The Sanders and Oldfield Show Continues

Continuing their duel from 48 hours earlier, California’s Justin Sanders and local hero Luke Oldfield were again engaged in a thrilling fight for supremacy in round five of the East Coast Logistics Sprintcar Track Championship at Archerfield Speedway on Wednesday night (December 28), except this time it was the American who came out on top in the 30-lap feature race. Sanders pounced at a late-race restart to wrest control from Oldfield, who had taken over the lead from Randy Morgan on lap six. Jy Corbet also relegated Morgan to secure the final spot on the podium, with Kevin Titman filling fifth ahead of Brent Kratzmann, Taylor Prosser, Jack Bell, Harry Stewart and Trent Vardy.

Having nabbed KRE Quick Time in his first ever attempt on Monday night, Sanders repeated the effort when he topped the timesheets with a best effort of 12.034 to edge out Oldfield (12.038), with Prosser third quickest overall of (12.064). However, with the fastest in each qualifying group scoring maximum points, it would by Corbet (fourth overall with 12.151) and Aaron Kelly, whose 12.393 was eighth quickest of the 29 drivers, who would join Sanders in securing maximum points

Unfortunately for Kelly, any good fortune he may have enjoyed in qualifying was fleeting as his night ended very early when he rode out a wild wreck along the back straight on the opening lap of the first heat. Titman went on to take the race ahead of Kratzmann and Andrew Baumber

Heat two saw Morgan emulate Titman in that he also came from position three to win, leading home Brad Ayers and Corbet.

Sharing row three in the third heat, Oldfield and Sanders shadowed each other as they set forth on advancing their position, with Sanders securing an early advantage as Adam Butler took over the lead from Dan Murray. A lap later though and it is Oldfield ahead of Sanders, with both relegating Murray on lap five. Butler held sway at the front until the final lap when Oldfield pounced to grab the lead and the win, with Sanders having to settle for third.

Titman doubled up to win heat four from Mitch Gowland and Kratzmann, with Corbet taking heat five in advance of Tim Farrell and Morgan.

The final heat had Sanders and Oldfield on the front row and they finished in that order, leaving Prosser to best the rest in third spot.

As top qualifier from the heats, Sanders duly drew a full inversion for the Boss Hogg’s Steakhouse Dash, putting himself at the back of the bus alongside Oldfield and gifting pole position to Farrell, who would share the front row with Mitch Gowland. Taking maximum advantage, Farrell cleared away to win from Kratzmann, Morgan and Titman, with Sanders advancing as far as fifth. Oldfield finished sixth despite a spin with a lap to run, with Corbet and Gowland rounding out the field.

The B Main was an action-packed affair in which seven different drivers occupied transfer positions at different stages, with Karl Hoffmans seemingly on track for the easiest of wins, only to whack the wall in turn four on lap 12 and grind to halt in the main straight. As a result it was Jack Bell who, having been forced to restart at the rear on lap five when he couldn’t avoid a spinning Tarhlea Apelt, delivered what was easily his best performance of the season in storming back through the pack to be running second and subsequently declared the winner when Hoffmans wiped out. Nathan Pronger, Dan Murray and Kye Jensen also secured places in the main event, although Hoffmans would utilise a provisional to also feature in the feature race. Those who missed the cut included Libby Ellis, Apelt, Erin Vanderreyden, Jeremy Gaudry, Carlo Moiola and Luke Manttan.

When the green flew to get the feature underway, it was Morgan who got the best of the start to lead the field from the second row, with Oldfield quickly instilling himself in second spot. Not for the first time in feature race competition this season, Oldfield found himself in pursuit of Morgan for the feature race lead, making the pass on lap six in this instance, with Sanders pushing Morgan back to third on lap 12. Sanders made his first bid for the lead with a slide-job through turn two on lap 18, with Oldfield snatching it back immediately. Sanders went ahead again on the next lap, only for a restart to intervene when Baumber tipped over in turn four and Bell stopped in the main straight. Oldfield maintained his lead through to the final restart that resulted when Murray upended in turn one. Just 48 hours earlier it had been a perfectly executed late restart that propelled Oldfield to victory, however on this occasion he made a mess of it and Sanders was perfectly positioned to swoop through turns one and two and into the lead. Oldfield could offer little resistance and had to settle for his second runner-up finish behind an American so far this season, with Corbet chasing down Morgan for third. Titman finished fifth, with Kratzmann securing sixth ahead of Prosser, Bell and Stewart and Vardy. Next in line were. Gowland, Ayers, Murray and Butler, leaving Hoffmans,Pronger and Jensen to round out the finishers.

In a spectacular finish to the opening Wingless Sprint heat, some argy bargy exiting the final corner continued through to the chequer and resulted in Matt Gamble taking a wild ride through turn one after crossing the line. Lachlan Robertson avoided the chaos to secure the win ahead of Andrew Robinson and Allan Woods.

Heat two delivered a preview of the feature race result with Jamie Usher leading home Jacob Jolley and Scott Thomson.

Woods outgunned Brody Thomson and Robinson to take out heat three before Scott Thomsen downed Jolley and Usher to win the final heat.

Surprisingly, given what we have seen from them of late, the Wildink Wingless Sprint feature was largely a follow-the-leader affair with Usher keeping Jolley and the Thomsens at bay, with Brody the best of the brothers on this occasion. Next in line were Jayden O’Toole, Andrew Robinson, Stuart Jefferies and Woods, whose efforts to get the outside working proved largely ineffective given the lack of support he received from those around him who were seemingly content with their rearward position. James Barton, Ben Manson, Jeremy Burt, James Grady and Lance Dawson completed the field.

Lee McKinnell held on to win the opening heat for AMCA National from Steve Potts, who looked as though he was heading to the front with an outside run through the final turn, only for McKinnell to shift uptrack and thwart the move, with Nathan Tomkins finishing third.

After a disastrous opening round, Bruce Marshall made his intentions clear in heat two, rounding up Kevin Stow for the lead on lap four and then clearing away to win by more than four seconds. Stow remained second at the flag, followed home by Matt Hardy in third.

Tomkins took out heat three in advance of Brett Robotham and Michael Denning, while the final heat brought the big guns together and resulted in a win for Hardy over Marshall, McKinnell and Potts.

The fact that there were no positional changes amongst the top six for the duration of the 20-lap feature race doesn’t reflect just how close it was in the battle for the podium. Ultimately, Marshall was simply too quick at the front of the parade, leading home McKinnell, Hardy, Tomkins and Potts to win round two of the Shock Absorber Therapy Track Championship. Robotham, Russ Hardy, Stow, Denning and Peter Greer were the best of the rest and then came Maverick Dack, Nash Granger, Jim Knight, Lee Kendall and Cona Stephen.

It was hardly surprising to see Liam Williams make easy work of a small Formula 500 field, winning both heats and the feature race with a minimum of fuss. Whilst a full inversion of the grid for the feature probably wouldn’t have made any difference to the result, it certainly might have delivered a race that resembled something other than an elongated hot lap session. With several drivers away chasing Speedweek glory in Victoria, some new faces popped up on the feature race podium with Scott and Wayne Jukes finishing second and third respectively. Ron Barber and Bryce McGregor rounded out the top five, with Luke Edwards, Mark Farmer, Jarred Boys and Nathan Reeks the only other finishers.

In Open Sedan A action, heat wins were shared between Les Eisenmenger, Colin Morris and Andrew Craft, with the latter also going on to take the feature race. Wayne Kirkman and Gary Kivella filled the minor placings ahead of Morris and Jamie Olsen.

Tim Swart continued his domination of the Open Sedan B ranks aboard his trusty Cortina, winning two of the three heats and the feature race. Shaun Donnelly picked up a heat win and then finished second in the feature ahead of Haiden Grantz and the only other finisher in Jake Twin.

The next event at Archerfield Speedway is the opening round of the Speedway Australia QLD/NSW States Sprintcar Series on Wednesday January 11 featuring American stars Carson Macedo, Justin Sanders and Aaron Reutzel.

Just two nights later, in the wake of confirmation that Archerfield Speedway will cease operations in June 2023, the last ever Australian Sprintcar Open will be contested over two big nights on January 13 and 14, with the three Americans and many of Australia’s very best looking to have their name etched in history as the final Australian Open champion.