From Tim Tuttle
Wayne City, IL — (August 28, 2013) — Zach Duam started from pole and was never seriously challenged for the lead in winning the Jason Leffler Memorial in a POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series feature before an overflow crowd Wednesday at Wayne County Speedway.
Daum’s green-to-checkered flag triumph in the 30-lap race on the one-eighth mile track was his third of the season in POWRi and opened up his lead in the championship to 190 points, 3,100-2,910, over Andrew Felker. Daum earned $5,000 against an outstanding 34-car field that raced to honor Leffler, a three-time USAC National Midget champion who went on to success in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series and also drove in the Indianapolis 500 1999. Leffler, 37, died in a sprint car crash on June 12 and proceeds from the event, sponsored by Great Clips, will go to a fund for his five-year-old son, Charlie Dean.
“What I liked the most about Jason was he was a gasser, a true racer,” Daum said. “I didn’t know him that well, raced against him a couple of times, but I watched him growing up winning three straight (USAC) midget national championships. I’m honored to win this race in his honor. It means a lot. The amount of people who came out showed that he was as good as it gets as a father and a driver.”
The 22-year-old Daum of Pocahontas, Ill., drove his Toyota-powered Eagle to wins in his heat and qualifying races to start on the pole. He was the class of the field in the 22-car feature, which was slowed by three cautions. The final 10 laps were run under green and Daum finished with a healthy advantage over runner-up Shane Cottle of Kokomo, Ind. Dave Darland of Lincoln, Ind., was third.
Bryan Clauson of Noblesville, Ind., started on the outside of the front row and had a flat running second on the second lap. It caused an eight-car traffic jam in turn four and sent Clauson, a three-time National Midget Driver of the Year, to the back of the field.
“Once Clauson got that flat, I knew it would be a little easier,” Daum said. “I never really felt threatened in the middle of the race. Once I got into lapped traffic, I thought maybe I would lose some ground, but I started passing lapped cars and kept passing lapped cars so I could keep one of them between me and second if there was a caution.
“I ran the middle until the last few laps when I moved up a little, where the track was still tacky.”
Darren Hagen of Riverside, Calif., ran second from the second lap to the 28th, but had to pull off with a broken u-joint. Cottle, driving A.J. Felker’s FSC-Esslinger, had run in the top five from the start and he moved into second with Hagen’s retirement.
“We had a real good car, but it was way too tight early and it allowed him (Daum) to get a lead and we couldn’t catch him,” Cottle said. “I liked racing with Jason Leffler and money that was raised for his son is a good thing. It shows how the racing community comes together when it’s needed.”
Darland had started 16th and restarted near the back after the initial caution on the second lap. He earned $250 for the Hard Charger Award, for improving the most positions in the feature.
“I’m proud to be here in his honor,” Darland said. “Jason was a great driver and a great guy. We had some luck. We had a great race car (a Spike-Esslinger co-owned by Ebby Bergfield and Justin Allgaier). It was hard to pass for sure. We found some things that worked and the race track was really good. It has a good size and shape and just needs a better surface. It’s too sandy.”
Shane Cockrum of nearby Benton, Ill., was fourth and Clauson finished fifth. Chett Gehrke of Broken Arrow, Okla., drove from 20th starting position to sixth, Dereck King of Vienna, Ill., was seventh, Felker of Carl Junction, Mo., eighth, Hud Cone of Oakland City, Ind., ninth and Daniel Robinson of Mount Vernon, Ill., 10th.
The next events for POWRi’s National Midgets are the 32nd annual Pepsi Nationals at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wis., on Saturday and Sunday. They’re co-sanctioned by the Stark Automotive Group/Mid-State Equipment Badger Midget Series.
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series feature results (30 laps): 1. Zach Daum, 2. Shane Cottle, 3. Dave Darland, 4. Shane Cockrum, 5. Bryan Clauson, 6. Chett Gehrke, 7. Dereck King, 8, Andrew Felker, 9. Hud Cone, 10. Daniel Robinson, 11. Bobby East, 12. Parker Price-Miller, 13. Tyler Robbins, 14. Justin Grant, 15. Jake Blackhurst, 16. Austin Brown, 17. Chris Bell, 18. Darren Hagen, 19. Tim Siner, 20. Colten Cottle, 21.Tyler Robbins, 22. Seth Motsinger.
For more information, go to www.POWRi.com.