Scott Miers had a tough choice to make this week. Should he bring his Ford-powered Tank superstock to Nelson, or the Toyota one, or maybe the Nissan?
Whichever car the experienced Palmerston North driver turns up with at the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway tomorrow, one thing is certain . . . Miers means business.
Nelson's Tigers are the current holders of the Challenge Cup, a trophy duked out in alternate seasons at home and away. The Tigers tipped up the Panthers in Palmerston North last season but the Manawatu men are intent on balancing the ledger tomorrow.
For Miers, who has 27 speedway seasons behind him, taking on the Tigers is a season highlight.
"We've always had that respect for the Nelson guys. They are hard racers on the track and we get on very well with them off it," he said.
"They got one off us last season, so that's something we want to turn around this weekend."
Miers will be joined by three other drivers who each have a couple of decades of experience in the sport; Peter Bengston, Peter Rees and Shane Penn. The quartet are expected to be together for a tilt at a seventh national teams championship in eight seasons on their home track in February.
The lone blot on their record came in 2010, when the Tigers dominated allcomers.
The Nelson team has something of an early-season look to it with regular captain Dale Ewers set to make his first appearance tomorrow, Brett Nicholls coming back from surgery and 19-year-old speedster Dale McKenzie surprisingly overlooked.
However, the team of Jared Gray, Shane Harwood, Ian Clayworth, Blair Cunningham and Carey Harwood are all capable teams racers who will give plenty in their bid to retain the trophy.
"That's the thing about Nelson," Miers said. "They might not have the numbers of superstocks, but the cars and drivers they have are real strong. They have depth and they have guys who want to teams race, first and foremost."
Regardless of which of his fleet of Tanks Miers selects, there will definitely be two cars crossing the strait from their stables.
Scott and Vicki's 18-year-old son, Jack, is on a fast track to the top in superstocks and will be the Panthers' reserve tomorrow, should anything go wrong for the first four.
Jack Miers confirmed his credentials at the Battle of the Stocks in Christchurch towards the end of last season and has already raced for the Panthers in Auckland.
"Jack would be more than happy to teams race for us and I'd say the same. Maybe his mother wouldn't though," Scott said.
"He's one of maybe half-a-dozen young ones coming through in superstocks. They are just that much sharper in their reactions and they are fearless."
A trip to Nelson has always doubled as a chance for Vicki to catch up with family but, this season, tomorrow's Challenge Cup meeting serves a third purpose.
The Nelson club will host the New Zealand Home Loans NZ superstock championships on January 11-12 and the CB Norwood Distributors Panthers are keen to get an early outing on the Richmond clay.
Palmerston North drivers have won on each of the three occasions Nelson has hosted the nationals and they will head south in big numbers in January.
"It's a different set-up from home so we want to get the teams race and a few open races in to get a feel for the place again," Miers said.
And although Miers has his three Tanks for sale, Nelson speedway supporters should not think they have seen the back of one of the sport's heaviest hitters.
A new version of his favourite design is almost ready to make its debut.
"If it wasn't for the young fella racing, I might have given it away after the last knock [a serious back injury], but he wants us to race together for a while, so we will get a new car ready and out there.
"I do need to sell some of the others, though. It might have got a little out of hand."
The Nelson Tigers are supported by Discover New Zealand Motorhomes, the Collision Centre, Bays Breweries, the Stables Bar and Restaurant, ProKarts, Mark Walford Engineering, the McCall family and the Nelson Speedway Association. Both teams will be on display at the Stables in Richmond from 2-4pm tomorrow.
The meeting also features round one of the three-quarter midget club champs and a best pairs promotion for production saloons. Tickets in the Greymouth fundraising raffle for Hadleigh Smith's $25,000 stockcar will be on sale in the souvenir shop.
- © Fairfax NZ News