Cockrum Does The Job In POWRi
JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — Shane Cockrum drove to his first victory in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series and Dereck King extended his all-time lead in the POWRi Speedway Motors 600cc Outlaw Micro Series to 21 wins Friday night at Jacksonville Speedway.
It was a career breakthrough for Cockrum — his first triumph in a Midget–and it came against an outstanding field with 49 entries including 2012 POWRi Midget champion Andrew Felker, who finished second, and 2012 USAC Mopar National Midget champion Darren Hagen, who finished third.
Cockrum, a 31-year-old from Benton, Ill., was the UMP DIRTCar Pro Late Model Missouri champion in 2008 and decided to chase a lifelong dream of driving open-wheel cars the next season. Cliff Cockrum, his late father, was a top Midwestern Midget and Sprint Car driver in the 1960s and ‘70s.
“Unfortunately, my dad retired before I could see him race, but he took me to open wheel races at Du Quoin (Ill.) and other tracks,” Cockrum said. “I grew up idolizing Jack Hewitt, Parnelli Jones and A.J. Foyt. We had won quite a few races in modifieds and late models, but my heart was in open wheel. I didn’t want to be 31 and never had a chance to race in open wheel.
“We’d won 16 races in 2008 and we turned around and dumped everything to buy the Midget. We were fans, but we didn’t know anything about open wheel racing. It’s been an uphill battle. It’s awesome to finally win in the midget.”
Cockrum’s victory came in his 28th POWRi feature and 36th event. His best previous finish was fifth at Fayette County Speedway in Brownstown, Ill., in 2010.
“We’re such a low budget team, we run a low number of races,” Cockrum said. “This was definitely a win for the little guy.”
Cockrum started 10th, on the outside of the fifth row, in his Esslinger-powered Triple-X. He passed Hagen and Felker in traffic to take the lead on the 25th of 30 laps and won by three car lengths.
“I knew we had a pretty good car and knew I could say with Felker and Hagan in lapped traffic,” he said. “You could say the waters parted. I got around Hagen in turns one and two and Andrew got caught up in traffic and I was able to slide him in turn four and complete the pass. I never had to switch lanes coming through the traffic. The lapped cars kept moving over to the inside. It was a technical track and you had to search out the right line.”