Headache for Nelson Tigers
The Nelson Tigers have given themselves a headache.
If it is possible to have too much talent, that is the plight facing selectors Brendan Higgins and Daryl Peterson as Nelson's superstock team prepare for the fourth race of their season at the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway on Saturday.
The Tigers have run a rotating pool of drivers through their three previous races with Jared Gray, Shane Harwood, Carey Harwood, Blair Cunningham, Ian Clayworth, Dale Ewers, Brett Nicholls and Dale McKenzie all wearing the orange and black this season.
Saturday's second leg of the Carter Cup against the dangerous Wellington Wildcats will be the team's final outing before February's two-day national teams championship meeting in Palmerston North. So how will the Nelson selectors roll?
Will they continue to mix and match their combinations or will they go for a first four and treat Saturday's race as the final trial for February?
Veteran Tiger Dale Ewers can see the benefits of both options. He is in the squad for Saturday, along with Gray, Cunningham, Nicholls and McKenzie, but is unsure if he will get a run.
"Part of me says go with the guys who will make up the core of the team for Palmerston North and put on a show in front of the home crowd, destroy some Wellington cars," he said.
"But I can see why Hig [Higgins] and Fatty [Peterson] might want that one extra chance to test drivers who are fighting for places."
Ewers has had exactly one half-lap of teams racing this season but the 12-season superstock driver's credentials are already established. He was in the Tigers for round one against the Wildcats in the Hutt Valley but was targeted by three Wellington drivers on lap one. Scott McIntosh scored a heavy shot on an immobile Ewers car, causing head damage to the Tigers' captain's Toyota V8.
"That's teams racing," Ewers said. "You go out to hit and you can expect to get hit. It was an easy shot because I wasn't moving but you have to bomb opposition cars when you get the chance. No hard feelings."
He would relish the chance for a little bit of get even if he is in the race lineup on Saturday, though.
"I know I can run," he said. "In my one meeting out here, I got the second fastest lap time I have ever had and the engine was still being run in.
"I've got plenty of flags for the Tigers but I want to get better at blocking, take that three-car role, where you come in fast and wreck cars."
Ewers, who was wavering over whether to continue racing this season, believes a tailored approach to speedway will sustain his career.
As huge 25-30 meeting seasons one after another after another, combined with injuries and work and family commitments, began to rob the former New Zealand champion of his love for the sport, pulling back a notch has helped.
"I'm looking at doing seven meetings for certain, more if it suits and I'm okay with that," he said.
"With that kind of workload, three or four more seasons will only add up to one as big as last year and that means I'm keen and fresh and managing to stay on top of the stuff outside of speedway that is important to me.
"It feels like the balance is right and I want to race, want to be with the boys in the Tigers, wrecking some cars, then having some beers and talking bulls*** later."
The Nelson Tigers are supported by Mark Walford Engineering, ProKarts, Discover New Zealand Motorhomes, the Collision Centre, Bays Breweries, the Stables Bar and Restaurant, the McCall family and the Nelson Speedway Association.