If you thought the 2013 Grand Annual Classic was going to be just another Big Blue Ribbon Sprintcar race, then you would be comprehensively wrong.
Sure “The Classic” was always going to be a Big affair, but this year it surpassed all expectations with records being set left, right and centre. A record number of entries was set this year – 98 in total. Also the total count of American racers nominating for the two day event was the highest on record. Eighteen nominations were received from American Drivers, however the final official racing tally was seventeen as Kody Kinser did not front in the end.
Night 1 saw the largest first night crowd in the Classic’s history – in fact just looking around the spectator areas it looked more like a final night. Which brings us to Night 2 …… The crowd was an all-time record with just on 10,000 people rocking up to witness the 2013 Classic Championship battle.
Interestingly defending Classic Champion Ian Loudoun was present as a spectator only and not to defend his 2012 title, and last year’s 2nd and 3rd placed drivers, Craig Dollansky and Kerry Madsen were not in attendance at all. So it was a given that The 2013 Classic would produce an entirely different podium this time around and a new Champion would be crowned.
When it came down to it and it was all said and done for 2013, talented South Australian Steven Lines scored his second Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic Trophy in 3 years when he crossed the line after 40 gruelling laps ahead of American Terry McCarl and former National Champion Brooke Tatnell.
Lines driving the Halls Motorsport/Bridgestone Tyres – Albany W3 KPC entry qualified for the Feature race on the front row beside Polesitter Tim Kaeding from the USA. Behind them were Jason Sides, Terry McCarl, Robbie Farr, Brook Tatnell, Tim Schaffer, Darren Mollenoyux, Grant Anderson, Jamie Veal, Trevor Green, Danny Reidy, Matt Egel, Ian Madsen, Cameron Gessner, Kyle Hirst, and the four racers that transferred from the B Main – David Murcott, Rico Abreu, James McFadden and David Muir.
Many big names were unable to make the Championship Final with Drivers like Shane Stewart, David Gravel, Max Dumesny, Danny Dietrich, Darren Pitman, Jack Dover, Shaun Bradford and Garry Brazier all watching from the “other” side of the fence. That alone is a huge testimony to the quality of the 2013 field!
So the stage was set to determine who was going to be crowned the 2013 Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic Champion. Twenty “Classic” finalists (15 Aussies and 5 Americans) presented to the crowd after two nights of intense racing that included Time Trials, a whopping 32 Heats and an E, D, C, and two B-Mains.
Now it was crunch time and with 40 laps locked and loaded on the on the board, the field assembled for the traditional 4-Wide Salute. The salute was a unique visual experience as the crowd stood to their feet with sparklers, cigarette lighters and mobile phones in hand giving the stadium’s spectator areas a distinct “Fairyland” like appearance.
Festivities and celebrations over, it was now down to business. At the drop of the green Tim Kaeding in the W2 KMS Cool won the drag race and was first into Turn 1. In fact it was an all American Quinella into the first corner with Terry McCarl putting the squeeze on Lines and powering into 2nd, displacing Lines back into 3rd and within the clutches of Jason Sides.
Kaeding and McCarl looked strong up front for the first 6 laps, but equal to the task was Steven Lines as he worked hard to stay with the leaders. Sides wasn’t too far back and then came Robbie Farr looking racy in the EPR Q7 Maxim.
Lines then pulled a “whipcracker” of a move that just had to be seen to be believed. As he came low out of Turn 4 Lines gassed it up with two feet on the accelerator. The W3 KPC got a blisteringly quick launch out of the corner and Lines speared past the two Americans who would have been in thorough disbelief given the significant car speed they were carrying at the time. Lines snapped the W3 car low into Turn 1 and exited Turn 2 several car lengths ahead of the American duo. It was a stunner of a move and one that you would think impossible.
Lines worked his mount into a nice rhythm with McCarl settling into 2nd place ahead of Kaeding until on Lap 10 local Driver Darren Mollenoyux who had driven superbly all weekend experienced steering failure and hit the Turn 2 wall while running in 8th place. Australian Champion James McFadden rolled in an attempt to avoid the crashing Mollenoyux and dumped the A1 Totally Work Wear Cool on its side. Molly was sadly out of the running and McFadden was able to restart from the rear with a trashed right hand top wing sideboard. This was to affect his forward progress for the reminder of the event.
The top 8 at that point were Lines, McCarl, Kaeding, Sides, Farr, Tatnell, Schaffer and Egel.
Lines was quickly able to open up a half a straightaway lead on the subsequent restart with his Morrison powered KPC showing a clean pair of heals to the rest of the field. Just one lap later Jason Sides brought on the yellows as he coasted to a stop against the Turn 4 fence with what appeared to be a broken throttle linkage.
Racing again and Farr had now worked into 4th place and loomed as a real threat. Battles started to develop mid pack with Matt Egel and Tatnell going wheel to wheel as too were Murcott and Veal.
Lines continued to skate away and looked very much in charge with McCarl and Kaeding following further back. Farr made a big move to take 3rd from Tim Kaeding and with 11 laps to go Murcott and Egel came together bringing on the Red with a hard grinding impact with the wall and were forced to retire. Egel had started in P13 and had really done a great job to work up to P7.
On the resumption of racing the Lines car showed just how much torque the Morrison engine had as he streaked away on the high line to establish a good 10 car break back to McCarl. Meanwhile Tatnell was forging forward and got past Kaeding for 4th.
The last 10 laps ran without a stoppage. McCarl realising he was running out of time was desperately trying to move forward. Lines preferred to stay high within inches of the wall while McCarl drilled down low into Turns 3/4 in a desperate effort to reel in the leader. With a handful of laps remaining lapped traffic was coming into play and fast travelling back markers were affecting Steven Lines forward motion, allowing McCarl the luxury to close slightly – the gap was now down to 5 cars between the leader Lines and 2nd placed McCarl.
A further 10 cars back Robbie Farr seemingly had 3rd place shot to pieces, but then faltered on the last lap. The Q7 Maxim had incredibly run out of fuel and as Steven Lines crossed the flagstand to take victory from McCarl, Farr slowed and was swamped by the field – Farr had somehow managed to surrender an almost certain final podium – He was no doubt heartbroken.
Official results were Steven Lines (W3) 1st, Terry McCarl (V2) 2nd and Brooke Tatnell (N25) 3rd. Tim Kaeding, Jamie Veal, Tim Schaffer, Rico Abreu, Cameron Gessner, Ian Madsen and James McFadden rounded out the top 10.
The Steven Lines Halls Motorsport car was set up brilliantly, being able to be driven up high as well as on the poleline, and for that matter anywhere in-between. It was quite obvious in the end that the Halls Motorsport package was in a league of its own. At the victory celebrations Lines praised Team Owner Brian Hall for the fantastic opportunity to go racing with some of the best gear available, and his Crew Chief and good friend Craig Bennett for the race winning set up.
USA’s Terry McCarl was gallant in defeat and cited that The Grand Annual Classic is now one of the best races in the World and that he couldn’t wait to be invited back next year. Terry along with Brook Tatnell was also instrumental in starting the post-race “champagne shower” of Classic Winner Steven Lines.
In victory lane Brooke Tatnell joked that his middle name was “Digger” as the Team had a number of issues recently including the Classic weekend and had to “dig” themselves out of a pretty big hole to make the podium.
The SKWID Signs Hard Charger Award went to the Charismatic Californian Rico Abreu who qualified through the B-Main and steamed home to come 7th in The Classic. It was a very popular award with spectators and was underpinned by the huge crowd reaction that Rico received.
South Australia’s Daniel Pestka won the Hard Luck Award. The talented 21 year old was looking good for an A-Main transfer while running in the B-Main and got inadvertently tangled up with another car. His dreams of running his first Classic evaporated there and then.
Robbie Farr was awarded the Ian Sheppard Trophy for the second time in two years after the best all-round performance at Avalon Raceway’s President’s Cup, Borderline Speedway’s King’s Challenge and the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic.
America’s Danny Smith driving the #55 Bottle-O entry was regrettably a no show on Night 2 after enduring a heavy flip the night before and dashing his “Classic” chances. Danny has been racing now for an incredible 40 years and is well revered in Australia. This was his 25th Classic. It was a tough break.
Most of the American Drivers and associated entourage head back to the States in the next few days in preparation for their new racing season that starts in a little over a week. Paul McMahan has been over here in Australia for a number of weeks now, not racing himself but assisting local drivers. Paul was spied at Warrnambool helping out Jake Tranter (S45) and “chinwagging” with countryman Tim Shaffer among many others.
In terms of changes on the horizon, the sheer growing popularity of the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic and a car count that will certainly break the “Ton” in 2014 means that organisers have announced that next year’s Classic will take on a three night format. Time Trials, heats and Preliminary Features will be run over two nights (Friday and Saturday – two separate groups) and more heats, “Alphabet” lead-up Mains and the Classic Final will take place as usual on the Sunday of the Australia Day long weekend.
Bring on the 2014 Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic !