Rich pickings for superstock selection

PETE MCNAE
Last updated 13:00 30/01/2013

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It is possible to have too much of a good thing, as Nelson Tigers superstock team selectors Brendan Higgins and Daryl Peterson could confirm.

The former teams racing champions were charged with picking a Nelson lineup to compete in the ENZED national championships in Palmerston North on February 8-9. But, with the local club oozing superstock talent, their task was a tough one.

"It's the hardest selection I have had to make," Higgins said.

"I guess that's a good thing. Usually by now we are scratching around for names."

The Tigers chosen for next weekend are Dale Ewers, Jared Gray, Blair Cunningham, Brett Nicholls and Shane Harwood. Dale McKenzie was chosen as the sixth driver. He will only be called on if two of the first team drivers are unavailable.

Higgins said it was hard to leave out the 19-year-old, who earlier this month finished second at the New Zealand Home Loans NZ Superstock Championships.

"I would expect Junior [McKenzie] to be upset, he wanted to be in the team and he had made a pretty good case but we couldn't put six drivers in five spots.

"We had to base our selection on what we saw on the track in the last month and we'll stand by that choice."

Ewers is, by far, the most experienced teams racer in the Tigers but even his position was not secure until last weekend.

A poor handling car saw him fail to qualify at the nationals while he bypassed the New Zealand Grand Prix and was shut out of the top tier at the world 240 event.

However, Ewers turned some quick laps among the non-qualifiers in Rotorua to bounce back into the Tigers.

Gray has had to repair a broken gearbox and is waiting on a new one from overseas while Cunningham bypassed the 240s. Nicholls and Harwood both qualified with Harwood third overall, making the most of his chance to crack the team selection.

"It is not as easy as looking at who finished where," Higgins said.

"You take experience into account, and the supply of spares a team has because you chew through gear when you are teams racing, and the whole chemistry side of it.

"We have a great group, every one of the six deserves to be there and it is as strong a lineup as we can name."

Ian Clayworth and Carey Harwood have also raced for the Tigers this season but were not selected for Palmerston North.

Higgins is under no illusions about where the Tigers rank leading into next week's two-day event at the Robertson Holden Speedway.

Having already raced Palmerston North, Canterbury and Wellington, twice, they have had a few chances to fine tune their talents.

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But the Panthers remain the dominant force in the sport on their home track.

"The Manawatu Mustangs [the host track's B team] is a real danger but I still think most people are looking for a Tigers-Panthers final."

The superstock class will be in action this Saturday at Nelson's Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway for the King of the Clay promotion from 7pm.

- The Nelson Mail

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