Already widely regarded as one of the leading Midget drivers in the country, Michael Stewart has wasted little time in establishing himself as a force amongst the Sprintcar set, racing to victory in round 11 of the Track Championship Series at Eastern Creek Speedway on Saturday night (February 11). Stewart trailed Michael Saller through the early going before slipping into the lead on lap 14 to secure his maiden Sprintcar feature race success. On a frantic final lap, Warren Ferguson stormed into second spot with a pass on Michael Saller as Kyle Mock, having posted the fastest lap of the race on the previous circulation, snatched fourth from Aaron Kelly. Rebounding from a spin on the opening lap, Kaidon Brown salvaged sixth, with Daniel Sayre, Jimmy Matchett, Troy Little and Blake Skipper rounding out the top ten.
It was Saller who set the qualifying benchmark in time trials, stopping the clock at 11.676 to top the timesheets. Brown’s best of 11.920 was second quickest overall, followed by Ferguson (11.930), Sayre (11.947) and Lachlan Caunt (11.971), with Stewart (11.981) the only other to go under 12 seconds. Zac Pacchiarotta, Little, Mock and Brendan Scorgie proved the best of the rest.
Stewart made his intentions clear in the opening heat when he advanced from sixth to snare an impressive win. Clocking a best lap almost half a second quicker than anybody else, Stewart used the highline to chase down Luke Geering and grab the lead on the final lap, with Brett Hobson home third.
When a shredded tyre sent Sayre into a spin on lap six in heat two, Brown pounced from the ensuing restart to relegate Skipper from the lead. With Skipper backsliding to fourth, Pacchiarotta would secure second spot ahead of Saller.
Heat three was a straightforward affair in which Aaron Kelly was largely untroubled in his drive to victory, leading home Scorgie and Caunt.
The first major incident of the night came in heat four when Stephen Allen rode the main straight wall before upending in turn one. Meanwhile, Stewart was unstoppable from the front row, again producing a best lap considerably quicker than anybody else on his way to a second win. Ferguson filled second spot, with a last-lap pass elevating Geering to third ahead of Matchett.
Brown also doubled up in heat five, outpacing Saller and Pacchiarotta on this occasion, while the final heat of the night went to Caunt in advance of Scorgie and Little.
The opening clash of the Pole Shootout would see Scorgie and Little progress to the second round, having despatched Ferguson and Pacchiarotta. However, neither Scorgie nor Little would advance any further, with Caunt and Saller moving forward to take on the two Midget guns in Brown and Stewart. The final round resulted in Saller outpacing the other three to secure pole position for the 30-lap feature race, with Caunt to start alongside as Stewart and Brown found themselves relegated to row two, although ultimately it made little difference to the outcome.
The B Main saw 16-year-old Ashton Mineef gap the field to score an impressive win, a restart with five laps to run failing to halt his momentum as he led a quartet of qualifiers into the feature. Daniel Needham finished in second spot ahead of Richie Robb, whose heat race exploits included more spins than the roulette wheel at Star Casino, with a charging Mark Attard securing fourth ahead of Kyle Angel.
The opening moments of the feature race proved very costly for Brown when, having tagged Caunt in turn one, he found himself spinning to a halt in turn two, resuming from the rear and elevating Little onto the second row for the restart, which was very short lived courtesy of an incident in turn three that saw both Luke Thomas and Geering spin in turn three, the latter being collected by Needham, who would finish upside down. It would be Saller leading the field once racing got underway, with Stewart shuffling Caunt back to third. However, Caunt would head infield on lap four, elevating Little into third ahead of Scorgie, Ferguson and Kelly, who had made rapid progress from position 10. It would be just four laps later when Little would surrender third, stopping in turn three to bring about another restart, only for the resumption to be immediately delayed further when Robb tipped over in turn two. With 23 laps still to run, Saller remained out front with Stewart in pursuit, while Scorgie succumbed to a two-pronged challenge from Ferguson and Kelly. It was perhaps fitting that Stewart would take the #14 to the front on lap 14, with yet another restart intervention a lap later when a spin by Ben Matchett ensnared Scorgie just moments after he had reclaimed fourth from Kelly. From this point, Stewart was never challenged for the remainder of the race and Saller also seemed secure in second spot as long as Ferguson and Kelly focussed their energies on each other. However, Ferguson would ultimately see off Kelly’s best efforts and chase down Saller, pouncing on the final lap to snare a runner-up result that still looked unlikely a lap earlier . In that final lap frenzy, Mock would storm home to push Kelly back another spot, with Brown scoring sixth and no doubt ruing a lost opportunity. In his recovery, Little could only make it back as far as ninth behind Sayre and Jimmy Matchett, with Skipper, Pacchiarotta and Hobson the best of the rest. Completing the finishers were Mineef, Scorgie, Alex Attard, Mark Attard, Ben Matchett, Jeff Lawler and Sayre.
Seemingly wanting to set himself a greater challenge, Andrew Seery would surrender the lead of the opening Wingless Sprint heat race with a spin in turn three on the opening lap. Tyson Williams welcomed the opportunity to lead the parade and he would remain in front to the chequer as Seery sliced his way through the rest of the runners to finish second ahead of Amy Shute.
Kaila Blayney prevailed in heat two over Darren Bird and Mark Blyton, with Jarrad Rust outpacing Jason Bates and Shane Sheedy to win heat three.
Jason Davis triumphed in heat four in advance of Jamie Dicker and Brayden Shute, while Matthew Nikiforoff edged out Darryl Marshall to win heat five, with Paul Freeman third on this occasion.
Sayre, Bates and Blyton filled the top three spots respectively in heat six, with Bailey Goodwin, John Egan and Brayden Shute doing likewise in heat seven before Williams downed Max Risbridger and Davis to claim the final preliminary.
The first of the B Mains saw the top four spots fall to Marshall, Dicker, Jadyn Boulding and Amy Shute, while the second B Main went the way of Darren Bird in front of Michael Braggs, Graham Flood and Jack Hotchkis. Running in second spot and with a feature race berth seemingly secured, John Egan rode over the left rear of Bird and was pitched into a heavy roll through turn one with only two laps to run.
Brayden Shute would lead all 25 laps of the Wingless Sprint feature race to defeat Bates and Goodwin, while a see-sawing run from Williams would see him occupy fourth early before falling to sixth and then recovering to be fourth again at the flag. Davis, Sayre, Blyton, Seery and Rust were next in line, with Nikiforoff .completing the first ten finishers.
Late Models provided support to the open wheelers, with heat wins falling in favour of Lachlan Onley, Ryan Fenech and Aaron Barnes. In the feature race, Onley led every lap from pole position despite the best efforts of Darryl Grimson, who would be confirmed in the runner-up position when the race was declared following a spin from fourth-placed Mark Letham in turn four with just one lap to run. Ben Nicastri advanced from fifth to finish third ahead of Letham and Robert Carrig. Next best were Aaron Barnes and Joel Carrig, with Damien Hodges, Ed Borg and Bruce McKenzie rounding out the top ten.
The next event at Eastern Creek Speedway is Saturday, February 25 featuring the New South Wales Midget Championship, plus Sprintcars and Wingless Sprints.