Can Donny take ten
This biggest annual speedway event in Queensland will be decided this weekend at Ausdeck Archerfield Speedway with the 24th staging of the Sprintcar Australian Open over two huge nights on Friday and Saturday nights (January 10 and 11). Bringing together the best local, national and international stars, the Titan Garages Australian Open is synonymous with breathtaking action as drivers strive to secure every advantage in their pursuit of the $20 000 prize that awaits the winner of the 50-lap feature race on Saturday night. World of Outlaws legend Donny Schatz is chasing his fifth feature race win in a row AND his tenth Australian Open victory in what will be his final weekend of racing before he returns home to contest the Chilli Bowl indoor Midget event in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
However, the event doubles as round nine of the QSS World Series Sprintcar Championship and there is plenty at stake for those chasing the WSS title, so rest assured they will be absolutely determined to deny Schatz another visit to victory lane, which is, of course, a challenge that will require perfect preparation, exemplary execution and perhaps a little luck. Whilst those sitting atop the WSS standings were unable to make any impression on Schatz in round six of the championship last Saturday night, young Victorian Rusty Hickman came closest of anybody to upstaging the North Dakota native at Archerfield this season, leading much of the feature race before Schatz zoomed to the front with two laps remaining. Hickman, who won the Friday night Australian Open Preliminary Feature race last season, seems to have a liking for the Archerfield layout that might just see him take the challenge to Schatz once again.
Having been engaged in battle for the WSS championship lead since the early rounds, James McFadden and Kerry Madsen will continue their duel that saw Madsen emerge with the upper hand last Saturday with a third-place finish. The following night at Toowoomba it was McFadden who fared best, albeit a long way from the leader in ninth position, one spot ahead of Madsen. Round eight in Maryborough on Tuesday night saw both drivers bounce back to finish at the front of the field. McFadden extended his lead further by winning the feature, with Madsen finishing in second spot. Others most definitely in the reckoning for success on Saturday night include Pennsylvanian hotshoe Lucas Wolfe, two-time national champion Dave Murcott, defending WSS champion Steven Lines, Gold Coast young gun Lachlan McHugh, opening round winner Brock Hallett and Tasmanian teenager Jock Goodyer, who finished third in Toowoomba and Maryborough just a couple of weeks after winning the Australian Formula 500 Championship.
Of the locals, it was no surprise that Australian Champion Andrew Scheuerle was the best performed last weekend, but not before Luke Oldfield threw away what seemed certain third place finish with a late-race spin. Oldfield bounced back at Toowoomba to finish fifth, with Goodyer the only WSS contracted driver to finish ahead of him. Unfortunately, after a brilliant start to the night in Maryborough that saw him set Quick Time in qualifying before blasting from the back of the field to win his opening heat race, Oldfield crashed out of his next heat and missed the feature race. As the only Queensland driver to have won the Australian Open, Bryan Mann should fancy his chances despite the depth of talent taking part, while the likes of Kevin Titman, Callum Walker, Brent Kratzmann and former Queensland champ Mitchell Gee will be primed to shine in front of their home crowd.
In what will be a huge two nights of action, supporting events over the weekend will come courtesy of Midgets, AMCA Nationals, Wingless Sprints, Lightning Sprints, Formula 500s and Modlites.
Whilst a Friday night scheduling has left the Midget field a little less than what we have seen so far this season, all of the drivers who have been the standouts thus far in the American Tire & Racing Services Series will be in attendance for round five. Brock Dean has won the last two rounds and will again face off against Rusty Whittaker, Darren Vine and opening round winner Glenn Wright, with teenager Bodie Smith a potential spoiler if he can reproduce the form that carried him to a Compact Speedcar feature race win last weekend.
With feature race wins at four different tracks so far this season, including the last outing at Archerfield, Tyler Stralow is the man to beat in round eight of the Stockmans Civil and Plant Lightning Sprint Club Championship. Dave Fanning, who bounced back from a spin to finish second behind Stralow in their previous clash, Queensland champ Jason Rae and category veteran Keith Blatch loom as the biggest obstacles to another Stralow success story.
Rounding out the Friday action will be another big field of 20+ Modlites which, in the absence of last start winner Klinton Hancey, should see Terry Leerentveld and Sam Gollschewsky renew their battle from the last outing, perhaps this time for the win rather than the minor placings. Dan Lewis, Sean Rose and Scott Lehfeldt are also expected to feature amongst the front runners.
Having been relegated to third place after starting from the front row in the previous round, Australian Champion Matt Hardy will be desperate to reassert his authority in round six of the Shock Absorber Therapy AMCA Nationals Track Championship. Whilst the good news for Hardy is that the two drivers who beat him on that occasion are not amongst the nominations for Saturday night, the bad news from his perspective is the return of Nathan Durston and the fact that four-time national champion Shane McKinnell will be piloting the #85 that carried his son Lee to an emphatic win in round five. With Steve Potts, Bruce Marshall, Thomas Vickery and Nathan Tomkins also amongst the entries, another torrid round of racing seems assured.
As has been the case for each round, Wingless Sprints will gather in big numbers for round five of their Ian Boettcher Race Parts/Activated Industries Super Series. Having finished first and second respectively in the previous round, the NSW-based duo of David Eggins and Kevin Willis return in a bid to exert their authority over the Queenslanders once again. Dan Evans, who finished third in round four, is obviously one of the best local hopes, along with Cody O’Connell, Casey O’Connell, Tim Harris, Paul Robinson and Liam Atkinson, who scored an impressive heat win in round four only to crash out in his next heat and miss the feature race.
In Formula 500 racing, north Queensland youngster Brodie Davis and NSW top gun Scott Connole are joining the field to take on all the Archerfield regulars, which includes the likes of James Kennedy, Kristin Brown, Tarhlea Apelt, Ron Barber and Ethan Eyears.
Gates open both days at 4.00pm (online ticketholders from 3.30pm), with early racing from 4.45pm on Friday night and Sprintcar time trial qualifying from 5.00pm. On Saturday night, early racing will kick off at 5.00pm, with the main program to get underway at 6.00pm on both nights.
QSS World Series Titan Garages Australian Sprintcar Open nominations: Andrew Corbet, Andrew Scheuerle, Brent Kratzmann, Brock Hallett, Brooke Tatnell, Bryan Mann, Callum Walker, Cody Maroske, David Murcott, Donny Schatz, Glen Sutherland, Jack Lee, James McFadden, Jason Pryde, Jock Goodyer, Karl Hoffmans, Kerry Madsen, Kevin Titman, Kristy Bonsey, Lachlan McHugh, Lucas Wolfe, Luke Oldfield, Mark Pholi, Mitchell Gee, Randy Morgan, Ryan McNamara, Rusty Hickman, Shaun Dobson, Steven Lines, Tim Farrell
American Tire & Racing Services Midget Series round five nominations: Audie Malt, Barry Gibbs, Bodie Smith, Brad Dawson, Brock Dean, Cal Whatmore, Darren Vine, Glen Wright, Graeme Flynn, Matt O’Neil, Mitchell Rooke, Nathan Mathers, Reid Mackay, Rusty Whittaker, Scott Doyle
Stockmans Civil and Plant Lightning Sprint Club Championship round eight nominations: Adam Norton, Danny Stone, Dave Fanning, Derek Wells, James Elliott, Jason George, Jason Rae, Jim Kennedy, Keith Blatch, Mark Peters, Scott Jukes, Tyler Stralow, Wayne Iacono, Wayne Jukes
Modlite nominations: Abi Meehan, Alex Coward, Anthony Stewart, Callum Beerling, Chris Crowe, Chris Fing, Dan Lewis, Howie Powers, Jac Carnall, Jamie Cornes, Joel Smith, Julian Olley, Luke Fraser, Sam Gollschewsky, Scott Lehfeldt, Sean Egan, Sean Rose, Steve Collins, Terry Leerentveld, Trent McLean, Troy Carnall, Warren Hooper
Ian Boettcher Race Parts/Activated Industries Wingless Sprint Super Series round five nominations: Ben Hull, Brady Baldwin, Brian Scott, Brody Thomsen, Casey O’Connell, Chris Catchpole, Cody O’Connell, Corey O’Toole, Dan Evans, Dave Eggins, Dave Ellis, Dave Jobe, Ian Milnes, Jacqui Salmon, James Barton, Jamie Usher, Jayden O’Toole, Kevin Willis, Lachie Robertson, Liam Atkinson, Michael Lampard, Mick Reid, Nathan Jones, Paul Robinson, Scott Graham, Scott Thomsen, Shaun Knight, Shaun Thompson, Tim Harris, Timothy Harris
Shock Absorber Therapy AMCA Nationals Track Championship round six nominations: Brett Robotham, Bruce Marshall, Dallas Czerwinski, Darren Miler, Graeme Holland, Jay Allen, Kevin Stow, Matt Hardy, Michael Denning, Nathan Durston, Nathan Tomkins, Robert Kynaston, Russ Hardy, Scott Hitchcock, Shane McKinnell, Steve Potts, Thomas Vickery
Formula 500 nominations: Aaron Finglas, Adrian Farrell, Brady Argles, Brock Thornton, Brodie Davis, Dekota Gay, Ethan Eyears, James Kennedy, Jonathon Gunn, Kristin Brown, Ron Barber, Royce Harvey, Scott Connole, Tarhlea Apelt, Zac Gaynor
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