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Coons and Pickens set to do battle again

Coons and Pickens set to do battle again

One of the fiercest on-track rivalries seen in New Zealand speedway is set to play out once again this summer when American driver Jerry Coons Jr. and New Zealand’s own Michael Pickens take to the track for the International Midget series, which kicks off on Boxing Night.

Just two seasons ago, the pair had run near the front but were both without a win heading into the final round of the International Midget series, the Crowne Plaza Auckland 50-Lapper, which is widely regarded as the most prestigious race of them all.

The race became famous, not for Pickens clearing out to a strong lead early on, nor for Coons closing the gap late in the race, but the final run to the flag. With Pickens baulked by lapped traffic in the final turn, Coons got a run and the pair crossed the line absolutely neck and neck. Not even the transponder timing system could separate the pair to the ten-thousandth of a second and the race was declared a dead heat.

A month later and Coons returned to New Zealand for two shows only, the Barry Butterworth classic and the New Zealand Midget title races. The Barry Butterworth’s unique format saw the pair start off the back row, as was the norm when Butterworth raced Midgets, but it didn’t take long for the pair to clear the field. In the end, a small mistake from Pickens left Coons to take victory.

The pair lined up one last time for the New Zealand Midget championships and were again the class of the field. Coons lead early before Pickens suffered a spectacular roll-over, leaving Coons to become the first off-shore driver to win the New Zealand Midget championship.

But Pickens did finally get one back over his old rival, winning last season’s 50-Lap classic in a flag-to-flag victory with a strong margin that left no doubt as to who the winner was. Coons meanwhile was left to watch from the infield after early mechanical problems.

The International Midget series kicks off with a 25-lap Feature race on Boxing night, with the World 30-lap Derby following on December 29. The 40-lap ‘King of the Springs’ runs on January 1 with the series concluding with the ultimate test of man and machine, the Crown Plaza Auckland World 50 Lapper, held on January 3. Each night will also see action from Sprintcars and TQ Midgets.

Race day sees gates open at 5pm with the first race getting underway at 6.30. Adults are $30 with kids under the age of 16 free with a paying adult. For more information, check out

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