While seeking his fourth Lucas Oil POWRi National Midget Series title this year, Zach Daum of Pocahontas is also chasing a first when it comes to another goal of his successful open-wheel racing program.

Although having scored wins at bullrings as nearby as Fairbury, Lincoln and Macon and as far away as Australia, Daum has never won an Illinois SPEED Week title in the five years of the mini-series' existence.

He's in the process of attempting to change that this weekend, as SPEED Week continues Friday at Jacksonville Speedway and Saturday at Mighty Macon, before Sunday night's championship finale at Lincoln.

Daum is chasing the elusive Illinois crown and interestingly, his first feature win of the year, as the reigning POWRi series champ and current series points leader.

"It's been a decent year," Daum said. "We've finished up front every night, except for when the driver has screwed up. A lot of seconds and thirds. We're knocking on the door to win one, we just have to get a little bit better."

Daum was hoping for his first A-Main victory of the season when SPEED Week highlighted the re-opening of the Dirt Oval at Route 66 Raceway at Joliet on Wednesday night.

Instead, difficulties in qualifying relegated him to a 21st-place starting spot in the 24-car feature field. With a long way to go and only 25 laps to get there, Daum was able to race through the pack for a seventh-place finish.

Wednesday's Joliet event was originally dubbed "Throwback Thursday." Two previous attempts to reopen the track after a lengthy hiatus were rained out after being slated for a Thursday evening.

The term "throwback" fits Daum's racing program to a tee, harkening back to the "seat-of-your-pants" nature of the sport in days of yore.

His family-owned team consists of himself, "another guy and my dad when he can make it," Daum said.

Competing against the likes of the six-car Keith Kunz Motorsports team and its backing from Toyota Racing Development, Daum has persevered in garnering his POWRi titles on a shoestring budget while attempting to model the Kunz's manner of getting things done.

"Keith's been running his own racing team for 30 years. That's longer than I've been alive," said Daum, who turned 26 earlier this year. "He's got the experience to know what it takes to get up and down the road every night. You model yourself after that."

Daum says a lot of it is simply a matter of being organized and paying attention to minute details.

"It makes your life easier when you pay more attention to detail," he said. "It can be things like keeping parts organized in the trailer and making it easier to work out of."

Daum has something else going for him: he's gifted with the ability to, as they say, drive the wheels off of a race car.

"Zach Daum's just a helluva race car driver," said rival Tanner Thorson, the reigning USAC National Midget Series champion after a spirited duel with Daum at last year's POWRi race at Fairbury.

Daum works hard at honing his craft in a form of the sport where the competition pretty much starts out on an even footing.

"It's all about innovation," Daum said. "(Car owner) Karl Kinser won a lot of (sprint car) races just by outsmarting the other guys. You've got to figure out a way to get your car set up right and then out-drive them. "

Daum is also slated to drive the USAC Silver Crown car fielded by Dave and Dennis McQuinn of Springfield at the mile dirt races at state fairgrounds tracks in DuQuoin, Indianapolis and Springfield. A Silver Crown race on the Indy mile was rained out the Thursday before last weekend's Indianapolis 500.

He's also looking forward to turning up the wick a bit in his winged sprint car program.

"We've been good, but kind of stuck in thirds and been in the top-five most every night," said Daum, of his sprint car efforts. "We just have to get a couple of spots better."

Bruce Yentes covers motor sports for The Pantagraph. He can be reached at byentes@pantagraph.com.

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