In another epic edition of Queensland’s richest Sprintcar race, national champ Kerry Madsen scored back-to-back wins in the Performance Wholesale Australian Open at Ausdeck Patios Archerfield Speedway on Saturday night (January 7). Leading early before being relegated by World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz, Madsen pounced in lapped traffic to regain the lead and secure the $20 000 first prize. Schatz seemed destined to repeat his third-place result from last year when James McFadden slipped into second on lap 41 before a late surge saw Schatz snatch back the runner-up spot in a narrow result. One of only three World Series contracted drivers to qualify for the final and the only one to go the distance, McFadden’s third-place finish extends his championship lead.
Californian Carson Macedo finished in fourth spot ahead of preliminary feature winner Lachlan McHugh, who was trailed by two more Americans in Lucas Wolfe and Logan Schuchart. Andrew Scheuerle was next in line, albeit a lap in arrears, with another talented teenage prospect in Mitchell Gee putting in a big run to advance from 18th to finish ninth ahead of two-time national titleholder Dave Murcott, who had won the WSS feature race just three nights earlier. Peter Lack, Brent Kratzmann, Darren Jensen, Jack Lee and Allan Woods rounded out the 15 finishers, with Luke Oldfield, David Whell, Jamie Veal, Daniel Harding and former race winner Bryan Mann failing to go the distance.
In front of a big crowd that comprised a mix of track regulars, first-timers, WSS fanatics and those for whom the Australian Open is their annual Sprintcar fix, Lee got proceedings underway when he led Scheurele and Richard Morgan home in the first event (heat seven) of the night. Brooke Tatnell’s night ended early when a clash with Allan Woods sent both cars upside down and prompted Tatnell, a two-time winner of this race, to abandon his bid for a third open trophy.
Jason Pryde struck upon a winning formula for heat eight, leading home Northern Territory racer Chris Harrison and local rookie Cody Maroske, who performed with distinction in what was only his third Sprintcar meeting.
Yet another young gun in Jayden Peacock outpointed McFadden and former Australian Production Sedan champion Andrew Corbet in heat nine, while Scheuerle downed Schatz and Morgan in heat ten.
The penultimate preliminary saw Lee revisit victory lane, this time in advance of Schuchart and Mann, while McHugh suffered a setback when he tipped over exiting turn four after contact with Peacock.
It was a delighted Kratzmann who booked a direct passage into the main event when he cruised home to win the final heat over Whell and Brayden Willmington.
The B Main proved somewhat anti-climactic given what was at stake as Lee led throughout to finish three seconds clear of Mann after 20 laps, with Schuchart surging into third ahead of Gee and Woods. In a desperate scramble for the final transfer position, it was Whell who scraped into the feature, edging out Morgan and Maroske.
The bronze round of the Pole Shootout saw Oldfield and McHugh top the time sheet, with Scheuerle and Veal eliminated and thereby destined to start from the fourth row of the feature race grid. The silver showdown saw McHugh continue his march forward as he joined Madsen in advancing to the final round, leaving Macedo and Oldfield to share row three. The final round saw Madsen outpace McFadden, McHugh and Schatz to secure pole position for the 50-lap Australian Open final.
At the drop of the green to get the feature underway, Madsen led McFadden, Schatz and McHugh through the opening lap, although Macedo would advance to fourth as early as lap two. Mann made an early exit on lap five and the only interruption came two laps later when Daniel Harding spun to halt in turn four. Having dropped a couple of spots in the opening exchanges, Veal headed infield on lap 10 before Harding found himself in further difficulty when he and Whell made contact and speared onto the infield. Harding parked and Whell rejoined, only to succumb two laps later to the flat tyre that ensued as a result of their tangle. Meanwhile, Schatz moved into second spot on lap 15, advanced into the lead on lap 20 and, as he expanded his advantage, a ninth win in the event was looking likely for the North Dakota native. However, when Schatz found himself snookered behind a gaggle of lapped cars on lap 33, Madsen pounced and reasserted himself at the front of the field. With just 10 laps to run, McFadden made his move and slipped ahead of Schatz, a situation that would only be reversed on the final lap as Schatz stormed home to edge McFadden by less than half a second.
Despite some heavy contact with the wall on lap 19, Macedo never looked likely to lose fourth spot, while McHugh’s remarkable weekend ended with a top five finish against the best in the business. Wolfe and Schuchart obviously found the conditions to their liking, advancing five and ten positions respectively, aided by Oldfield’s exit on lap 34 whilst running sixth.
Madsen claiming his second consecutive Australian Open trophy also ensures that, in three World Series rounds and four feature races at Archerfield this season, no WSS contracted competitor has been victorious, which is a testament to the strength of the competition in this part of the country.
James Kennedy was the prevalent performer in the Formula 500 events, snaring two heat wins before taking out the KRE Race Engines feature race. Fresh from a strong showing in the Speedweek series in Victoria, Ryan McNamara took out the remaining heat and finished second in the feature race. Kristin Brown annexed third spot in the feature, with Piper Ogilvie and Tomas Partington rounding out the first five.
Heat wins in the Junior Formula 500s went to Bodie Smith (2), Randy Morgan and Nick Hodges.
Jason Dreaver, Matt Hardy and Michael Mason shared the spoils in the AMCA Nationals heat races and it was the Australian champ Hardy who subsequently prevailed in round five of the Shock Absorber Therapy Track Championship. Dreaver drove into second spot ahead of Steve Potts and Mason, with Matt Enders next best ahead of a much improved Stephen Ward.
The next event at Ausdeck Patios Archerfield Speedway is a round of the World Midget Championship featuring the best drivers from Australia, New Zealand and the United States over two big nights on January 20/21.