The outcome of the Murray Machining & Sheds 2012 Australian 360 Sprintcar Championship is wide open with a host of gun drivers hopeful of taking out the 40 lap race on Sunday night.
The majority of the All Stars Series big field have nominated for the title event and there were some impressive and in some cases surprising performances to send the critics in to a possible ‘rethink’ about the outcome for the Championship, following the Allstars visit to Murray Bridge on February 18.
Long-time 360 competitor, Craig Vanderstelt turned in a very impressive drive to score a hard fought win. Vanderstelt has been backed by Croft Constructions principal, Jeff Eeles for many seasons now and the pair has made it quite clear that they share a burning ambition to win the 360 Championship.
Vanderstelt started from position 7 in the A Main and gradually worked his way to the lead when it counted in the concluding laps.
There were other drivers who came under notice as a result of the All Stars event. Defending champion, Ryan Jones bounced back to his best. He started from position two in the A Main on the back of some solid heat results. He was right in the mix throughout the main race and finished third.
Broken Hill driver, Brendan Guerin, laid down his big challenge for the Australian title. He made it in to the A Main of the All Stars event, starting from position 11 in the 20 car field. He drove into fourth place at the chequered flag and would be very happy in gaining momentum in to the Championship.
Virginia based Mark Caruso has showed great form taking a win and second place at Speedway City in the last two events held at the venue in February. Caruso finished third in last year’s 360 Championship so he is sure to be right in the firing line again.
Another to continue good recent form was Keke Falland. The rookie from the Riverland who stepped up from the Wingless Sprint category finished second overall in the eight round All Stars Series, and it would not surprise anyone to see him figure prominently in the Championship.
Allstars series Champion Harley Bishop has had a great year, driving the Act 15 machine and will almost certainly finish on the podium.
Eyes will also be on former Aussie Champion Tony Moule from Victoria, driving the Wagga based Dave Argus owned car. Fingers are crossed that both transporters can find a clear road through from the flood ravaged area.
In his first shot at the 360 Sprintcar Title last season, Adelaide driver Michael Lovegrove surprised everyone when he finished in second place.
Lovegrove was not really rated prior to the event and in fact flew under the radar all weekend until he popped up in a podium position at half race distance and showed he had the speed to make an impact.
“I took a bit of a break from competition for a couple of years and I was really happy with my second place in last year’s title after that lay-off time,” Lovegrove said. “The car was great at the end of the race, but I made a mistake, tagged the wall and had to nurse the car in the last few laps to make sure I held on to second.”
Lovegrove has a new engine in this year’s car and is keen to back up with a solid performance.
Three times and defending Australian 360ci Sprintcar Champion Ryan Jones secured his 20th career Sprintcar feature event in his last event two weeks ago after dominating the most recent round of the 360ci Speedway City Track Championship. After qualifying on the front row, Jones led the entire 20 lap journey and as the chequered flag fell he defeated the classy line-up by well over half a lap.
“This was a good result. The car felt good in the feature, It feels really good to finally win at Speedway City again, the last time was almost 2 years ago when we won the George Tatnell Cup in the open car” added Ryan following the event.
The victory was the second of the current season for the Murray Bridge resident and 19th overall in the smaller capacity class, added to his 1 career 410ci main event victory, a memorable win over Robbie Farr two years ago. “It is great to finally reach 20 main event wins, we had been stuck on 19 since November and it has come a great time as it has given us a bit of momentum heading into the Australian Championship at Murray Bridge”.
Ryan’s latest accomplishment comes hot on the heels of a third placed result the week prior in the Australian 360 Sprintcar All-Stars Series along with a runner-up finish in the South Australian Speedcar Championship at Murray Bridge on the same night. “Second place in the Speedcar was a bit hard to take as we led it with only a few laps to go but we have been fast both times we have run this year. My Go-kart background really helps driving those cars as it very similar to driving a 100cc Open Kart”.
However Jones’ attention is now on successfully defending his Australian 360 Sprintcar Championship on the way to capturing his fourth Australian Title.
Other drivers who should place well include Brendan Quinn who returns after a two month break, Chris Ackland, Phil Lock, Shannon Barry, Shane Hendry, Sam Putland, Colin Brooks and late nomination Chad Ely.
Russell worthley has also joining the field, while in late news, the two Hall cars from WA have withdrawn from the championship.
Saturday night will see the first two rounds of heat racing and the Ross Wright Memorial Prelininary Feature, in addition to Lightning Sprints, Street Stocks and AMCA Nationals.
Last year’s Ross Wright race was an emotional one, with local Mason Merritt taking the win in the #s23 car – the same number that Ross used. What was even more remarkable was that the Merritt car was based in the Wright Motorsport workshop!
Sunday night will conclude the championship with the final two rounds of heats, the last chance B-main and the 40 Lap championship decider.
Supporting the night will be a round of the Oval Track Imports Wingless Sprints series, Late Models, Juniors and Formula 500′s.
Gates open at 3.30pm, hot laps from 5.30pm and racing from 6pm.