By Tim Tuttle
Chett Gehrke’s fourth-place finish in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Mo., changed the course of his 2011 season. He’ll be trying to alter it again when the series returns to the one-third mile track near Kansas City on Friday (May 4), but in a different way.
The event at Valley was the second of the POWRi Midget season and Gehrke and car owner Skip Matteson of Salina, Kan., decided to turn his performance into a springboard to attempt to win the championship. Gehrke’s season-high second place the next night at Lucas Oil Raceway in Wheatland, Mo., where POWRi races Saturday (May 5) in the Missouri Mid-State Midget Nationals, solidified their decision.
“I didn’t expect to run the whole series and I don’t think Skip (Matteson) did either, but after Grain Valley, we were up in points and decided to run the whole season,” Gehrke said.
The 27-year-old from Broken Arrow, Okla., finished fifth in the 23-event POWRi Midget championship. He had three top-fives and 11 top-10s and made the feature in 21 of the 22 events he entered.
“The season went pretty good,” Gehrke said.
Gehrke has raced in the three POWRi Midget events this season, finishing 13th and 16th in the features at Cowtown Speedway in Kennedale, Texas, and falling out of the B Main at Jacksonville (Ill.) last Friday (April 27). He’s tied for ninth in the points.
“It hasn’t been as good as we’d hoped for, but not too bad,” Gehrke said. “I didn’t have any brakes on the first night at Cowtown and we just weren’t very good on the second. We had motor problems at Jacksonville. I didn’t get to do any hot laps because of a broken rocker arm and finished fourth in the heat and I had to pull off with a broken oil pump in the B main.”
Gehrke arrives to Valley Speedway and Lucas Oil Speedway this year wanting to get his season moving in an upward direction in the points. It may determine which POWRi championship he’ll pursue. The two events are also in the inaugural season of the POWRi Lucas Oil West Series, a 14-race championship that includes four races in Gehrke’s home state of Oklahoma. Gehrke is third in the West points.
“We were thinking about running for both championships, but we haven’t gotten off to a very good start in the National series,” Gehrke said. “We’ll run at least for the West championship. It’s good to be able to run around home more. I’m 45 minutes from Will Rogers Raceway in Claremore and an hour and a half from I-44 Speedway in Oklahoma City.”
Gehrke, the Southern Midget Racing Series champion in 2010, likes racing at Valley and three-eighths mile Lucas Oil.
“I’m ready to go,” Gehrke said. “They’re bigger tracks than most of the POWRi drivers are used to and I have experience at Valley and bigger tracks.”
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series top-10 points standings (after 3 of 31 events); 1. Brad Kuhn 430, 2. Zach Daum 340, 3. Tyler Thomas 310, 4. Tyler Courtney 305, 5. (tie) Garrett Aitken, Jake Blackhurst 255, 7. Andrew Felker 170, 8. Brett Anderson 140, 9. (tie) Chett Gehrke, Levi Roberts 135.
POWRi Lucas Oil West Series (after two of 14 events): 1. Tyler Thomas 200, 2. Andrew Felker 160, 3. Chett Gehrke 130, 4. Chris Bell 120, 5. Garrett Aitken 95, 6. Cameron Hagin 10, 7. (tie) Brunson Behning, Ryan Beechler 0.
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series 2012 race winners: Kennedale, Texas—Brady Bacon; Kennedale, Texas—Dave Darland; Jacksonville, Ill.—Mario Clouser.
For more information on POWRi Racing, go to www.POWRi.com.