This is part two of a feature on Michael Pickens from the August issue of Sprint Car & Midget Magazine. To read part one, click here.
While getting increasingly competitive in a more powerful car is rewarding in and of itself, Michael Pickens also realizes that driving a winged sprint car has made him better in a midget.
“As soon as I jumped into a winged sprint car the first time, when I went back to the midget, I was 100 percent better,” said Pickens. “It just seems slower in comparison, and you feel like you have more time.”
Given the success he has enjoyed in America driving a midget, he would jump at the chance to do more winged sprint car racing when he heads north for his winter. That said, he acknowledges that “it is hard for me to get hired as a wing guy. I haven’t had as many chances as I would like.”
Still, when it comes to actual racing, Pickens still prefers the midgets.
“I enjoy the midget for the racing side of it,” he said. “They are racier. But the 410 winged sprint car is more rewarding from a performance aspect; there is so much aero and so much horsepower, and they are quite tricky things to drive. So, from that standpoint, just to drive a sprint car is rewarding. From a racing point of view, you can’t beat a good midget race. You’re sliding here, bouncing out of holes and all of that.”
It is one thing to proclaim that you are still honing your skills, but the real litmus test is what the bottom-line reveals. Last season on the home front, Pickens netted a total of 20 wins, including nine in a sprint car. In February of 2019, he scored a total of six feature wins, the best month of his career.
But even with these statistics as a backdrop, Pickens feels that two years ago he was particularly on the top of his game.
“We were almost unbeatable,” he recalls. “We won POWRi midget week, and we should have won USAC midget week (he won the rounds at Gas City and Lincoln Park Speedway) but we had a DNF at Lawrenceburg.”
Because so many top American stars head to New Zealand and Australia in the off-season, and Pickens has headed this direction for years, he is never a stranger in any pit area. He grew fond of the late Bryan Clauson, and hosted his racing mate in his home for a New Year’s Eve celebration ushering in 2016.
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