By Tim Tuttle
BELLEVILLE, Ill. (Sept. 27, 2011)—POWRi’s Lucas Oil National Midget Series reaches a dramatic conclusion to the season Saturday at Belle-Clair Speedway with Nick Knepper trailing Brad Loyet by 70 points in the championship going into the Meents Memorial.
“I’ve got nothing to lose,” Knepper said. “(Brad) Kuhn is far enough back (in third) that the worst I can do is finish second. All I can do is win and see what happens from there.”
The 24-year-old from Belleville, Ill., is seeking his first POWRi Midget title. He won on his hometown track on July 1 and has a pair of third places and a fifth on he 1/5th-mile oval this season.
“I’ve done a lot better at Belleville than in past and I think I’m running there as
good as anybody,” Knepper said.
Knepper crashed hard on July 31 at U.S. 36 Raceway in Cameron, Mo. He wasn’t seriously hurt, but finished 20th and caused major damage to his Spike chassis. Knepper was forced into the team’s backup car for the next event at Belle-Clair and he finished third. The primary car has been repaired, but it’s not the same.
“The second half of season we’ve struggled with everything,” Knepper said. “We don’t’ have a big budget and we have to run with what we have—things like brakes and power steering. Ever since we crashed in Cameron, we’ve kind of been running second hand stuff.”
Knepper lost his brakes in his heat last Saturday at Macon (Ill.) Speedway and advanced to the feature through the semi. He drove from 17th starting position to finish third and keep his championship hopes alive.
Loyet is gunning for his second straight and third overall championship in POWRi Midgets. The 23-year-old from Sunset Hills, Mo., won at Belle-Clair on May 13 and was second on Aug. 10. He was eliminated early in a crash and finished 22nd on July 1 and a schedule conflict forced him to miss the July 2 event at Belle-Clair.
Loyet has four wins this season. He’d like to make it five in the finale.
“It’s just another race,” Loyet said. “You can’t go into it thinking points. You just have to do it. If you win, the points will take care of themselves.”
Officially, Loyet leads by 60 points, but POWRi’s scoring system requires drivers to drop their two lowest point races of the year including events not entered. POWRi awards 200 points to the feature winner and it descends by 10 points per finishing position to 10 points for 20th place and below. The most points Knepper will lose is 10 and Loyet will not lose any when the adjustment is made following Belle-Clair.
POWRi’s Speedway Motors 600cc Outlaw Micro Series will also race at Belle-Clair. Trent Beckinger of Evansville, Ind., clinched the championship at Macon last week and Joe B. Miller of Millersville, Mo., has a strong hold on second place, 220 points in front of third place Andrew Felker of Carl Junction, Mo. Fourth place Jacob Patton of Bethalto, Ill., trails Felker by 45 points.
Gates open at 4 p.m., hot laps begin at 6 p.m. and racing starts at 7 p.m. for the Meents Memorial.
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series top-10 points standings (after 22 of 23 events): 1. Brad Loyet 3,090, 2. Nick Knepper 3,030, 3. Brad Kuhn 2,500, 4. Austin Brown 2,330, 5. Chett Gehrke 2,015, 6. Tim Siner 2,010, 7. Andrew Felker 1,885, 8. Brett Anderson 1,660, 9. Tyler Robbins 1,180, 10. Dereck King 1,180.
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series 2011 race winners: Du Quoin, Ill.–Tony Roney; Grain Valley, Mo.–Brett Anderson; Wheatland, Mo.–Brad Loyet; Belleville, Ill.–Brad Loyet; Brownstown, Ill.–Michael Pickens; Peoria, Ill.–Michael Pickens; West Plains, Mo.–Tyler Thomas; Springfield, Mo.–Brad Loyet; Belleville, Ill.—Nick Knepper; Belleville, Ill.—Brad Kuhn; Wilmot, Wis.—Brad Kuhn; Sun Prairie, Wis.—Jerry Coons Jr.; Macon, Ill.—Bryan Clauson; McCool Junction, Neb.—Brad Kuhn; McCool Junction, Neb.—Brad Kuhn; Cameron, Mo.—Kyle Larson; Belleville, Ill.—Brad Kuhn; Macon, Ill.—Dave Darland; Lincoln, Ill.—Bryan Clauson; Jacksonville, Ill.—Bryan Clauson; Canton, Ill.—Kyle Larson; Macon, Ill.—Brad Loyet.
POWRi Speedway Motors 600cc Outlaw Micro Series top-10 points standings after 19 of 22 events: 1. Trent Beckinger 3,200, 2. Joe B. Miller 2,570, 3. Andrew Felker 2,350, 4. Jacob Patton 2,305, 5. J.B. Gilbert 1,875, 6. Dereck King 1,820, 7. Paul Nienhiser 1,560, 8. Jordan Campbell 1,470; 9. Ryan Guyett 1,415, 10. Spencer Montgomery 1,295.
POWRi Speedway Motors 600cc Outlaw Micro Series 2011 race winners: Du Quoin, Ill.–Ryan Langston; Belleville, Ill.–Aaron Andruskevitch; Wayne County, Ill.–Dereck King; Brownstown, Ill.–Trent Beckinger; Peoria, Ill.-Andrew Felker; West Plains, Mo.–Triston Tidmore; Springfield, Mo.–Trent Beckinger; Lincoln, Ill.—Mike Hudson; Marion, Ill.—Jacob Patton; Marion, Ill.—Christopher Bell; Belleville, Ill.—Kara King; Belleville, Ill.—Andrew Felker; Macon, Ill.—Andrew Felker; Washington, Mo.—Jacob Patton; Belleville, Ill.—Joe B. Miller; Macon, Ill.—Trent Beckinger; Lincoln, Ill.—Trent Beckinger; Jacksonville, Ill.—Aaron Andruskevitch; Macon, Ill.—Jacob Patton.
For more information on POWRi Racing, go to www.POWRi.com.