A Classic weekend of Sprintcar racing in store
Australia’s biggest weekend of Sprintcar racing gets underway tonight in Mount Gambier for the King’s Challenge, before tomorrow, a mammoth 100-plus car count, including a record 18 American entries, will roll into Warrnambool’s Sungold Stadium for the two night Lucas Oils Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic.
Seven former winners are among a record Premier Speedway field of 101 – the first time the Classic entry list has topped a century – which includes iconic USA speedway names Kinser and Swindell.
“It’s our biggest ever car count, 18 Americans is also a record, and now we’re hoping for a record crowd,” Premier Speedway’s General Manager David Mills told Speedcafe.com
“It is Australia’s version of the Knoxville Nationals.This weekend is our grand final, so we’re throwing everything at it to make it a success.”
It remains the most wide open Classic in history, with the best of Australia pitted against the all-star American line up vying for the $30,000 winner’s prize.
“Looking at the field, anyone of 30 drivers could win it,” enthused V8 Supercar endurance driver Jack Perkins, who has provided expert comments for ENZED World Series Sprintcars this year on SPEED TV.
“That’s the beauty of speedway racing, anyone can win.You’ve got so many variables, from time trials, multiple heats, getting caught in other’s incidents which can help or hinder your night.
“Not taking anything away from (newly crowned Australian Champion) James McFadden, but the competition at the Classic is going to be a lot tougher than the Aussie titles.”
Headlining the Aussie field will be McFadden, plus former Classic winners Brooke Tatnell, Garry Brazier, Max Dumesny, Trevor Green and Steven Lines. Whilst Perkins believes McFadden may be up against it, it was the highbanks of the outer Warrnambool venue where he shot to prominence as a 16-year-old, upstaging a hot field of World Series Sprintcars regulars to set the quick time on the traditional New Year’s Day affair that year.
But it’s the sheer number of Americans competing which make the line up so impressive.
“It’s no fluke the amount of USA drivers we get here,” Mills said. “We put a lot of time into enticing them to come to Warrnambool.
“And besides they could be home shovelling snow, it’s not a hard sell.”
There’s 2010 Classic winner Shane Stewart, a man who has finished twice in the event before in Jason Johnson, Daryn Pittman is back for a seventh attempt, plus sprintcar royalty in Terry McCarl, Jason Sides, Tim Kaeding and Tim Shaffer.
Added to the mix are a couple of rookies in Kody Kinser and Kevin Swindell – fresh from a fourth victory earlier this month in Tulsa’s famous Chili Bowl.
“I think Kevin will like Warrnambool, the high banks are right up his alley,” Mills predicted.
But perhaps the most popular of all from the USA is returning for a 25th tilt at the Classic.
Six time winner of the event, Danny Smith is back again from Indiana for his favourite US winter escape.
“He’s an icon of the sport, and an icon of our event,” Mills proudly boasts of the Premier Speedway fan favourite.
As always in Warrnambool, all eyes will be on the weather.
“To be honest I’d rather it cooler than hot,” Mills said – after warm January conditions have been prevalent in the seaside town.
“With this amount of cars and the amount of running we’ll be doing (16 heats per night, plus time trials and features) it will make everyone’s life easier to manage.”
The Premier Speedway Club is hoping for a crowd approaching 20,000 over the two nights.
Much of the field will have their final Classic warm up at the traditional King’s Challenge at Mount Gambier’s Borderline Speedway tonight.