New kings crowned at the royal rumble
They do royalty a little differently at the speedway.
There was not a Charles or a William in sight as they crowned the Sturgeons Amusements Kings of the Clay on Saturday. Instead, the new monarchs are King Brett and King Steve, King Adie and King Owen, King Cody the First and Cody the Second.
The feature promotions at the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway were the series of cash races over three heats to name new kings in five classes. Super saloons and midgets came up short in numbers and were left off the programme, the three-quarter midgets were on stand-down and the 24 eligible youth ministock drivers were left cooling their heels after taking an official ticking-off at their last outing.
Even with four races each, patrons were out the gate well before 10pm, perhaps wondering if a night spent watching the sun set might have been a better option.
Best of the classes on offer was the superstocks. With less than a week before six Nelson drivers represent the Tigers at the national teams racing championships in Palmerston North, a few wrinkles needed to be ironed out. Instead, a couple were added.
Dale McKenzie took a heat two pop at Brett Nicholls, missed and never made it back, while Jared Gray blocked Thomas Stanaway off the start in heat three but was fed hard into the wall in retaliation.
Blair Cunningham stepped on it for two wins while Nicholls and Dale Ewers took the other victories and ended up in a runoff for the king's crown. Nicholls got the better of his team captain, Ewers being spun twice and having to concede the title. The remaining Tiger, Shane Harwood, circulated safely for third overall as the class provided more bash than anticipated just days out from an important date.
On the other side of the pits, the streetstocks were clearly catching their breath. A wild and wilful meeting last week left cars bent and drivers bruised, reducing Saturday's racing to little more than four games of follow the leader.
Club champion Cody McCarrison made sure he was that leader, winning all three heats with barely a bumper being laid on him. First-night driver Tim Pine, the Musgrove father and son team of Ian and Ryan and Neville Soper, all finished with 13 points, well adrift of McCarrison's 24, to create more contact on the podium than there was on the track.
Matching McCarrison's dominance was production saloon veteran Steve Russ. He swept all three heats for a maximum 42 points with Jeremy Denley and Dave Leitch next in line.
While Russ was clean and clear in all three heats, a tunnel that opened up in an extremely dry track in turn three proved the undoing of a number of production saloon and streetstock drivers. Most unfortunate was John Everett, who appeared to be on his way to a well-earned win when he hit the hole, wrecked the right front corner of his car and slid into the wall.
A small field of four sidecars managed to steer clear of the bumps with Adie Drake and Owen Hunter again too tough to head. Brent Steer and swinger Jimmy Martin gave it a good go, Steer proving especially quick off the start, but Drake and Hunter always rounded them up well before the flag.
Fifteen stockcars, including three from Blenheim, were dragged back for another show, but the class is showing the signs of a heavy holiday season. Grids were overflowing a month ago but the strain - and the drain - are evident.
It came as no surprise that Cody Teece emerged as the King of the Clay but he needed a single lapse from Michael Paynter to get the job done.
Both drivers were tied on points after two heats, Paynter driving superbly from the back of the grid to score a second place in heat two, and he had the better starting position in the decider.
Paynter led from lap one until lap seven but spun himself out of the crown in turn four, Teece slipping through for the heat win and the overall victory over Paynter and Ricco Gray.
The ongoing tussle between the Recca (Gray) and the rookie (first-season stockcar driver Phil Krammer) has been a highlight of the last two meetings while Trevor Lineham and Dion Fisher are always entertaining.
A resumption of rivalries between Nelson and Blenheim will head the programme for Nelson's next meeting when the Accessman Tasman Thunder hosts the Eastern States Titans in a stockcar teams race, with the Classic Hits demolition derby closing the February 23 show.