Auckland Alleycats vs Waikato Raiders
After taking two and a half hours to make the one hour drive from the Auckland CBD to Huntly, Alleycats fans were straight into the action with the battle of the bombays first up. 883a Brad Wearing and 21h were on the bench. The Waikato team numbers were different from those listed on their own track website. 383a Gary Lonergan got the jump but behind him the Alleycats were outduelled leaving 3 H cars chasing Lonergan. It didn't end well. Lonergan was pushed out towards the turn 3 wall by the second running H car. He was then attacked by the following two cars with 16h Malcolm Read landing a big shot to the rear. Lonergan's left front tyre departed the rest of the car.

It wasn't looking promising but stranger things have happened. Race leader 28h was slowed by the crippled Lonergan which gave the Auckland runners enough time to catch and spin the race leader. 833a Jamie Fergusson assumed the race lead through the middle stages. Unfortunately the Alleycats lost the services of 838a Hayden Hart, stranded across the track entering turn one. It was a 3 on 2 advantage to the Raiders. Two blocking Raiders got together to stall Fergusson's progress. With the lead Raider car approaching Fergusson tried a hail mary around the outside of the two blockers. Read put him into the wall and the Raiders went on to take the win.

Stratford Stormers vs Gisborne Gladiators
Reserves for this one were 65g David Glassford and 35s Josh Walsh. Stratford got the best of the start with 33s Tyler Walker leading away from 62g Ben Holt, 517s Mark Woods and 84s Haydin Barker. That advantage got even bigger when 72s Bevan Phillips spun Holt. 63g Bruce Harding returned serve for the Gladiators, stopping race leader Walker. That merely saw the ensuing Stratford cars take over whilst the Gladiators struggled to keep cars going. The result was never in doubt though 64g James Clarke never gave up, valiant in a well defeated side.

Wanganui Vulcans vs Rotorua Rascals
On the infield for this one were 385r and 42v Steve Read. 2nz Dion Mooney got a great jump off the line but there was trouble behind him. 538r took 67v Nathan Black hard into the turn 3 wall. Black kept his foot down which saw him slotted up the wall exiting turn 4. Mooney's lead evaporated once he reached a block car and Rotorua took the lead of the race. 353r Steve Gray was a big factor in this one, the menacing block man in fine form including a hit on 22v Scott Macintosh which saw the Vulcan and an unsuspecting Rascal facing the wall entering turn 1. Rotorua had control but it wasn't over. 2nz Dion Mooney was taken to the turn 1 wall by two Rascals but somehow managed to pop out between them right behind our race leader 583r. Alert to being on the end of a big hit our race leader slowed down the back straight, getting the better of a cat and mouse battle with Mooney to ensure the Rascals took the win.

Meeannee Maulers vs Palmerston North Pumas
On the infield were 32p Alec Wilson who couldn't fix a mechanical issue under a 3-minute bell and 83b Hayden Barnett. 86b took the race lead until coming across the imposing tank of 33p Luke Miers. Miers executed the block and 36p Justin Cunningham took over the lead of the race. The Pumas seemed to be taking control until 36p Justin Cunningham was fired hard into the turn 1 wall. He bounced off and into the side of 85b Joshua Swannell. Swannell went up on two wheels and did everything but roll. A miracle or perhaps a disaster if you're a Palmy fan! The reds were activated soon after with 85b and 35p David Lowe retiring to the infield. 33p Luke Miers was quickly proving himself to be a star, landing a number of shots including planting 84b Michael Smith head first into the back straight wall exiting turn two. Cunningham went on to take the win for the Pumas from 86b.

Auckland Alleycats vs Stratford Stormers
833a Jamie Fergusson and 33s Tyler Walker were the reserves for this one. 35s Josh Walsh took the early lead but on a track that had just been watered found himself on the end of a big hit from 383a Gary Lonergan in turn 3. A couple of moments later Stratford were down to two cars whilst the mighty Alleycats had 4 with 338a Keegan Orr and 383a Gary Lonergan running one-two. 84s Haydin Barker had a one on one battle with one of the Auckland block cars which ended with Barker up the wall and over down the back straight! What followed was a comical effort from the crash crew but we won't dwell on the negatives. It was a good thing the Auckland leaders were circulling uninhibited because their blockers were showing that laws of motion were a foreign concept with a series of massively mistimed attempts at stopping 72s Bevan Phillips. Auckland easily won the race though there was controversy when race winner Orr bumped his own blocker and pushed a stricken Alleycat across the finish line having already crossed under the chequered flag.

Waikato Raiders vs Gisborne Gladiators
This one looked to be a one-sided affair after Waikato's earlier win and Gisborne's loss. 28h and 66g Shaun Dunlop were the respective reserves. The Gladiators gave a much better account of themselves second time around. 16h Malcolm Read took the early lead but he and his team mates encountered plenty of spirited resistance. In particular 63g Bruce Harding was outstanding in his customary blocking role. Though they were better, the Gladiators never looked like getting the lead let alone winning the race. A learning experience for the team whilst the Raiders would be delighted having won both races.

Wanganui Vulcans vs Meeannee Maulers
A tough task for the boys from the Bay with just 3 mobile cars. 84b Michael Smith and 85b Joshua Swannell unable to front. 67v Nathan Black was on the infield for the Vulcans. The Maulers set about making it 3 on 3 and were successful when 86b launched a big hit on 2nz Dion Mooney. Mooney was out of action for a few laps but the turning point came when he was able to fire up his machine. Though the Vulcans were already leading, Mooney would be instrumental in the latter stages, renewing his friendship with 86b on two seperate occasions in the latter stages. Though the Maulers were valiant being one short proved too large a hurdle to overcome.

Rotorua Rascals vs Palmerston North Pumas
The last race of the night shaped up as the premiere race on paper and it didn't disappoint. As good as some of the other races were this one stole the show with a level of physicality we don't see too often in Stockcar Teams Racing. Rotorua gained the early advantage but the Pumas had a plan. All four Pumas went after blocker and key man Steve Gray. One Puma pushed Gray wide entering turn one which allowed 36p Justin Cunningham up the inside. Cunningham launched into a big hit, putting Gray up the wall and over. It seemed clear to me that eliminating Gray was central to the Pumas game plan. It would be unfair to say the Rascals fell apart but they weren't the same team without Gray.

Interestingly for the Pumas their race 1 blocker 33p Luke Miers was running whilst race 1 winner 36p Justin Cunningham was blocking. As I mentioned earlier the level of physicality was high, none more so than a massive straightline. One of the Rascals lined up 32p Alec Wilson from halfway down the front straight and did not miss!! But Wilson bounced off the wall while the Rotorua car went no further. The Pumas would go on to secure a memorable victory, a mix of good team strategy, execution and speed. They advance to the semi-finals with the Vulcans, Alleycats and Raiders.