By Tim Tuttle
BELLEVILLE, Ill. (July 1, 2011)—Nick Knepper passed Andrew Felker on the final lap to win his first POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series race of the season and Kara King took her second career victory in the POWRi Speedway Motors 600cc Outlaw Micro Series in Friday’s opener of the 2nd FanFest presented by Budweiser at Belle-Clair Speedway.
Knepper triumphed against one of the toughest fields of the season. The Midgets were co-sanctioned by the Badger Midget Auto Racing Association and there were 53 cars entered for 23 starting positions Friday. The FanFest concludes tonight (Saturday, July 2) with the Midgets racing for $3,000 to win and the Micros for $1,000.
Running on the outside line, Knepper streaked past Felker, running the inside, exiting Turn Two on he 30th lap and won by four car lengths. It was Knepper’s fourth career POWRi Midget triumph and second for the Belleville resident at his hometown track.
“I didn’t give up on the cushion,” Knepper said. “The last time through One and Two was my best corner of the whole race. We just shot off.. I ran it as hard as I possibly could.”
Knepper had two second places and three third in eight races this season. The close-but-no-cigar season had been wearing on him.
“We’ve been so close this season and we finally did it,” Knepper said. “Tonight, we had it dialed in, we had the shocks right. Andrew (Felker) ran a really good race and I hate to take his first Midget win away, but I was hungry for my first win this year. He’ll get his first soon enough.”
Felker, of Carl Junction, Mo., keeps getting closer. He had finished fourth and third in his two previous POWRi Midget races.
Knepper had taken the lead on the third lap, passing Bubba Altig. Felker, hugging the inside on the 1/5th-mile track, overtook Knepper on the 10th lap and held it until the 30th.
“The bottom went away, there was nothing left to hold it,” Felker said. “Early in the race it was really good and tacky but it wore out. Anytime you come so close (to winning) and to not be able to pull it off, it’s disappointing.”
Brad Kuhn, of Avon, Ind., charged from 10th on the grid to finish third.
“You’re always disappointed when you don’t win, but from 10th to third on that track isn’t that bad,” Kuhn said. “I think the bottom was probably better, but I couldn’t get in line down there and I had to make the top work. By the time race settled down and we got going, the races was over. The laps go by fast here.”
King started on pole and led all 20 laps. The 24-year-old from Vienna, Ill., withstood constant pressure from Felker over the final 12 laps and held him off in three restarts. King’s previous POWRi win was in 2004.
“We had an awesome night,” King said. “I saw Andrew’s nose a few times. It’s (win) long overdue.”
King damaged her car in a crash at Marion, Ill., the previous weekend and her brother Dereck, father Rick and mechanic Josh Kilgore were forced to fix it with a different shock configuration.
“It made a huge difference in the car,” Kara King said. “It was the only way we could repair the car in time for this race. We tore up the torsion bars and had to convert it to putting coils over the shocks.”
King and Felker, who has a POWRi Micro win this season, both ran the inside line until the final lap, when Felker went to the outside in a last-ditch attempt to pass that didn’t gain him any ground.
“We touched a little, but Kara has always raced me clean and I didn’t want to run her dirty,” Felker said. “Kara was strong on the bottom and I couldn’t do anything with her.”
Spencer Montgomery, a 16-year-old from Neoga, Ill., equaled his career-best POWRi finish by taking third. He started from pole.
“I fell back to sixth and started adjusting the car,” Montgomery said. “The track came to me. I’m happy with third.”
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series results (30 laps): 1. Nick Knepper, 2. Andrew Felker, 3. Brad Kuhn, 4. Mike Hess, 5. Bubba Altig, 6. Daniel Adler, 7. Rich Camfield, 8. Derrick Myers, 9. Dave Camfield Jr., 10. Kyle Neal, 11. Brett Anderson, 12. Thomas Meseraull, 13. Tyler Robbins, 14. Daniel Robinson, 15. Jake Blackhurst, 16. Hud Cone, 17. Scott Hatton, 18. David Budres, 19. Ryan Criswell, 20. Chett Gehrke, 21. Tony Roney, 22. Brad Loyet, 23. Richard Kreisel.
POWRi Speedway Motors 600cc Outlaw Micro Series results (20 laps): 1. Kara King, 2, Andrew Felker, 3. Spencer Montgomery, 4. Dereck King, 5. Kurt Westerfield, 6. Joe B. Miller, 7. Mike Hudson, 8. Trent Beckinger, 9. Chris Andrew, 10. Jacob Patton, 11. J.B. Gilbert, 12. Jeremy Camp, 13. Jordan Campbell, 14. Kyle Amerson, 15. Heath Ross, 16. Rick King, 17. Jason Harris, 18, Deven Feger, 19. Natasha Cox, 20. Carlee Gress, 21. Ryan Guyett, 22. Derek LeMaster, 23. Derek Schuett.
For more information on POWRi Racing, go to www.POWRi.com.