Mark Carey's defence of his national super saloon ranking lasted just over 20 seconds on Saturday.
The agricultural contractor from Moutere had proudly carried the 3NZ on the side of his Corvette since his finest hour in almost three decades in speedway - a third placing at the national championships on his home track last summer.
Carey had a chance to match or better that mark at AmPro Tools Woodford Glen Speedway on Saturday, instead his evening ended early with the Corvette suspended between two recovery vehicles.
He and clubmate Ian Burson had both made the final field of 20 to decide the champion for 2012-13 but Carey barely made it past lap one of heat one when his car was tagged from behind and reverse spun towards the wall. It dug in and rolled, being collected on the way over by a following car.
Although he was uninjured, Carey's meeting was over, and Hawke's Bay's Grant Flynn was also effectively out of action after being tied up in the tumble.
Carey and his crew, in particular dad Mick, plan to have the battered Chev back on the track in time for the Nelson club title on Saturday but some late nights in the shed await them.
With Carey gone and his brother Shane competing among the non-qualifiers after a dismal first night on Friday, Nelson's focus switched to Burson, who had been in strong form this season.
He drew the front row for heat one and looked a sure bet to put maximum points in the bank, but Christchurch clay is a fickle mistress. For 80 per cent of the heat, and through several yellow flag delays, Burson led the pack but the track changed and the 21N Corvette began to go backwards - fast.
As Cantabrians Mark Osborne and Richie Taylor made big runs from the back of the field, Burson clung grimly to the front running, trying to place his car wider on the track to confound the chasers. But first to go by was Osborne, who had begun from grid 14, and then Canterbury's Mark Grocott slipped past, forcing Burson to settle for third.
When Osborne parlayed a better grid draw into his second heat victory, with Burson battling through for fifth, it was clear the trophy was not coming home through the Lewis Pass with the Burson team.
Osborne had points in the bank over Taylor and Burson and just needed a solid finish in the last heat to claim the New Zealand title in his first year in the class.
Taylor gave himself the best possible shot of upsetting the odds with a storming drive to victory but Osborne made just enough passes to take sixth in the heat and win the championship by a single point.
Burson started from the back of the grid and had his best run of the evening as he picked off the likes of Craig Cardwell, Donald Gregory, Paddy North and Osborne on his way to fifth but his final tally of 50 points left him third, behind Osborne's 55 and Taylor's 54.
The slickening track saw defending champion Steve Flynn carve through the final heat field but he finished a point behind Burson and one step off the podium this season.
Although heat one did not do Burson any favours, even a first place finish would not have significantly altered the outcome as Osborne and Taylor made the most passes on the night.
"They are hard chargers and deserve their stripes," Burson said of the new 1NZ and 2NZ.
Suggestions that the Wakefield logger might race one more season before stepping aside have been shelved.
"Those other two numbers will happen," he said, saying that retirement plans were on hold for now.
In support racing, Shane Carey took a heat win and third overall in the AmPro Trophy for non-qualifying super saloons, with Nelson's Ricky Boulton the new Canterbury superstock champion in a field of nine.
At Blenheim's Eastern States Speedway, Nelson driver Cody Teece paid tribute to his clubmates as he became the new South Island stockcar champion.
Teece thanked the other Nelson drivers for "sweeping his path" as he powered to the title ahead of Blenheim's Ralph Gillespie and Brent Goulding.
And, at Meeanee Speedway in Hawke's Bay, Thomas Stanaway continued a fine superstock season by matching his national championship form and adding another third at the under-25 championships, trailing David Elsworth (Rotorua) and Palmerston North's Chad Ace.
A stockcar teams race between the Accessman Tasman Thunder and Blenheim's Titans shares top billing at the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway on Saturday with the annual Classic Hits demolition derby. Racing starts at 7pm.
- © Fairfax NZ News