Stoical Harwood nails 4th
Finishing fourth in a national championship is a cause for celebration. So why does Nelson's Shane Harwood feel like he was a couple of places further off the pace than he should have been?
The driver of the NAC Insurance-Bluebridge-ITM superstock was the best performed of the nine Nelson entrants in the New Zealand superstock championships at Napier's Meeanee speedway at the weekend, finishing two points off the podium in his best result at a national event.
But Harwood believes a third, even a second placing, was within his grasp. Palmerston North swept the top three spots, Shane Penn defending his championship ahead of Jordan Dare and Graeme Barr. Harwood tied for fourth with another Palmerston North driver, Peter Bengston.
Nelson put four drivers through to the 26-car, three-heat finals with Dale McKenzie being harshly protested out after initially being the fifth qualifier in his group.
An appallingly rutted and unsafe track surface, which caused injuries in the spectator areas and breakages among the entrants, was rectified for the finals, Harwood and crew chief Brendon Higgins showed they had a handle on the track by moving from 21st to 10th in heat one.
A seventh in heat two had Harwood sitting in a tie for sixth with a race to run. Clubmate Craig Boote was rolled by Palmerston North's Asher Rees in heat two and was intent on settling that score, which meant Harwood could focus on his race without looking in the mirrors for a prowling Rees.
"Craig did what he could to help me out, just as I had been given some assistance by Benji Sneddon and Scott Hewson on Friday. I think the fact we travel a lot and make a commitment to all the big meetings means we are respected by a fairly wide group of guys," Harwood said.
A third in the final heat was enough to drag Harwood close to the top three, but not into it. Fellow Nelsonians Blair Cunningham and Ricky Boulton drove their own race, choosing not to aim for Penn, Dare or Barr.
"We got fourth off our own bat, so that's something we can take away," Harwood said.
"I'd love to have a number on the car [1, 2 or 3NZ] but I think I can look back and know that it was a good result in a tough weekend.
"The car was fast, it had to be in a field like that, and it held up when others didn't, so fourth will have to do."
Nelson's Dale Ewers won the non-qualifiers championship in what might be the second-last meeting in his long and successful superstock career.