By Tim Tuttle
WHEATLAND, Mo. (May 5, 2012)—Sixteen-year-old Jake Blackhurst of Mapleton, Ill., drove to his first victory in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series in runaway fashion Saturday at Lucas Oil Speedway.
Blackhurst passed Tyler Thomas of Collinsville, Okla., on the outside exiting Turn Two on the 11th lap for the lead and had it firmly in his grasp in the 30-lap feature to the checkered flag. He finished 2.8 seconds—a straightaway on the fast three-eighths mile track–in front of Chris Bell of Norman, Okla.
“It’s probably the most memorable race I’ve ever had,” Blackhurst said.
Blackhurst’s breakthrough win came in his 22nd POWRi Midget event. He was the POWRi Rookie of the Year and the National Midget Rookie of the Year in 2011, his first season racing a Midget on dirt. Blackhurst finished a then-career best fifth Friday night in POWRi’s feature at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Mo., and was sixth in the previous feature at Jacksonville (Ill.) Speedway on April 27.
Blackhurst had two anxious moments, one before the feature and one during it.
“I saw we had a broken brake caliper about five minutes before the race and didn’t think we were going to make it,” Backhurst said. “My dad (Paul Blackhurst) fixed it.”
Blackhurst’s family-owned-and-prepared Kitchen Cooked Spike-Esslinger had pulled away to a commanding lead when a caution came out on the 22nd lap.
“The restart made me nervous,” Blackhurst said. “I had started to go through traffic and was going to have cars between me and Bell.”
Blackhurst rocketed away from Bell on the restart.
“The car was perfect from the start,” Blackhurst said.
The 17-year-old Bell, driving an Eagle-Esslinger, thought he had regained a chance to pass Blackhurst when the caution came out.
“I thought I had something for him, but he just pulled away,” Bell said. “He just checked out. He was on his game tonight. I really want to get my first win in a Midget, but this is my best finish in POWRi.”
Veteran Scott Hatton drove his Stealth-Esslinger to third after starting fifth.
“It was slow going to pass many cars because the track was really fast,” Hatton said. “I was tight early and was able to make some adjustments during the red (on the fifth lap). We got going pretty good under the long green run and were catching second (Bell) until that caution (22nd lap). We had soft right rear tire at the end and the tire pressure didn’t come up for a few laps and we lost our chance to catch him.”
The 49-year-old from Roscoe, Ill., who has four championships in the Badger Midget Auto Racing Association, was racing at Lucas Oil Speedway for the first time. It impressed him.
“It’s a beautiful facility, an awesome place,” Hatton said. “It’s the nicest facility I’ve ever raced at and I’ve raced at a lot of them.”
Brett Anderson of Belleville, Ill., finished fourth and Austin Brown of Millstadt, Ill., was fifth, his season-best finish.
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series results (30 laps): 1. Jake Blackhurst, 2. Chris Bell, 3. Scott Hatton, 4. Brett Anderson, 5. Austin Brown, 6. Garrett Aitken, 7. Andrew Felker, 8 Colton Cottle, 9. Tyler Courtney, 10. Tyler Robbins, 11. Andy Malpocker, 12. Daniel Robinson, 13. Chett Gehrke, 14. Eric Todd, 15. Darren Kingston, 16. Pat Schudy, 17. Jake Neuman, 18. Tyler Thomas, 19. Matt Sherrell, 20. Andrew Deal, 21. Tim Siner, 22. Gavin Galbraith.
For more information on POWRi Racing, go to www.POWRi.com.