30 Sprintcars fronted for the opening night of the three night International Sprintcar Series in front of
a strong crowd on a typically beautiful Auckland evening. For the benefit of International readers,
Western Springs is not a large track for the
Sprintcars by any stretch and was racing relatively narrow on the night. Though by the time the Sprintcars came
on track for the A-Main the track had enough width to allow passing. This was "elbows up" New Zealand
style Sprintcar racing. 11usa Kyle Hirst was on pole with
top qualifier 54a Michael Pickens electing to start from grid 2. 3nz Jamie McDonald and 88m Keaton
Dahm comprised row two. 22a Dean Brindle and 78a Daniel Eggleton were the third row. If anyone else was
to be a factor 1nz Jamie Larsen from grid 7 was likely to be the man but for entertainment purposes the
trio to watch were 2nz Jonathan Allard from grid 17, 2usa Shane Stewart from grid 18 and 14usa Tony
Stewart from grid 19. All three had to transfer via the B-Main.
Allard spun to the infield in his second heat due to a gap closing in front on him. Shane Stewart pulled
infield in a heat following a power steering line failure and Tony Stewart got caught up in an unavoidable
accident. The 30-lap A-Main would run green for the first 18 laps. Pickens led away from Hirst with McDonald in
third. The action unfolded further down the field as Tony Stewart made up some early spots. Enter Shane
Stewart who put together a blindingly quick three laps to go up the inside of Allard and past Tony Stewart.
However Shane Stewart couldn't put together any more than three laps and seemed highly apprehensive when
dealing with many of the local drivers whose lines perhaps aren't as decisive as the top Americans. Stewart
approached the back of 5a Daniel Rogers, jumped the cushion and gave up the spots he'd worked hard for.
Back up front lapped traffic had become a factor with a typically aggressive Pickens unimpeded by the slower
cars. The same could not be said for Hirst who managed to get stuck behind a lapped car for several laps.
It must be very tough for the overseas drivers to come here on a track that's hard work at the best of times
to then be faced with unfamiliar drivers who can take unique lines. With Hirst going nowhere, McDonald
would make the move into second and began closing the gap to race leader Pickens. The likes of Dahm, Eggleton
and Larsen were all poised to pounce had Hirst failed to deal with any further lapped traffic. With Tony
& Shane Stewart mid-pack we had our first caution on lap 18. 22a Dean Brindle unable to clear 59a Mike Wheeler
entering turn 3.
Pickens chose the outside for the double file restart and re-established the lead from McDonald with Eggleton
jumping Hirst into third. The green light period didn't last long as an extraordinary incident unfolded through
turns 1 & 2. Allard threw his car up the inside of 05usa Brad Loyet. I thought it was an aggressive move
to put it nicely and the level of contact suggested Loyet wasn't expecting it. Loyet emerged from his car and
made a beeline to the stricken Allard car, seemingly keen to discuss what had just happened. Allard didn't
unstrap but once the 2nz machine was pushed infield Allard got out and all of a sudden it was all on!! It wasn't
exactly Mike Tyson in his prime but there was plenty of pushing and shoving!!
McDonald pulled to the infield from second place under the caution due to a loose bolt. Yet more heartbreak
for the luckless 3nz. More cautions would follow in the latter stages of the race. 22a Dean Brindle came
to a stop on the back straight and 73k Brian Edwards came to a stop in turn 2. Tony Stewart was the main
benefactor during this period, making the most of the double file restarts to move as high as the fourth
position. But it was Shane Stewart who would provide the fireworks late in the race, putting together
a series of blistering laps and disposing of Keaton Dahm, Larsen, Tony Stewart and Eggleton in the process.
There was no question that Shane Stewart was the fastest car on track.
With Shane Stewart in third he would get up above the cushion into the loose dirt and hand the spot back
to Eggleton. Meanwhile Tony Stewart was also dropping a spot or two as the local competitors showed they are
no easy beats. As the laps wound down it was clear Hirst was unable to close the gap to Pickens. The partisan
local crowd showed their appreciation when Pickens crossed the line to take perhaps the biggest win in his
Sprintcar career to date from Hirst, Eggleton, Shane Stewart, Larsen, Dahm and Tony Stewart.