GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. – After enduring a winless POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League season in 2019 that was cut short due to a concussion, three-time champion Zach Daum came back with a vengeance Saturday night at Valley Speedway.
Daum waged war with polesitter and early leader Hank Davis at the mid-point of the 30-lap kickoff to the Mid-State Open Wheel Nationals before powering to the inside in turn two and taking firm command out front.
Once he got the lead on lap 16, Daum never gave it up again en route to the 20th victory of his POWRi national midget career and his first series win since 2018.
The Pocahontas, Ill., native took the checkered flag .353 seconds ahead of runner-up and debuting series rookie Emerson Axsom, though Daum tipped in victory lane there were struggles throughout the main.
“I battled my foot falling asleep a couple of years ago, and I just did it again tonight, so I couldn’t really feel the (gas) pedal or where it was. I was just trying to run as hard as I could,” said Daum, who tied Logan Seavey for fifth on the all-time series win list. “It was wide open or it was no throttle, so I just tried to use momentum and find as much moisture down there on the bottom as I could.
“I saw him poke his nose out a couple of times when I was racing Hank (Davis), so I knew he was coming,” Daum added of Axsom. “I just knew I couldn’t make any mistakes, and thankfully we didn’t and got the job done.”
Saturday’s race was the season opener for the POWRi national midgets, after the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the sports world delayed the start of the season for nearly two full months. It was broadcast live on POWRi TV, part of the SPEED SPORT Network.
Davis looked to be the man in control for much of the race, mastering four restarts in the first 14 laps and pulling away from Daum each time, but when the green waved on lap 15 Davis finally slipped.
Staying high as Daum looked low, Davis edged out the No. 5d at the crossed flags, but Daum used the short way around to complete the pass in turns one and two and took off from that point on.
Daum opened up a second over the field approaching 10 to go, as Axsom and Jake Neuman also dispatched a fading Davis for position, but when Karter Sarff’s engine expired on lap 21 it set up a sprint to the finish that left the result somewhat in question.
Axsom, who was making his maiden POWRi start for veteran team owner Scott Petry, did all he could when racing resumed.
He railed the top of the track and closed to within a car length of Daum on lap 24, but Daum inched away over the closing stages and the 15-year-old Axsom was forced to settle for a runner-up finish.
Neuman crossed in third, ahead of Davis and Ace McCarthy. Outside polesitter Sam Johnson, Luke Howard, Andrew Felker, Don Droud Jr. and Trey Gropp completed the top 10.
The POWRi National Midget League continues its season with a second complete program at Valley Speedway on Sunday night. All POWRi events are broadcast live through POWRi TV.
RESULTS: POWRi National Midget League; Valley Speedway; May 23, 2020
Heat #1 (8 laps): 1. Luke Howard, 2. Jake Neuman, 3. Emerson Axsom, 4. Trey Gropp, 5. Ace McCarthy, 6. Kade Morton, 7. Bryson Smith, 8. Jeff Stasa, 9. Heath Murry (DNS).
Heat #2 (8 laps): 1. Chance Morton, 2. Sam Johnson, 3. Hank Davis, 4. Chad Frewaldt, 5. Tristin Thomas, 6. Merril Lamb, 7. Zac Taylor, 8. Tanner Allen, 9. Wesley Smith.
Heat #3 (8 laps): 1. Shelby Bosie, 2. Zach Daum, 3. Andrew Felker, 4. Karter Sarff, 5. Don Droud Jr., 6. Chad Winfrey, 7. Andy Bishop, 8. Casey Hicks, 9. Shane Cottle.
B-Main (10 laps, top six transfer): 1. Chad Winfrey, 2. Kade Morton, 3. Zac Taylor, 4. Merril Lamb, 5. Casey Hicks, 6. Wesley Smith / 7. Bryson Smith, 8. Tanner Allen, 9. Jeff Stasa (DNS), 10. Shane Cottle (DNS), 11. Heath Murry (DNS).
Feature (30 laps): 1. Zach Daum, 2. Emerson Axson, 3. Jake Neuman, 4. Hank Davis, 5. Ace McCarthy, 6. Sam Johnson, 7. Luke Howard, 8. Andrew Felker, 9. Don Droud Jr., 10. Trey Gropp, 11. Casey Hicks, 12. Shelby Bosie, 13. Chad Winfrey, 14. Merril Lamb, 15. Karter Sarff, 16. Chad Frewaldt, 17. Bryson Smith, 18. Kade Morton, 19. Andy Bishop, 20. Tanner Allen, 21. Tristin Thomas, 22. Zac Taylor, 23. Chance Morton (DNS), 24. Wesley Smith (DNS).