The hardworking track prep team hit a home run on Saturday night with one of the best race tracks seen at Meeanee. Under another stunning Hawkes Bay sunset, with the grandstands once again packed with action hungry fans, the drivers made sure it was a fitting send off for the season.
The pit crews were kept on red alert for the Stockcar class as they had four heats throughout the night. The NOEL POWELL Memorial Trophy was raced for in heat one, and 19b Caleb Ireland drove a smart race to come through the field and eventually pass long time race leader 16b Brett Loveridge, with the 8b of Hayden Leveridge-Watkins steaming up to third. Ireland has been one of the standouts this year with his entertaining attacking style of racing and fully deserved to take home the silverware.
Heat two and the drivers started mixing it up and the hits were going in. 41b Cameron Swift was running fast out front and would go on to win from 94b Justin White and the 271b of Ethyn McLachlan. Heat three saw 16b Brett Loveridge back to winning ways and 68b Ben Darroch battling hard as usual in second. 94b Justin Whyte was fast in this heat and would eventually finish third just half a second behind Ben.
Heat four was a 15 lap Grand Slam. At the start 9b Stacey Smith got a blinder and raced off from the field. 124r Richard Watty was as usual in the thick of the action, attacking cars, bouncing off fences, spinning to the grass. Watty has been one of the highlites of the Stockcar class this season providing first rate entertainment for the paying fans. Behind Smith, Loveridge had worked his way to second and was now running shotgun for the 9b. Road blocks were everywhere in this heat as the drivers went into last race of the season mode, but Smith kept on charging to eventually win by a massive 17.8 sec gap over 72b Bryntie Ferris-Meehan who had also driven a brilliant race. Third went to the 46b of Brett Kelly.
The 15 car lineup for Production Saloons produced some excellent two-wide racing, and in heat one the 44w of Brad Whyte showed his pace to chase and pass the always fast 22b of Denton Hodgkinson by just 0.3 of a second with 2nzv Brent Hackett third.
Hackett showed his class in race two with a huge 7sec win from 979b William Bayliss and 716b Lewis Claypole back in third. So quick was this heat that Hackett almost broke into the 18sec barrier eventually having the quickest lap time of 19.11sec. Hodgkinson who normally can drive through the field at Meeanee was stuck back down in 8th.
Heat three produced the third different winner as the 48h car of David Pilkington took the feature. 716b Claypole had another good drive in 2nd from 11g Rodney McIndoe. The Proddies produced excellent racing on a track that allowed them to showcase just what this class is all about. A big thanks to the visiting cars throughout the season who made it even better.
A massive 22-car field fronted for the Streetstock pairs championship, and there was action everywhere you looked. 72b Darren Melling was the standout driver all night and raced away from the pack in heat one, with 7b Al Howatson second and 46b Brent Reddington always challenging in third.
Reddington showed his class despite a smoking gearbox in heat two (apparently he over filled it and didn't want anyone to know haha) as he raced off for the win ,but the trick was weaving through the mass of lapped cars who could attack at any time. 64b Colin Stuart drove a fast, smart race to come home second with Melling featuring again in third.
Heat three and the points battle was wide open. Melling forced himself to the front and no one was going to catch him. Reddington gave chase but Melling was working the traffic better. 858r Shane Bracken was finally at the pointy end of the field holding a crucial third place, and that's how they would cross the line with 7b Howatson fourth in front of another great drive for 64b Stuart in fifth.
The points were tallied and despite Melling taking two wins and a third was NOT on the podium - his partner 52w Dillan Pirimona had suffered from two DNF's. The Lucas Oil pairs champions were 46b Brent Reddington and 64b Colin Stuart. Second went to 18g Jared Ingoe and 858r Shane Bracken, with the 7b of Al Howatson and 616w Robert Goodin pairing in third overall. It has been a great season for the Streetstock class and their burnout salute for retiring Mr Chixieland Bruce Salisbury was awesome.
Meeanee had put together another strong Ministock lineup to contest the Lightning McQueen Racing Piston Cup. In my opinion this season has been one the most fiercely raced for as the entire field stepped it up a notch on the track. Heat one and last meeting's Champion 88r Cohen Wright showed he was hungry for another title. Wright took the win from 21b Tom Steele. 971r George Crawford was third with the consistently improving 48b Riley McLachlin fourth.
Heat two and it was the first time on track for 55b Penn, 72b Smith and last week's runner up 61b Henry Steele. 9b Erin McCann was having her drive of the season to lead for the most laps, eventually dropping back to third in a close finish just 0.4 from the winner. 61b Henry Steele was on a mission and stormed through on the last few laps to take the win over 55b Asha Penn. 72b Bailey Smith was fourth. The big guns had laid down the challenge.
Heat three and it was a must win for Smith if he didn't want to lose touch in the points battle. Starting from Pole the 72b led every lap but just could not shake off a determined 61b of Steele. It was an impressive sight to see both drivers duck and dive through the lapped cars, and no inch of track surface was spared. Steele was never more than a car length behind as Smith held his nerve to win the heat from Steele and 48b McLachlin third just 0.5sec in front of Asha Penn who was fourth.
Heat four was the decider and the 48b of McLachlin had finished his three races with a total of 65 points. He could only watch this race and see how the points would stack up - 61b Steele was on 51, 72b Smith 49, 55b Penn 48. It was tighter than a jam jar lid.
Penn knew she had to win and seized the lead, Smith and Steele were buried down the grid. Smith pulled an incredible move on the outside of the opening lap to pass 15 cars! He was in hot pursuit of Penn who was running fast out front. Mid-race and Steele was still back in 8th and seemingly out of the hunt. Once again lapped traffic came into play but Penn was focused, and as hard as Smith tried Asha Penn had sealed the heat four win over Smith. I glanced at the MyLaps screen and suddenly became aware Steele had worked some magic to snatch third across the line. After last meeting's narrow run-off loss, Henry Steele had brilliantly won the Piston Cup by just 1 point from Asha Penn and Bailey Smith who had tied for second.
With Derby cars waiting to come on track, the decision was made on count back to award Penn second place from Smith third. I could watch these kids race every day, and this championship had been another impressive display of their skills. Thanks to the large contingent of travelling drivers who made it so good, and good luck to all those aging out of the class and moving on. I salute you all.
The biggest Demolition Derby field of the season really turned on the action, ensuring the big crowd stayed for every lap. With plenty of Stockcar/ Superstock drivers on the entry it was always going to be good. 84 Mike MicLachlan entertained as only he could and I doubt there wasn't a car he didn't hit! 66 Randal Tarrant has great skill when it comes to these events and was one of the top 4 finishers, but it proved to be 305b Noah Severinson's night as he used all of his Stockcar experience to bring home the $500 payday.
We could not have hoped for a better season finale, and mention must go to everyone connected to the track who made it such a memorable season. On behalf of the Meeanee Promotions team and Hawkes Bay Speedway Club we thank you all. Thank you to everyone who supplied prizes for my TXT Phone Comps, and thanks to all the drivers who gave me plenty to talk about. Get onto those off season rebuilds as we get to start it all again in just 21 weeks time.
Seeya Labour weekend race fans
Full meeting results can be found here - https://speedhive.mylaps.com/Events/1988077