew Felker of Carl Junction, Mo., POWRi National Midget race winners Tyler Thomas of Collinsville, Okla, Austin Brown of Millstadt, Ill., Nick Knepper of Belleville, Ill., Tim Siner of Dupo, Ill., and Daniel Robinson of Mt. Vernon, Ill., 2012 POWRi National Midget Rookie of the Year Dillon Welch of Carmel, Ind., multi-season USAC Sprint Car champion Levi Jones of Olney, Ill., and NASCAR K&N East Series and Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race winner Tyler Reddick of Corning, Calif.
“The amount of talent (for the Battle of the Center) is like the Chili Bowl,” Stratton said. “It’s the smallest track you can run a Midget on and still have a good show. It’s how they prep it and maintain it and run it. You need a good pill drawl, do well in the heats and I think you need to start in the top two or three rows to win it. It’s tight. I do think I’ve got a chance. For someone who doesn’t run all the time, for as few races I do, I think I can run with anyone.”