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Legends Attract Massive Crowd In Cromwell

Central Motor Speedway

STORY BY

DARYL SHUTTLEWORTH
Shuttleworth Motorsport Media

Images supplied by:  Suzy Walker

(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.) 

Names such as Standring, Sokol, Buckley and Shaw have been a part of the speedway landscape throughout New Zealand for decades, they have shaped our sport over the years and have all given so much back to the generations of Speedway drivers that have come behind them. They possibly thought they had been forgotten about, but the anticipation leading into Central Motor Speedways Methanol Masters meeting recently, these guys are still regarded as absolute legends in the sport, and for many to see them lining up in  a race car once more was something they were not going to miss.

Twenty four drivers from across New Zealand converged on Central Motor Speedway for the first ever Methanol Masters, a Sprintcar event which only drivers over forty five could enter, somewhat of a gamble, who would enter? , what sort of crowd would turn up?, it really was the unknown, but what we know now is that it was one of the most successful meetings in a number of years at the Cromwell track.

Now as the commentator of this event I actually got to the track slightly later than I had envisaged, and when I was coming down the road to Central Motor Speedway there was cars spewing out onto the road and my first thoughts were they had been late getting the public gates open, but to my surprise the arena was already open and cars parked completely around it, the cars on the road were pretty much the overflow, something I haven’t seen here for some time.

Now talking to the punters it wasn’t just the Sprintcars people were here to see, I would say about a fifty – fifty split of people there for Sprintcars, the rest for Metal Madness which was a massive field of Stockcars and Streetstocks, a few Super Stocks which haven’t been seen here for a number of years, as well as Ministocks in support. The local Central Coyote Stockcar team would also take on the Greymouth Grizzlies in a Stockcar Teams race to kick off proceedings.

So the club really did a spot on job at selecting what grades would run at this event, Sprintcars satisfying the purists with the contact grades entertaining those who like some good old fashion biff and bash.

So the Methanol Masters consisted of three groups of drivers, those who still race full time consisting of current contracted drivers from Cromwell drivers Jason Scott, Dean Miller, John Sievwright, Whetu Taewa and Steve Scoles, Riverside’s Ross McKinnel, and Christchurch drivers Shaun Ashton and Dave Kerr, this was the Red Group.

The Blue Group was Andy Erskine, Kevin Clive, Kristin Jemmett, Mark Evans, Gavin Hill, Nigel Colvin, Ossie Sokol and Ricky Boulton, now these drivers either haven’t raced full time this season or have only been out of the seat for a very short time.

Then the final group was the Green Group was those who have not been behind the wheel for a number of years, this group had Bill Buckley, Gerard Ness, Graham Standring, Greg Clemence, Owen Shaw, Philip Game, Stephen Duff and Tony “Buck”Buchanan in it, certainly some legends in that lot of names.

Each group would run two races before the top four drivers would face the other top drivers in the other groups, and the bottom four would do likewise, there would then be a “B Main” for the lower scoring cars before all twenty four cars would hit the track for the twenty lap feature.

Heat one for the Blue Group was a faultless run, remembering these drivers are either newish to the grade of haven’t done much, if any running in the last couple of years. Full credit to all the drivers in this race, they were first up and did not put a foot wrong, Evans taking off from the very start of this race and remaining unchallenged the entire race, not looking out of place at all, Evans would take the heat one win with Boulton second in just his second or third  meeting in a Sprintcar and Colvin grabbing third spot.

The Blue Groups second heat saw Sokol wind back the clock and put in a dominating performance, the former North Island Champion smashing his nearest rival Jemmett by almost five seconds, in another race with no cautions, just good clean racing, Colvin would again come home in a solid third place.

The next group to enter the arena was the Red Group, now these drivers you would suggest would be the cream of the crop, the guys that race wheel to wheel week in, week out but it only took about fifty meters of track before the first pile up would unfold, Kerr, Scoles and Taewa all involved only Scoles managing to continue on.

Now it is at this point that I will single out Scoles, who to me was an absolute stand out at this event, Scoles had done four or five races over the neighbouring fence at Highlands Motorsport Park throughout the day, then jumped back over to race this event, Scoles to me put in his best ever performances in a Sprintcar at this event, something he can take a number of positives out of.

This race would continue at pace with local driver Scott getting home for the race win with ease, McKinnel second and Miller third.

The drivers had got all their frustrations out of the way in heat one and put on a classy race in heat two, the battle up front between Kerr who had a DNF in heat one and Scott who won heat one was immense, the pair going toe to toe lap upon lap thrilling the big crowd, Scott however would be just too quick on home turf taking the win from Kerr who just the weekend prior had won the CTRA NZ Sprintcar title, while in third place was Ashton.

Now came the legends, the Green Group and possibly the group that shocked everyone the most, these drivers haven’t driven competitively for a number of season’s, but you would think they had never retired from the sport with the on track performance that unfolded.

Now one fact that blew my mind was Graham Standring, a multi time New Zealand Midget Champion, over one hundred feature wins at the holy grail of Speedway Western Springs, but he has never, ever competed in a Sprintcar race.

In this heat you also had Bill Buckley, eighty one years young, two time New Zealand Sidecar Champion way back in the sixties, and he sure as hell did not disgrace himself one little bit.

Heat one for the Green Group saw an early spin for Duff in the opening lap, this was followed by a second incident in turn three where Ness, Shaw and Clemence would all have a coming together putting Clemence out of the race.

The race would go to a full restart and it was Buchanan the local who would lead the way in his ANZAC inspired car, certainly looking the part. Buchanan would lead the majority of this race but Game would have him well in his cross hairs and eventually chase him down to take over the race lead.

Buchanan would spin late in the race taking Ness with him but Ness would get to restart up towards the pointy end of the field, Game would take the race win after the final restart, Ness home second with Shaw third.

The next heat for the Green Group saw Duff and Ness make contact in turn two of lap one, resulting in a full grid restart, once the cars lined up and got underway it was a clean run to the flag and again Game was delivering the drive of the day, smashing the field by over eight seconds, everyone in attendance was soon talking about Phillip Game at the conclusion of this race, considering his car was over twenty years old, he was looking like the man to beat at Methanol Madness.

Ness would cross the line in this race in second place but the final results saw him drop to third for some unknown reason, this would elevate Standring up to second place for heat two.

From here we would go to the race for the top four cars across all four groups to determine the grid for the first twelve rows of the grid in the feature, the front row for this race was mouth watering with Scott a current racer, and Game a legend battling hard lap upon lap, Game infact banking the fastest lap of the race on lap five.

Seven laps in McKinnel and Kerr were forced out of the race, as the midpack powered out of turn two it looked as if Sokol to abrasive action to avoid Colvin which then led to McKinnel, Kerr and Ness all making solid contact and forcing a restart.

From the restart Scott took control and managed the lead well to ensure a race win and pole position for the final, Game placed second with Colvin home in third place.

The four bottom cars from each group would also get to run a heat to decide grid positions, but would also get to run the B Main after this race. This was a good clean race that saw Jemmett take control up front and bank a win over local driver Miller with Shaw fast in third place. The battle between Miller and Shaw was intense with Miller only slipping past Shaw on the very last corner.

This now led to the B Main, a chance for the lower points scorers to work their way up the grid for the feature, should they wish to run.

This was another race that would go the distance with some good hard fast racing throughout, and a number of the drivers that haven’t raced for some time really starting to find their straps at the pointy end of the meeting.

Sievwright would start from the front row of the grid for this race and would remain in front for the entire race claiming the B Main after a patient drive, Sievwright would take the win ahead of Duff who was looking quick and Clive who had been midpack in his heats, getting the last spot on the podium.

The scene was now set for the twenty lap feature final, and the last two races we had seen had gone without a glitch, it would be too much to hope that the feature would produce the same with the feature only getting to turn one before a red light had to be called after a massive pile up.

Scott would enter turn one hard behind Game but he pulled back slightly to avoid making contact, this would send Scott into a spin at the front of the pack which led to Sokol, Standring, Ness, Evans, Boulton and Clive all making solid contact.

This incident would see Evans, Ness, Sokol and Clive all retiring to the infield without completing a lap in the feature, it would also see Scott sent to the rear of the field being deemed the cause of the red light.

After a lengthy delay the race would restart, Game would fire off from the front of the pack and lead early, but this would only last a lap as Scoles would come unstuck in turn four, spinning up with Erskine, Ashton and Scott having to take abrasive action to avoid a huge crash, Erskine had made slight contact in this incident, this would end the Club Presidents night.

The race would go green once more and it was taking shape, Game was leading, Scott was working his way from the back of the pack towards the front when Colvin would spin up on lap eight coming out of turn two taking Boulton with him, Boulton would continue on but Colvin would be out.

The race would restart once more, Game would lead the next three laps but his car started to sound more like a tractor as Kerr would make a questionable pass on the race leader which he would serve a two spot relegation at the next restart.

Scott was now also in the equation and attacking at the front of the field eventually getting the race lead back with an outstanding drive from the back of the pack with just six laps to run.

If you were thinking it was a clean run home from here you are far from correct, with Duff coming unstuck with three to run, Miller would hit Duff putting Miller out but Duff would continue on.

The white flag would come out, Game had been a sitting duck, dropping from first down to fifth but turning out a fantastic drive that had people talking about “what if his car didn’t start to play up?” he sure may have won this race, but thats motorsport and to finish fifth with issues in a pretty quick field was something very special.

Scott would take the Methanol Masters feature win followed home by Kerr with Jemmett absolutely outstanding getting himself up to third place.

Jemmett would be interviewed at the conclusion of this race and was clearly overcome with emotion, this result was very special to him, and it summed up why so many of us dedicate so much with our families to this sport, this was a precious moment for a number of people, me included.

The Pits TV did some outstanding interviews with these drivers over the night, and the drivers such as Game, Sokol, Shaw, Standring and Buckley just to name a small few were captivating to listen to, they loved the event and I think a number of our young up and coming drivers should watch these interviews if they get the chance as they could certainly learn a thing or two from these legendary drivers.

With Methanol Masters being targeted at the drivers aged forty five years and over, there was a separate set of results which would see each driver score a point for every year above forty-five they are, at the end of the night with all the points from the races added to the age points Game would take the win, Scott second with Buckley a crowd favorite third.

We must also acknowledge The Pits Media who reached a milestone at this event, bringing up the one million dollar mark of funds from the live streams that they have given back to speedway tracks around New Zealand, a massive contribution to our sport which is truly appreciated. 

Central Coyotes Stockcar Team were keen to showcase teams racing infront of local supporters and sponsors when they would go head to head with the Greymouth Grizzlies, the Coyotes already having bragging rights with a win over the West Coasters earlier in the season.

This was a great teams race to watch, one early stoppage when Adam Naber of the Coyotes would stop causing a red and dropping the local team down a man.

Dylan Robb took control of this race early for the Coyotes and looked like he was coasting to an easy enough win but the Grizzlies were hard at work behind him taking apart the Coyotes one by one, leaving Robb with little support on track at all.

Despite the Coyotes trying to hang on to the lead Rob Gaskell and Logan Tomlin of the Grizzlies would start to pressure Robb and then their blocker Hadleigh Smith would do enough to let his runners through and past Robb to take control and get to the flag first to take an upset win for the Greymouth Grizzlies, leaving them one win each this season, and talk of a grudge match early next year already in the pipeline.

Stockcars delivered some fantastic racing throughout the rest of the night with two heats and a feature.

Heat one saw Christchurch driver Jaxyn Houtos exit the race early with a fire in his car, this was Houtos first race in the adult class after a very successful Youth Ministock career, the teenager certainly didn’t look out of place in a big field of Stockcars, as we would find out as the night progressed.

This race would go the way of local driver Brodie MacDonald who was fast from the outset, working his way through lapped traffic with ease to take the win, Steven Thompson of Dunedin came home in second place with Cromwell’s Shane MacDonald third.

Race two was another very clean race, there was plenty of tapping and spinning but no major incidents, Shane MacDonald would dominate this race up front to bag the heat win, second was Thompson who was again very fast, while Christchurch driver Ben Bonnell would secure third place.

So with just the feature to run and the crowd wanting to see some big hits, they would not have been too disappointed with the feature race, early leader Luke Molloy of Christchurch looked in control of this heat but would soon come under fire from a number of cars, what he didn’t count on was Houtos who we had mentioned earlier going for the money shot. Houtos was coasting around the pole line, almost limping as if he had issues but as Molloy found out as he shot to the outside of him on turn two Houtos was waiting for his man, sending Molloy hard into the wall and up and over, sending the big crowd into a very excited scream as the rookie driver claimed a victim.

Houtos would himself retire a few laps later but would be awarded the prize for biggest hit and one of the top stirrers of the night.

There was certainly plenty going on in this race also and it was two Greymouth drivers Tomlin and Smith who had worked their way to the front of the pack, one more red light would come on with just two laps to run when Robb found himself up and over late in the race.

When the race went green it would be Smith who would get the win, Tomlin second with Chris Kergozou of Riverside flying very much under the radar in third place, a good result for Kergozou since coming out of retirement, having won the Kergozou Memorial Streetstock trophy just a couple of weeks prior.

Streetstocks were a welcome addition to the Metal Madness event and it was great to see the current one, two and three NZ cars all entered, being Allan Finch of Dunedin, Cody McCarrison and Steven Soper both of Nelson.

Streetstocks would run three heat races and a feature race and heat one saw just the one stoppage when the sole Riverside entry of Chris Illingworth would come under fire and have to retire to the infield early.

At the restart it was a straight out sprint race which was great to take in with a big field of cars, Finch would show his class to win heat one ahead of Jamie Lott of Dunedin in second and McCarrison in third place.

Heat two saw an early stoppage while debris was cleared from the track, shortly after this Nelson’s Jordan Gillespie was put hard into the wall courtesy of Soper causing a restart, this race would go red immediately as Cody Finch of Dunedin didn’t move from the restart and would need cleared from the track. Kerry Campbell of Dunedin would also make an early exit from the race having a roll over but he would return to race the remainder of the event.

Dunedin’s Braden Adams would take control of this heat and take the win comfortably clubmate Jayden Cron who had his best result in a big field, Cron would snatch second ahead of Dunedin’s Ben Jenkins in third.

Heat three saw a stoppage in lap five when Christchurch driver Dwayne Kennett would stop on the back straight, and a stoppage for debris late in the race would be the only other stoppage.

Lott would take the win in heat three with Jenkins second and Campbell third after his earlier roll over.

This now led to the feature race for Streetstocks, fifteen laps of action which saw some great racing throughout the field, the first stoppage came when Campbell parked up on the main straight, nosed into the wall, he would be removed from the track and be out of the feature.

Cron would continue his red hot form, getting the the front of the pack and leading for the majority of the race in just his first full adult season of racing.

Cron would make the mistake of attacking Illingworth late in the race while leading, which would see him drop from first to fourth, possibly costing him a feature win.

Jenkins would be just too fast up front though and manage the race well once he slipped past Cron. Jenkins would go on to win the feature race by over two seconds with McCarrison second and Cron getting himself back up to third place.

It’s been a number of years since Central Motor Speedway had seen Superstocks, and while the club was hoping for a bumper entry list only seven cars entered the event, but the crowd got a nice taste of the speed and sound of these cars.

The heat races were dominated by the Berry boys, Mitch Berry and Jake Berry both of Christchurch, Mitch would win heat one from Jake with clubmate Ollie Sutton third, while in heat two Jake would turn the tables to claim the win over Mitch with Hepi Paul of Christchurch third.

Race three and again Mitch Berry would claim this win but would be chased hard for the win by Dakotah Chicoine of Rotorua who would place second with Paul third.

This would now only leave the feature race which was very entertaining as the Superstocks went after each other making for a very good spectacle, this also allowed veteran racer Peter Field of Christchurch to sneak to the front of the race and tear around Central Motor Speedway while all of the more favored competition battled it out amongst themselves. 

Field would claim a very popular race win in front of the big crowd, Sutton would get home in second place with Jake Berry one of the early favorites third.

The final grade to run was Youth Ministocks, predominantly made up of local cars with the addition of a couple of visiting Nelson drivers.

Heat one saw some great battles across the pack but it was Joshua McIntyre who once he got to the front of the pack was never going to be reeled in, the biggest battle took place behind him with rookie driver Paige McNally putting in a brilliant drive fighting with clubmate Thomas Scott all the way to the flag.

McIntyre would win this race , McNally a close second and Scott third.

Race two and more of the same from McIntyre but he would have to work a lot harder for the advantage at the front, McNally, Hunter Elliott Cross of Cromwell and Nelson’s Andre Musgrove all fought hard at the front of the field but McIntyre would be too fast taking his second win ahead of Elliott Cross and McNally in third place.

It would all come undone for McIntyre in race three however, when he looked for a run down the outside of McNally early in the race down the back straight, McIntyre would ride over the back wheel of McNally which would send him towards the wall and awkwardly upside down, putting him out of the race along with McNally.

At the restart Elliott Cross would do battle with Musgrove as well as Cooper Arkell and Byren Craig both of Cromwell, all of these drivers drove hard and fast, and gave each other the respect needed to turn on a brilliant last race of the season for these young drivers.

Elliott Cross would do enough to claim the win with Arkell second and Musgrove third, the top five cars all within a second of each other over the line in what was one of the races of the night.

Elliott Cross won the event for Youth Ministocks with Scott second and Arkell third.

All the drivers involved in the Metal Madness were paired with other drivers from other grades, the team winning at the end of the event was Jake Berry, Ben Bonell, Ben Jenkins and Cooper Arkell.

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