New Zealand Open-Wheel Sensation Signs Onto ASA Midwest Tour DAYTONA BEACH, FL (April 18, 2007) -- Twenty-four-year-old open-wheel racing sensation Michael "Slim" Pickens has committed to the American Speed Association Kwik Trip Midwest ...
New Zealand Open-Wheel Sensation Signs Onto ASA Midwest Tour
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (April 18, 2007) -- Twenty-four-year-old open-wheel racing sensation Michael "Slim" Pickens has committed to the American Speed Association Kwik Trip Midwest Tour presented by Echo Outdoor Power Equipment for the inaugural 2007 season.
Native to Birkenhead, Auckland, New Zealand, Pickens won the 2006/2007 New Zealand Midget Car Championship at Western Springs Speedway. His driving record to date is phenomenal, having won just about every major event in New Zealand and Australian racing. He has been competing in the United States part time the past couple of summers and has been victorious on American soil as well. In 2005 he competed at the Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he garnered Rookie of the Year honors with an outstanding drive from 19th starting position to sixth place finish. He also competed in the Roush Driver Development Competition Program with no prior asphalt racing experience and made it to the final round of competition. Michael's ultimate dream is to drive in the top division of NASCAR.
He will be making his first full-fledged effort at asphalt oval racing driving for Urban Force Racing owned by Beloit (WI) businessmen and race fan Ken Hendricks, founder of ABC Supply Company. Hendricks was listed as the 107th richest man in America (Forbes 400 Richest Americans, 2006).
Hendricks offered the following about Pickens, "We are really thrilled to have Michael Pickens working with the ABC/Urban Force team. Michael has proven himself on dirt as a two time New Zealand National Midget Champion and now he has a great opportunity to focus on asphalt racing here in the US with the ASA Midwest Tour. It's really great to see a young man that is so very focused on his career. I have always believed that you've got to love what you do first, and the success will ultimately come. Michael has the passion and the ability to succeed. He has spent a great deal of time with our family, so we are really getting to know him, and we think he's a great kid. We are looking forward to seeing him develop his skills and perform on the track."
Pickens' Urban Force Racing Team is a member of the ASA Educational Series, a program geared to get high school students educated in motorsports mechanics and win college scholarships. Michael explained the significance of the program, "Having the opportunity to work with children and to teach them about this sport is so important for everyone's success. We cannot race successfully without that added interest from today's youth as racing fans."
"This is special for me because I see it as a stepping stone to bigger things. From running dirt midget cars this seems like the next logical step with a bigger, heavier car, which is more similar to NASCAR than midgets are. It's neat to race with this organization where the schools are involved (ASA Educational Series). I was given this opportunity in the Midwest and drivers like Todd Kluever and Matt Kenseth came from Wisconsin and Madison. There is tough competition in the Midwest," Michael explained.
"I couldn't be happier to see that the Urban Force Race Team decided to make the move to the Midwest Tour. This will help them elevate their level of performance and allow Michael to compete with the best of the best. He has a great bunch of guys putting this deal together and a car owner that will give him every tool that he needs, " stated Series VP Steve Einhaus
In addition to the ASA Midwest Tour, Pickens will be competing at Wisconsin's Madison International Speedway, "I have been given the golden opportunity to drive a late model stockcar for the Urban Force Racing team and I will have my first race start at Madison on May 11 after competing in the ASA Midwest Tour opener April 28 at the Elko Speedway (MN)."
Pickens started his racing career in 1993 when he climbed into a quarter-midget racecar. Since then he has tested Craftsman Trucks for Roush Racing, won several prestigious Midget events in the US, and set fast time at the Fireman's Nationals at Wisconsin's Angell Park.
At age 17 Michael won his first Midget feature event at Western Springs Speedway, and was the youngest driver ever to do such.
The Western Springs Speedway 2002-2003 season will long be remembered as the season that Pickens truly stamped his mark on the New Zealand Speedway scene. At just the second event of the season, Michael set a new one-lap Midget record that he held for a remarkable ten race nights that included five nights of racing against the best Australian and American drivers. New Zealand local driver Lance Beale took Michael's one-lap record from him for a short two weeks before Michael again set a new record that stood at season's end. Gaining selection as the reserve driver for the New Zealand Midget team in the annual Tri-Series that is held between New Zealand, Australia, and the USA, Michael finished the series with a fifth-place points average, besting 13 of the 18 international drivers who competed in the series. Just three days after turning twenty-years-old, Michael became the youngest driver ever to win the North Island Midget title. (www.michaelpickens.com)
The "Daytona 500" of New Zealand racing is the National Midget Championship, in existence since 1939. Pickens blew away the competition in 2003, earning the young superstar his first National title. Michael won 15 races that year.
Pickens made his journey to the United States in 2004 to compete during New Zealand's off-season and gain pavement experience and exposure. He gathered his life savings and crossed the Ocean to Indianapolis, where he stayed with friends for a while.
He then attended the Belleville Midget Nationals and teamed up with the Australian Smith and Wood midget car team for whom he had driven in Australia earlier in the year. With the Australians based in Wisconsin to race weekly at Sun Prairie, Pickens was invited to join them and stayed with them throughout the summer. Picking up his first USA midget ride in the #22 Muller Racing midget, Pickens finished 9th in his first feature race. Three weeks later Pickens was invited to drive the #31 Breka/Smith engine midget. Winning his heat race, a flat tire forced him from the race after six laps while he was leading. Fourteen days later the Smith and Wood team made it a one-two finish at Angell Park Speedway, Pickens winning his first USA midget feature race from Australian Adam Clarke. At the Fireman's Nationals the following week Pickens set fast time in qualifying but came disabled in the feature race after damaging the front end of the car on the rough track and loosing the power steering, finishing the feature in eighth place. In addition to racing at Sun Prairie, Pickens was invited to drive a TQ midget at the Twin Cities Raceway (IN). Although never before sitting in a TQ, Pickens won his heat race and then waltzed away with the UMRA feature race. (www.michaelpickens.com)
The 2006-2007 season marked Michael's fifth season driving for the Brett and Karen Morris owned Seamount Racing team. "Over this time together we have had our fair share of victories. From the outside it might seem that we just turn up at the track, do well and then come back the following week. What most people don't see is the behind the scenes planning and hard work that goes on to get us there. To use a phrase Brett often uses, 'winning starts at the workshop', couldn't be more true."
"I would like to specially thank Ken and Diane Hendricks, Pete Raskovic, Steve Pados, and my crew chief Dan Brown," Pickens concluded.
Michael is an auto electrician by trade. He enjoys Thai food and the movie American Pie.
Pickens will be making his debut at the ASA Midwest Tour inaugural season opener at Elko Speedway April 28, 2007. More information about Michael is available online at www.michaelpickens.com.
To learn more about the American Speed Association Kwik Trip Midwest Tour presented by Echo Outdoor Power Equipment please contact the ASA Midwest Tour office by calling (262) 514-3880 or by e-mailing Tim Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Steve Einhaus at email@example.com.
To learn more of the Daytona Beach, Florida-based Racing Speed Associates or the American Speed Association Racing Member Track program, call (386) 258-2221 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For news and information from all the racetracks and regional tours involved in the American Speed Association, visit www.asa-racing.com.