Baypark Speedway: Long-awaited success for Auckland’s Michael Pickens

11 Jan, 2021 11:02 AM3 minutes to read

Rodney Wood escaped unscathed from his spectacular crash in the second preliminary race of the NZ Sprint Car title. Photo / Supplied
Rodney Wood escaped unscathed from his spectacular crash in the second preliminary race of the NZ Sprint Car title. Photo / Supplied

Bay of Plenty Times

Auckland’s Michael Pickens has raced to a flag-to-flag 30-lap victory to reach double figures in New Zealand Speedway titles.

The nine-time national Midget Car champion achieved a long-awaited success in the Daltons New Zealand Sprint Car Championship at Baypark Speedway on Saturday night, taking his New Zealand title win tally to 10.

“It’s been eight or so years we’ve been trying with some seconds and thirds and we finally did it,” Pickens said after leading home California’s Jonathan Allard and Hamilton’s Daniel Thomas in a fast-paced 30-lap final.

“I was fortunate enough to get a good start and just tried to maintain the lead from there. It was hammer down the whole way and it was funny not having any cautions.”

Michael Pickens celebrates his NZ Sprint Car title success at Baypark Speedway on Saturday night. Photo / Supplied
Michael Pickens celebrates his NZ Sprint Car title success at Baypark Speedway on Saturday night. Photo / Supplied

Allard had to race his way past Thomas to reach the second spot and closed the leading margin in the final laps but crossed the finish line 2.0 seconds behind Pickens.

“I felt like a sitting duck in some respects because I only had lapped traffic to gauge my speed off,” Pickens said.

Pickens was driving a new car that had seen just one night of racing before qualifying began on Friday night.

“We shook it down last weekend and won with it, so we thought ‘why not’?”

It was the first time Allard had been beaten in a New Zealand title at Baypark after winning in 2011 and 2016.

“He [Pickens] got a great start and it took me a long time to get past Daniel Thomas who was driving very well,” Allard said.

“I was hoping lapped traffic or a yellow might help me.

“But I’m happy. After racing only a handful of times the last two or three years we have put together a really good team with the Daltons family. It’s great to race for people who believe in me.”

In a fast-paced 30-lapper, Michael Pickens grabbed an early lead and was never headed. Photo / Supplied
In a fast-paced 30-lapper, Michael Pickens grabbed an early lead and was never headed. Photo / Supplied

Hamilton’s Daniel Thomas was impressive throughout both nights and bagged his first podium in the Sprint Car title.

“Right from the start of this season, we’ve been coming here [Baypark] in an effort to do well at the New Zealand Champs. I couldn’t be happier,” Thomas said.

Former champ Jamie McDonald of Auckland ran in second place till almost half-distance.

“I got stuck behind a lapped car, lost my momentum and got passed by two guys at once,” McDonald said.

McDonald finished fourth ahead of two other former champions, Christchurch racer Jamie Duff and Hamilton’s Dean Brindle. Defending champion Jamie Larsen (Kapiti) finished ninth.

Rodney Wood escaped unscathed from his spectacular crash in the second preliminary race of the NZ Sprint Car title. Photo / Supplied
Rodney Wood escaped unscathed from his spectacular crash in the second preliminary race of the NZ Sprint Car title. Photo / Supplied

While the main event ran uninterrupted but there were several incidents in the earlier races.

The most spectacular ended the hopes of former champion Rodney Wood from Tauranga who clipped the back straight wall and rolled his car end-for-end. His only injury was a bruised ankle.