Stock Shock next on the hit list
Jayden Ward wishes this summer would never end.
The young Palmerston North stockcar driver has had one of those seasons where plenty has come his way - and he is not done yet.
The current New Zealand champion tops the entry list for the Nelson Mail Stock Shock, a two-night event that wraps up the season at the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway. Ward, 21, won the national title from a field of more than 160 entrants, taking the Bay of Plenty champs at Rotorua a fortnight later and adding the Manawatu title on his home track last month.
He's also teams raced often, been wrecked in Rotorua and has an offer to drive one of the country's better performing superstocks at the under-25 championships.
Stock Shock would be the icing on what has been a rich cake for Ward.
"It would be a bonus but the field is pretty good so I'll be up against a bunch of other guys who will rate themselves a decent chance," Ward said.
The meeting has attracted drivers from Rotorua, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Cromwell, Blenheim, Greymouth and Westport, along with 17 of the locals. Like Ward, most of the visitors have a bigger picture in view.
"I'm coming to get some track time before Nelson runs the New Zealands [title meeting] next year," he said. "Obviously I want to try to keep the 1NZ and getting laps on the track should help."
Ward has been to Nelson as pit crew for Jay and Chris Knight but hasn't raced on the Richmond raceway. Stock Shock will be a useful appetiser and drew Ward away from the high-profile Speedfest meeting in Huntly.
"We did get an invitation for Speedfest but Nelson's where it's at this weekend for us."
Ward has grown up in a speedway family. His father, Graeme, won the New Zealand stockcar championship in the 2001-02 season and Jayden said he had spent his life watching and learning. "I've been everywhere with dad and he's taught me everything. The cool thing is that he's still going but us young guys are starting to leave him behind now."
Ward's contemporaries from three seasons ago in Palmerston North's youth ministock class, Jack Miers and Asher Rees, have followed their fathers into the superstock ranks and Ward has ambitions of joining them, but that title defence takes priority.
The current championship chassis is for sale while there is also an option to purchase the complete car. If it goes, Ward will have the latest Keith Gill chassis ready for Nelson next year. He would also like to chase the grand slam next season, adding the New Zealand Grand Prix title and the North Island championship.
Factor in teams racing - he has fronted for the Manawatu Steelers, Rotorua Rascals and the Has-beens, a collection of gnarly veterans plus the young champ - and next season will be a busy one for the diesel technician.
"It's been an amazing season in individual stuff but I'm definitely passionate about teams racing, the atmosphere and the feeling of being a part of a group in the pits and on the track.
"I can see a day when Jack and Asher and me are like a mini-Panthers, the boys who grew up together and raced in the youth grade joining up in the same team and doing some damage."
The Nelson Mail Stock Shock begins with qualifying in four groups at 7pm tomorrow. The top 26 cars will race for the title on Saturday with support from the non-qualifiers.
A similar format will be used in the Ewing Poultry Ministock Mania, although only 20 cars will qualify for Saturday.
Support classes include superstocks, sidecars, TQ midgets and production saloons tomorrow, with midgets replacing the TQs on Saturday.