Tears flowed on the final night of racing at Brisbane's Archerfield Speedway, as the chequered flag fell for the final time at the historic venue.
The emotion began early in the night, with four members of the Kelly family who have operated the venue for over 20 years being the flag bearers for the final event.
John Kelly drove the #25 Winfield car that he made famous in the 1990s, Kathy Kelly in the #9, Kristy Kelly in the #2 and Aaron Kelly (who finished second on night one of the Last Race) in the #Q7.
Damian McKern from Speedway Australia presented the Kelly's with an award commemorating the contribution of the family to Queensland speedway, with a tearful Kathy Kelly thanking the fans, racers, and officials that have visited the venue over their 23-year tenure.
“I just want to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone. This has made tonight so special. I know that there were people who missed out on tickets tonight, and that was because we wanted to make sure it was comfortable for everyone. I'm not sure we could fit anyone else in here tonight!”, Kelly said.
With Midgets, Modlites and Sprintcars on the bill, the high traffic meant that the track was expected to change significantly from the start of the night to the end.
The opening heat race of the night for Sprintcars saw awkward contact three laps into the race between Tyler Stralow, Jock Goodyer and Dylan Menz, resulting in significant damage to Stralow's #Q95 Top and front wing. Stralow would continue to finish seventh, with Jamie Veal passing Jy Corbet for the lead with two laps to go and Jock Goodyer filling out third.
Veal said after the win, “The track was very, very different to last night. I'm feeling more comfortable with the car thank I have been since I jumped into the V25 so the 50-lap feature later on should definitely be interesting”.
Heat 12 for the two-night affair saw Track Champion Luke Oldfield take a very popular win in front of his home crowd in a relatively straightforward affair.
Kaydon Iverson took the heat 13 win, with Brent Kratzman and Brock Hallett rounding out the top three. “I can't thank everyone enough for all the hard work they are putting in behind the scenes in this team,” said Iverson. “This car is just beautiful to drive here this weekend!”
Heat 14 saw the first cars really start to run the top line consistently, with Robbie Farr leading the charge in the #T20 machine. Aaron Kelly made his way forward to finish behind heat race winner Randy Morgan, with Charles Hunter in the #V73 finishing third.
The Final heat race ever at Archerfield, a track known for developing young speedway talent, was fittingly won by another second-generation racer in Ben Atkinson Jnr, from Tim Farrell and Harry Stewart.
Luke Thomas and James Matthews transferred from the D main to the C Main.
Will Carroll, Kevin Britten and Luke Dougherty traded places at the head of the field of the C Main, with only the top two finishers to transfer to the B Main. With five laps to run, Luke Thomas in the #N15 spun to bring out the yellows – which was then followed by James Matthews with a spin of his own.
Ultimately it was Victorian Will Carroll and five-time Australian V8 Dirt Modified Champion, Kevin Britten, who survived a late race caution with two laps to run, brought out by NSW young gun Jake Baines.
Thirty-year veteran of Archerfield, Darren Jensen in the Q75, would fittingly start from the front row of the B Main alongside Jy Corbet. Jensen would relinquish the lead with 18 laps to run courtesy of a perfectly executed slide job from Corbett.
The #Q43 of Dave Fanning brought out the first red flag of the race, after ending upside down in Turn 4 on Lap 4. Darren Jensen would himself bring out the yellows with 15 laps to run after it appeared to break a rear axle on entry to Turn 1.
Liam Williams in the #NQ42 held the lead on the restart and was cool under plenty of pressure from Ryan Newton. Newton would eventually take the lead with 12 to run, but perhaps the most impressive in the race was Ben Atkinson Jnr who was charging hard to battle for a transfer spot to the A main.
Ultimately, Newton would take the win with the final transfer spots filled out by Liam Williams, Jy Corbet and Atkinson who held off a strong finishing Adam Butler in the #Q10.
Archerfield lit up one last time with an incredible 50-lap Sprintcar feature race to round out 44 years of operation.
A line up of talent including current and past Australian Champions, Grand Annual Classic Champions, World Series Sprintcar Champions and various track champions made up the star studded 22 car A Main field.
Goodyer, Oldfield and Veal traded the lead in the early part of the race, but with 50 laps to run it was always going to be a case of who had the best setup and tyre management over the distance.
Oldfield survived a scare when the lapped car of Dylan Menz spun on Lap 8 in front of the leaders, forcing Oldfield to almost spin to avoid contact with Goodyer taking the high line.
Another yellow came out on Lap 10 with Randy Morgan spinning the 54 in Turn 2, forcing him to the back of the field for the re-start. Most of the top five appeared to be in tyre conservation mode, with the race being two thirds longer than the standard A Main length at the venue and a increasingly slick track.
Morgan again came to grief in Turn 4 with the #Q54, with the car flipping and bringing an end to his night on the re-start.
A longer green flag run saw the field settle into a rhythm, with Aussie Champ Goodyer biding his time until Lap 19 when it became a three-wide battle for the lead with Oldfield and Veal. Veal took the lead just before the caution flew for a spin from Ben Atkinson Jnr, meaning the lap count went back to the last completed lap and handing the re-start lead to Oldfield.
Oldfield again cleared out on the restart, with Veal and Goodyer trading places for second and allowing Oldfield to gap the chasing pack by almost a second. Brock Hallett was holding fourth comfortably, with Aaron Kelly maintaining fifth.
Ryan Newton brought out the caution at half race distance after riding the wall into Turn 4, leaving the #Q66 unable to continue.
Oldfield made hard contact with lapped car Andrew Corbett on the front straight, opening the door for Goodyer to rail around the outside of the fan favourite #Q17 to take the lead with 17 laps to go – but again a fortuitous caution for Oldfield meant that he would resume the lead for the re-start.
South Aussie Lachlan McDonough took a hard flip in Turn 2 while running in fourth after getting above the cushion into the wall, bringing an end to his night after a strong showing.
Oldfield would lead the field away with 14 laps to run but again the caution flew with Robbie Farr putting the #T20 Comiskey Mining Services car on its side in Turn 2.
After the restart with 14 laps left to run, it quickly became a 2-horse race for the lead with Luke Oldfield staying on the low line and Goodyer searching for traction high up the track.
With four laps left, Goodyer made a mistake in Turn 4 making hard contact with the wall, and virtually handed the win to the #Q17 of Oldfield with minimal laps left to run. Goodyer still maintained enough pace to hold off Jamie Veal, who finished a strong third in what was one of the greatest races in the history of the Brisbane venue.
Goodyer said after the race, “I don't know how it didn't break [after it hit the wall]. I wasn't going to go down without a fight, but I'm happy for Luke. This is his home track, and he is bloody good around here!”.
An emotional Oldfield said “Some of those re-starts just fell in our favour. There was one point where Veal and Jock were alongside me and I thought ‘this is going to be big', but it all worked out. Awesome Race. It couldn't have been more of a fitting finish for us here.”
The Midget feature was an intense battle between Troy Ware, Rusty Whittaker, Matt Jackson and Kiwi Michael Pickens.
Pickens fought through to take the lead with 22 laps remaining in the 50-lap midget feature race and cleared out from the rest of the field from there.
Kaidon Brown and Michael Kendall had an incredible battle, with Brown all but having to take to the infield to pass Kendall for seventh position; a battle which raged all the way to the Chequered Flag.
Incredibly, the feature went green until only 6 laps were left, when Nathan Smee lost fire in the #14 machine in Turn 4 to bring out the yellow flag.
The restart was just as intense, with Pickens and Ware clearing the field but Kaidon Brown was ripping on the top side of the track until Matt Jackson flipped his car in Turn 2 while trying to run against the cushion on the high side while running in a podium place in third.
With three laps left, all eyes were on Kaidon Brown who looked the most comfortable on the top side of the racetrack, however he couldn't capitalise with Pickens taking the final victory on the Archerfield Speedway for the midgets, followed by Troy Ware and Scott Farmer to round out the podium positions.
The Modlite feature race was won by Sam Gollshewsky, with Sean Rose in second and Terry Leerentveld in third.
After 44 years, the last race was a fitting send-off to a venue that has contributed so much to Australian Speedway.
Goodbye, Archerfield. Thanks for the memories.