Chaos At Centrals Sizzling Sprintcar Grand Prix

Central Motor Speedway


Shuttleworth Motorsport Media

Images supplied by: Christopher Scrimgour

(Disclaimer – results as seen by myself while commentating, results may have changed slightly due to relegations etc. – This article or extracts from it are not to be used by any other form of media without prior permission.) 

 A stinking hot Cromwell afternoon is what greeted drivers and fans alike at Central Motor Speedway’s New Zealand Sprintcar Grand Prix, not a cloud in the sky and temperatures in the high twenties setting the scene for what would be an action packed night of Sprintcar action.

The event sponsored by Edge Parts And Performance, Hauldog, ITM and Clyde Hiab Services would see twenty seven entrants do battle for the title, numbers affected somewhat by the fact the New Zealand Championship would be the following week at Ruapuna, meaning a number of drivers were saving their cars, but it did mean a solid mix of experience and youth were competing for the Grand Prix.

The time trials would benefit those who got the early runs, while the track still held some form of moisture and grip, those running late in the time trials struggled to post a decent lap time meaning they would start well down the order in the heat races, some of the big names to be well down the order were the young American Joel Myers Jnr from Ruapuna, Jamie Larsen of Auckland who was the defending Grand Prix Champion and Stephen Taylor of Nelson, all expected to be at the pointy end of the grid but lucked out due to the track drying out.

Up front though it was Jonathan Allard from the United States who set the quickest time early topping the time sheets, Jamie “The Duffman” Duff home second quickest with Auckland driver Jamie McDonald third fastest.

With time trials done it was time for the first of the six heat races, and it only took a couple of laps before we would see the first caution when Nigel Colvin of Cromwell would spin in turn two while right in the middle of the pack, Colvin tried to power himself back around but Daniel Anderson also of Cromwell would clip another car sending him over onto his side and putting him out of the race.

Colvin would rejoin the race but defending champion Larsen would go to the infield with mechanical dramas that would spell an end to his campaign. The next stoppage happened just a lap or so later when Allan Chapman of Ruapuna would spin taking Hayden Johnston of Cromwell with him in turn two, Johnston would go infield and retire from the heat while Chapman would rejoin from the rear of the field.

While all the carnage was happening mid pack it was Duff who got himself to the front of the race and pulling a handy lead over Allard who was battling with a very fast “Slammin” Sam O’Callaghan of Nelson, this battle ensured Duffs lead would remain unchallenged and allowed the former National Champion to bank maximum points in heat one, Allard second with O’Callaghan third.

Heat two and just the one caution when Cromwell’s James Robinson spun infield but just as he managed to get back on track the officials called a yellow flag condensing the field back up again. McDonald led this race early and would remain comfortably in front for the entire heat, taking the race win. Behind him was a great battle between a couple of young drivers who were charging hard for the minor placings, Cromwell drivers Josh “Young Buck” Buchanan and Jayden Dodge put on a great show with Dodge having to settle for third place behind Buchanan.

The third heat and it was Rodney Wood of Bay Park who looked in full control for the majority of the race, pulling a sizeable gap before an uncharacteristic spin in turn two saw him relinquish the race lead and slip down the order, up front McDonald would slip through to bank his second win in as many races, with Duff second and credit to Wood he came back strong to get himself up to third.

Heat four and Taylor set off early and had the race in full control, but behind him Allard was working his way through the field although it looked unlikely that he would be able to chew into the buffer Taylor had set. Taylor would soon be contending with lapped traffic and this is where Allard would start to chew into the lead and chase Taylor down. Taylor grabbed the white flag and looked like he would take the win with just one corner of the race remaining, but Allards “Never Say Die” attitude would see him slip down the inside of lapped traffic on the very last corner to ultimately snatch the race win from Taylor on the line, Taylor settling for second with Dodge a distant third leading home Myers Jnr.

Allard would again show his class in heat five, in a race that was clean and fast with no stoppages. Heat five came after a sizeable stop in the program for sun strike which resulted in a slight change of running order. Allard would destroy the competition in this heat, ultimately banking himself a front row start in the twenty five lap feature. Allard took the win while Wood was again consistent in second with Chapman third.

The sixth and final heat saw Taylor again get to the front early, Taylor looked super fast and would ensure that he wasn’t going to be beaten on the line for a second time pulling off an easy race win over Dodge in second who was consistent in every race he was in, while in third spot it was Cole Wood of Bay Park.

The decision was made by the drivers to run twenty two, rather than twenty cars in the final and drop the B Main.

This led to the final, the scene was set and it promised to be an action packed race with all the cream floating to the top, the Allards, McDonalds, Duff’s, Dodge’s all at the front end of town set to go head to head, while the big crowd got to their feet in anticipation for who would be crowned New Zealand Sprintcar Grand Prix Champion.

The green flag dropped and it was just a cloud of dust and the sound of horse power filling the arena, when the dust settled it was Allard who led the feature with McDonald and Duff in hot pursuit.

Allard started to stretch his legs, the American putting half a dozen car lengths on McDonald early, it only took and handful of laps before the leaders had to contend with lapped cars, by this stage we were almost half race distance and not a single caution had prevailed, that was until Colvin rolled in turn two just in front of Allard the race leader who hit Colvins rolled car ultimately putting ending the Americans chances of a Grand Prix win.

The race would restart only to come to another caution with Cromwell driver Whetu Taewa spinning directly after the Allard incident, this would condense the field once more.

The cars got back up to speed and McDonald would lead from the front, Dodge, Duff and Rodney Wood were all within striking distance of the race leader when all of a sudden the yellow flag was presented again, this time for Robinson who was limping around the wall unable to get his stranded car to the infield.

There was seven laps remaining at this point and you could totally sense the frustration on track, what started as a good fast clean race was starting to become a race of attrition, twenty two cars starting and by this point just eleven left on track.

The race would go green and Ruapuna’s Matt “Flying Farmer” Honeywell was trying to buy a ticket to the big dance, he was all of a sudden up with the leaders making it a five horse race with McDonald still in control.

Honeywell would however come to a grinding halt in turn three with just three laps remaining putting him out of contention and setting up a three lap sprint to the checkered flag.

As the race went green once more Duff looked to challenge McDonald, but the Aucklander got a great run out of turn two powering off to build a gap on his challengers, Wood slotted up to third only for Dodge to snatch the position back, Duff was just managing to hold the charging pack back in second.

Thankfully for McDonald there would be no more cautions, he would race home to bank himself his second New Zealand Sprintcar Grand Prix title, Duff claimed second with Dodge across the line third. Dodge however would later be disqualified from the event due to an expired helmet failing tech inspection, elevating Rodney Wood to the third spot on the podium.

Streetstocks were invited to race at Central Motor Speedway as support for the Grand Prix, a smaller field meant there was some pretty fast action taking place but not a lot of the typical biff and bash that you would be accustomed to seeing.

Heat one saw Dunedin’s Braden Adams win a close affair over clubmates Jareb Veroner in second with Shya McHardy third.

Verdoner would turn the tables in heat two with another hard fought race, Verdoner, Adams and Dunedin’s Mitch Lavender would exchange the lead multiple times throughout the race, which was led early by McHardy. Verdoner would grab the race win with Adams second and Lavender third.

Verdoner would repeat the dose in an action packed race three leading Lavender home in second with Dunedin’s Jacob Campbell getting up to a well deserved third, this gave Verdoner the overall win for the event with Adams second and Lavender third overall.

Stockcars were entertaining, cars lined up from Christchurch, Invercargill and Cromwell and while it wasn’t a massive field of cars it was still a good display of racing throughout the entire field.

Heat one saw Cromwell’s Brodie McDonald in his first season of senior racing take the race win with clubmate Jack Honeybone second while Riverside driver Luke Fallow placed third.

The second race saw Riverside’s Peter Knight tangle with Cromwell’s Carl Gable who was on debut, the pair came together in turn two bringing out the red light, Knight would go infield for the rest of the race while Gable would continue to race in what was a pretty impressive first night out for the local driver.

This heat would go the way of Honeybone who would take the win from Casey McEwan of Cromwell with McDonald third.

The final race for Stockcars saw Knight back on track and looking quick, he battled lap upon lap with Honeybone for the lead of the race but Honeybone would eventually prevail, moving ahead of Knight and clinching his second win of the event, Knight would come home strong in second with Cromwell’s Brain Taniwha making a return from injury in third place.

That win would give Honeybone the overall win for the event, McDonald second and Taniwha third overall.

Both Youth Ministocks and Youth Saloons were racing for round two of the Pits Media Challenge, round one was raced at Riverside earlier in January.

Heat one for Ministocks had just the one stoppage when Brooke Marshall of Cromwell parked up in turn two, the yellow flag was shown but Marshall managed to get going again by herself. Trent Ainsley led this race early but would soon be under attack by Cromwell clubmate Clay Dawson who soon made the move for the lead and the eventual race win, behind Dawson was a fast finishing Ashdyn Gable also of Cromwell who got home in second with Ainsley third. 

Race two was called for sunstrike but pushed back in the program to ensure the Ministocks would get three heat races in, once they returned to track it was on lap four that the one and only caution would play out with Mikayla Colvin of Cromwell spinning up in turn two. 

At the restart a great battle between Ainsley, Dawson, Gable and Cromwell’s Dylan Jones unfolded, the drivers all racing wheel to wheel lap upon lap until Dawson eventually broke the stranglehold slipping to an advantage that would give him the race win. Just like heat one Gable would come home in second with Ainsley home in third.

Unfortunately for the Ministocks heat three would end up being pulled from the program due to time restraints giving Dawson the overall win, Gable second with Ainsley third.

Youth Saloons would not usually run at Central Motor Speedway but a strong field of cars from Beachlands and Riverside were entered. Heat one was a good hard clean race, the only caution coming out when the bumper of Max Fleet of Dunedin came off bringing out a yellow flag with two laps remaining. At the restart the race would only run another one lap before Dunedin duo Madi Stewart and Deikin Borthwick would make contact on the main straight. The pair would push each other infield then nudge each other back out onto the track, neither driver giving an inch. Unfortunately Dunedin’s Ashley Bennett would soon join the party hitting the two cars smack bang in the middle of the confrontation that was already happening, sending her airborne but still able to finish the race.

As the race restarted it was Dunedin’s Max Kemp who would prevail with a well driven win, second was Brooke Soper and third Jayden Cron both of Beachlands.

Race two would see an early caution when Riverside’s Bayton Benfell would lose a bumper early, the race leader at this point was Cron who was relishing the Cromwell track conditions, looking fast and battling with Kemp who had worked his way through the field.

Dunedin driver Dresden Constable would be the cause of the next yellow flag after spinning in turn four with just a couple of laps to run, this would mean Cron would again have to defend his position at the front of the field.

At the restart Cron had to fight off Kemp which he managed to do to take the win, Kemp settled for second with clubmate Noah Kitto taking third place.

Heat three was also a great race, plenty of action unfolding across the entire field. This was a good clean heat that Stewart would lead early up until Soper grabbed the lead mid race.

Soper looked to have the race won with Stewart and Kemp battling hard for the minors behind her, she looked to have taken the checkered flag just when a car spun bringing out the yellow flag. At that point it looked like a win to Soper, Stewart second and Kemp third but the call was made to restart the race with two laps to run.

This put all sorts of pressure on the race leader but to Soper’s credit she defended well and held on for the last two laps to take the heat three win, unfortunately for Stewart, Kemp made a late pass to steal second with Stewart settling for third place.

Overall placings in Youth Saloons for the night saw Kemp first, Cron second and Soper with her race win third.

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