The demons of missing out on the national stockcar title two years ago were completely dispelled for Jordan Dare on Saturday night when he finished runner-up in the national superstock final at Meeanee, Napier.
With 11 of the 26 finalists from the three-heat final, it was a Palmerston North benefit.
With Shane Penn retaining his title from Dare, third-placed Graeme Barr, Peter Bengston fourth, they were all Palmerston North contracted drivers.
Penn said after winning last year he's not under any pressure to win titles these days.
"I'm surprised to have been allowed to win this year," Penn said.
"But now I've won everything I can just go out and enjoy my racing.
"It's only teams racing for the Panthers where there's still pressure these days."
Two years ago Dare didn't have such fond memories after he needed only to finish the third heat of the stockcar champs at Rotorua. But after being hit into the wall, he was stuck just 100 metres short of the finishing line.
"I've been having nightmares about that night," 21-year-old Dare said.
"I've run it through my mind on what could have been ever since.
"But finishing second here is amazing and though it hasn't sunk in yet, it's a bigger event and I've never thought about something like this, especially while I'm still so young and inexperienced."
Dare said he was still pinching himself when the presentations were made at the end of the meeting.
"Here I was standing in between two legends of superstocks, Shane [Penn] and Graeme [Barr] . . . I was awestruck really," Dare said.
He admits he would never have had the opportunity if it hadn't been for Wayne Hemi giving him a drive in his second car since his misfortune at Rotorua.
"Wayne has been fantastic and I don't know anyone else who would have just handed me the keys to one of the country's best superstocks and said, ‘it's yours to drive'," he said.
"We've had the car all season to get it ready but Wayne even forked out for sending the Ford [engine] back to the United States to get it freshened."
Dare said once the twice national champion Hemi failed to make the final, his crew even came over and worked on the car, while Hemi gave him tips and ran around seeing what was going on in the pits.
"Instead of running his car in the second-tier races, Wayne parked his car, gave me invaluable advice and then went around checking who might take who out in the last heat; he was incredible."
Dare admitted he probably flew under the radar a little bit with many of the top drivers looking at each other rather than him.
"In stockcars I'm one of the favourites and get taken out a bit, but before last night [Saturday] I was a bit of an unknown," he said.
"I guess that will change now I've got the No 2 on my car."
Dare said there had been mention of buying the Hemi "Red Waka". It's likely he'll have to pursue the matter further.
Dare said he realises he's obligated to now run the car as often as he can but, as a dairy farmer, for Roger Newton at Shannon, he gets only every second weekend off.
- © Fairfax NZ News