Drivers from five different states filled the first five spots of the Preliminary feature on the opening night of the 60th Australian Sprintcar Championship at the Perth Motorplex.
Warrnambool's Jamie Veal made himself an early favorite for tonight's title decider when he dominated all 25 laps of the prelim, beating home Queenslander Lachlan McHugh and Max's Race winner Jock Goodyer.
NSW's Kerry Madsen finished fourth with South Australian Matt Egel fifth to make it a truly national battle at the front.
A total of 48 cars fronted for the opening night with Luke Dillon, Trent Pigdon, McHugh and Veal pacing their qualifying groups in Time Trials – Veal the quickest overall with a lap of 13.237s.
Eight heat races were run with a Western Australian Car Owner sweep of the first round, which was a top 10 invert from qualifying, with Taylor Milling, Kerry Madsen, Callum Williamson and Brad Maiolo winning.
Heat 4 saw the demise of young Western Australian Jack Williamson who rolled hard in Turn 2 destroying his race car putting him out for the weekend.
The final heat saw the defending Australian Champion Marcus Dumesny take a heavy tumble in turn two after contact with Ryan Newton.
The B-Main saw Kris Coyle, Newton, Jason Pryde and Rusty Hickman progress to the 18-car A-Main while Tate Frost and Robbie Farr just missed out.
Following the heat races Veal was the top points scorer with McHugh joining him on the front row. Dillon, who was driving his own car at the Motorplex for the first time in more than 10 years, started third ahead of Goodyer, Ian and Kerry Madsen, Egel, Trent Pigdon, David Priolo and Brad Maiolo.
The A-Main started in dramatic fashion as Matt Dumesny, who started from position 14, rode out a big crash on the opening turn in the Monte Motorsports #17 bringing on the red light.
The only other race-affecting incident occurred with seven laps to go as a tyre exploded on Brad Maiolo's #77 bringing out the caution and bunching the field up before the sprint to the flag.
On the restart, Goodyer tried a massive slide job on the leading pair from position three but came up short and had to settle for third. Only moments before the caution came out Goodyer got by McHugh for second but he had to give the spot back.
Veal looked unstoppable until the last lap when McHugh made a last-corner dive bomb to slide up alongside the former champ only to miss the top spot by 0.5s.
“It ended up being a pretty good night without any drama but we still have a lot of work to do before we can think about winning the Title,” said Veal.
Jason Kendrick was the best of the locals in sixth with Luke Dillon, Callum Williamson, Ian Madsen and David Priolo completing the top 10.
Tonight's schedule will have one last round of heats before the C and B last chance qualifiers, before the final 35 Lap title-deciding main event.