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Larson takes top honours in 25-lapper

Larson takes top honours in 25-lapper

Not even the Auckland weather could stop young American sensation Kyle Larson in the opening round of the International Midget series last night as he stormed to victory in the 25-lap feature race at Western Springs Speedway.

After the traditional boxing night slot for the race was rained out, it was left to the rain day on December 27 for the international drivers to take it to the Kiwis but in the end it was the locals that filled three spots in the top five.

Larson, from Elk Grove, California, and Jerry Coons Jr from Tuscon, Arizona, topped the qualifying points after the five heat races, but it was current New Zealand champion Michael Pickens who worked his up a few places in the pole shuffle. The final showdown in the Pole Shuffle, which sees the top eight cars go on track two at a time for two laps to set the top eight grid positions for the feature race, team-mates Pickens and Larson went head to head. It appeared the Kiwi had the advantage until the final turn when Larson made a spectacular pass around the outside to take the win and pole position.

Notable omissions as the feature race field went four wide to salute the strong Western Springs Speedway crowd were American drivers Steve Buckwalter and Bryan Clauson, but up front was a truly world class line-up. Larson hit the lead into turn one and was never challenged, while local Brad Mosen got past American Jerry Coons Jr. to take third behind Pickens.

There was drama late in the race when Australia’s Nathan Smee was forced to the infield from fifth place with his misfiring motor unable to comply with Western Springs Speedway’s strictly enforced 95 decibel noise limit, which bunched the field up under a yellow flag. Prior to that, Mosen had capitalised on a mistake from Pickens to move up to second, but on the restart Pickens pulled a huge move to regain second on the run to the flag.

But no-one could stop Larson, who repeated his win in the corresponding event twelve-months earlier, but Pickens and Mosen upheld Kiwi honour with second and third respectively. Jerry Coons Jr. was fourth and the top five was rounded out by Brock Maskovich.

Sprintcar action saw Jamie McDonald hold off Ryan O’Connor for the win with a last minute dash securing third for Jeremy Halpin, while in the TQ’s, Ryan Baker headed home Jared Taylor and Shane Phillips.

The International Midget continues 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 www.springsspeedway.com.
ends

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