And Another Makes Three

In front of a huge Boxing Night crowd, Luke Oldfield scored his third feature race win of the 2022/2023 East Coast Logistics Sprintcar Track Championship in round four at Archerfield Speedway on Monday night (December 26). Initially settling in second behind Jy Corbet, it wasn’t until lap 15 that Oldfield went to the front and immediately set about distancing himself from the field. Having started from row four, California’s Justin Sanders powered home to secure second spot ahead of Ryan Newton, with Randy Morgan finishing fourth ahead of Brent Kratzmann and Taylor Prosser.

In the Midget feature, it was hardly a surprise that their strongest field of the season thus far would deliver the best racing, with Charlie Brown enjoying a successful start to his season in taking out the 20-lap feature race. Brock Dean looked safe in second until he jumped the cushion and tipped over in turn two, elevating Casey O’Connell into second spot ahead of New Zealand gun Kaleb Currie. Fourth to the flag was Rusty Whittaker, followed by Tim Devine and Brad Dawson.

A somewhat scrappy display from the Modlites would eventually result in Klinton Hancey taking out yet another feature race, leading home Dan Lewis, Luke Harrison and Chris Fing, with a late run from Tyson Snow netting him fifth at the expense of another American visitor in Blake Wilson.

With some late additions to the entry list, 31 cars took to the track for Sprintcar qualifying from which Sanders would emerge with KRE Quick Time, stopping the clock at 12.26 in tricky conditions. With Oldfield and Corbett topping the timesheets in their respective groups, the trio would head into the heat races on equal points.

Making the most of track conditions that proved challenging for competitors and spectators alike, Harry Stewart raced away to win the opening heat over Trent Vardy and Newton, with Sanders finishing fifth behind Taylor Prosser.

Heat two saw James Kennedy score his maiden Sprintcar win when he downed Jack Bell and Kratzmann, while the third preliminary saw Randy Morgan pounce from the outside front row and race away to take the race in advance of Tim Farrell and Oldfield.

With the track having been manicured into shape prior to the second round of heats, the racing improved considerably and it was Sanders who was first to embrace the changes, racing away to win heat four ahead of Newton and Prosser.

Heat five was over in the blink of an eye with Corbet scorching around the highline to leave Kratzmann and Bell unable to make any impression in the minor placings.

Despite starting from pole position in the final heat, Oldfield found himself outgunned at the green with Mitch Gowland launching from the outside front row to lead the field away. However, in the wake of a lap two restart following a crash in turn four from Allan Woods, Oldfield zoomed into the lead and would ultimately finish more than three seconds clear of Morgan, who rounded up Gowland on lap six.

Emerging as top qualifier from the heats, good fortune befell Oldfield in the inversion draw for the Boss Hogg’s Steakhouse Dash when he maintained possession of his pole position start, with Corbet to start alongside. Having started from position three, a spin from Sanders in turn four on the opening lap would prove costly as Oldfield raced away to win from Corbet, Newton, Kratzmann, Morgan and Bell, confining Sanders and Tim Farrell to the fourth row of the grid for the feature race.

A full field faced the starter in the B Main and it was polesitter Mark Pholi who set the pace through the opening laps, only for Vardy to assume the lead on lap eight and remain in front to the chequer. A late surge from Woods would carry him into second spot ahead of Pholi, with Titman snaring the final transfer spot from Dan Murray. Having advanced from eighth to be running fourth and seemingly poised to make the feature race, Nathan Pronger made contact with the lapped car of James Matthews along the back straight with four laps remaining and slid to a halt. Restarting from the back, Pronger refused to accept his fate, but ultimately fell short, surging back to finish sixth ahead of Tarhlea Apelt, who had occupied a transfer position through the first half of the race.

It was Corbet who launched best when the feature race field was unleashed, planting his right rear firmly on the cushion and leading Oldfield, Kratzmann, Newton and Bell through the opening laps. Also entrenched on the highline, Oldfield played a waiting game, plotted his ascendancy and executed his raid to perfection on lap 15 to take control of the race. The same lap saw both Newton and Sanders move ahead of Kratzmann, who would fall as far as seventh before rallying late to finish fifth. With Corbet slowing and backsliding through the field, Newton should have moved into second spot, except Sanders had other ideas and swooped under both Morgan and Newton through turn three on lap 25 to put himself in proximity of the lead. However, a restart on lap 26 to enable the stricken Corbet to exit the track proved pivotal as Oldfield caught Sanders napping and skipped clear to score his fourth feature win for the season and extend his ECL championship lead. In finishing third, Newton replicated his result from Warrnambool a week earlier, with Morgan solid again in fourth ahead of Kratzmann, Prosser, Stewart and Bell. Rounding out the top ten were Kennedy and Woods, followed by Titman, Karl Hoffmans, Andrew Baumber, Gowland, Vardy and Pholi.

After a slow start to the season, the Midgets certainly upped their game for this event with several drivers enjoying their first run for the season and it was one of those who prevailed in the opening heat when Brock Dean advanced from row two to upstage Darren Dillon and Brad Dawson.

An almost identical scenario played out in heat two as Charlie Brown also moved from the outside of row two to emerge victorious over Tim Devine and Brodie Tulloch.

Dean doubled up to win heat three from Kaleb Currie and Dillon before Casey O’Connell clinched the final preliminary ahead of Brown, with Dawson snaring third after surviving an altercation with Kody Stothard on lap eight that left the latter upside down on the main straight.

Dean got the initial jump to lead the feature way but his advantage was fleeting as Brown surged to the front before the opening lap was in the books. Once in front, Brown remained rock solid in his commitment to the cushion, a tactic also utilised by Dean that would ultimately cost him a place on the podium when a mistake through turn two on lap 14 sent him into the wall and into retirement. With Dean out of the picture, O’Connell took up the chase, but Brown never looked under any real pressure as he charged to the chequer for an impressive win. Behind O’Connell came Currie, who was never quite in a position to challenge those ahead of him, while Rusty Whittaker was the big mover in finishing fourth after starting on row six. Devine was next in line, with a considerable margin back to Dawson, Stothard and Darren Vine, who has struggled to make much impression so far this season. Chris Moor and Daniel Griffiths were the only others to go the distance as Dillon, Tulloch and Drew Fenton all made early exits.

The Modlite brigade didn’t really put their best foot forward on this occasion and American visitor Blake Wilson must have felt particularly frustrated by the incessant interruptions that plagued the heats. There were no surprises in the first two heats with Terry Leerentveld downing Sean Rose and Steve Collins before Hancey downed Harrison and Lewis.

Lewis led home Chris Fing and Hancey in heat three, with Callum Beerling clinching the final heat over Wilson and Tyson Snow.

The B Main went the way of Jake McRae, who would become the only driver who failed to go the distance in the feature race. Chae O’Brien, Dean Hawkins and Tim Jackson also grabbed a place at the back of the feature race field

With Leerentveld not taking his place in the field, Hancey was largely untroubled in leading throughout the 20-lap feature race and, whilst the timesheets reflect a winning margin of less than a second, Hancey never looked under serious threat. Lewis and Harrison slotted into their podium positions from the outset and remained there throughout, with Fing finagling fourth after a race-long scrap with Wilson, who would be relegated to sixth late in proceedings by Snow. Trent McLean, Beerling, Rose and Leroy Martin were the best of the rest, followed to the flag by Jake Hawkins, Abi Meehan, Chae O’Brien, Tim Jackson and Russell Martin.

The next meeting at Archerfield Speedway is this Wednesday night (December 28), featuring round five of the East Coast Logistics Sprintcar Track Championship and huge support program comprising AMCA Nationals, Wingless Sprints, Formula 500s and Open Sedans.