Crafton Captures Eldora Truck Slidefest

Using a late-race restart 18 laps from the finish and a strategy to 'go where the others aren’t,' Matt Crafton muscled past veteran dirt racer Stewart Friesen to win Wednesday night’s fifth annual Eldora Dirt Derby 150 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway.

Over the last 40 laps of the race, Crafton patiently worked his way from the bottom of the top 10 and took advantage of a Lap 127 caution to position himself to challenge a dominant Friesen for his first win since a victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway last May.

"My first dirt win -- a lot of fun," said Crafton, who picked up his 14th career win. "In the second part of that race we downright just stunk. It was my fault. We over-tightened it a little bit in the first run. It got free and we just went back to the way we started the race.

"I knew I was getting beat down low. Finally, at the end, I said, 'Well, we may have to tear the right side off to get the win.' I started doing it and this truck became a rocket ship."

Friesen finished second to earn his career-best finish in the Truck Series.

"Congrats to Matt, he's been doing his homework on the dirt and it paid off," said Friesen, who led a race-high 93 laps.

"We didn't come here to run second that's for damn sure, but I'm proud of these guys. They worked hard to get this truck dialed in. We had a great truck, he (Crafton) just got rolling on the top, it cleaned up, I was so committed to the bottom and go there in the middle and he just found a line and got us. It burns."

Pole-sitter Friesen led his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series laps and extended his lead to nearly two seconds when a multi-truck accident ignited in Turn 3 on Lap 19 after Sheldon Creed spun and collected at least six other trucks in the process.

With a competition caution set at Lap 20 to allow teams to clean their windshields and grilles of the mud and dirt sprayed during the first run, NASCAR utilized the second yellow flag of the night to serve as the competition caution.

On the Lap 33 restart, Friesen found himself under attack from two-time series champion Crafton, who swiped the lead away on Lap 34 and held it through the conclusion of Stage 1, which ended under caution after pre-race favorite Christopher Bell spun and was T-boned by Kaz Grala.

The start of Stage 2 saw the lead exchange twice in a period of three laps as Friesen grabbed the lead back from Crafton only to be passed by John Hunter Nemechek two laps later.

Sydney Sprintcar driver Max Johnston made a strong start (#02 Chevrolet) from 22nd on the grid and had been running in and out of the top 10 as he elected not to pit after the first 40 lap section. However, the Sydneysider spun early Stage 2 at Turn 4 and was collected by Korbin Forrister and Ben Rhodes.

The crash took all three drivers out of the race.

Friesen, however, proved that he had one of the strongest trucks in the field by re-assuming the lead on Lap 53 and collecting the Stage 2 victory.

Under yellow for the Stage 2 break, Friesen's spotter noticed that he had a right-front tire going down forcing the No. 52 Halmar International Chevrolet down pit road for four tires and fuel. The unexpected stop handed the lead to 2015 Eldora winner Bell for the Lap 93 restart.

Restarting sixth, Friesen stormed back though the field and eventually caught the heavily damaged truck of Bell on Lap 115 to re-assume command at the front.

When it seemed that Friesen was settling into his comfort zone and potentially sailing toward his first career victory, Crafton, using a quicker top lane, overpowered him on Lap 133, with the pass setting the tone for the final lead change of the night.

Behind Crafton and Friesen, Chase Briscoe in a backup truck finished third ahead of Grant Enfinger and John Hunter Nemechek. Late-model dirt specialist Bobby Pierce finished sixth while Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Bell and Austin Cindric comprised the remainder of the top 10.

Race highlights will be available here on the Motorsport channel in coming days.

Highline Magazine Edition 16

It's been a while but we think it's worth the wait.

Edition 16 of Highline Magazine is a bumper 136 pages of speedway action and comment including the Indiana Midget Speedweek, Aussie's abroad, F500's, Easter Trail coverage, Modified Production Sedans, Australia's first Late Model feature, flat track racing and all the usual comment and opinion and a special piece by Ray Solomon on the marketing of Speedway.

Enjoy and please share widely.

Sydney Sprintcar Racer set for Debut on NASCAR Grand Stage

Australian Sprintcar Racer Max Johnston is set to create history when he competes in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Event at Eldora Speedway.

While a few Aussie’s have raced in NASCAR such as Marcos Ambrose and Owen Kelly and many more have raced at the Famed Eldora Speedway, none have done both at the same time.

MAX JOHNSTON will create history when he makes his NASCAR debut with Brandt professional agriculture and young's motorsports at Eldora.

BRANDT, a leading agriculture retailer and manufacturer of agricultural specialty products, will join Young's Motorsports with Johnston, for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway where  Johnston will pilot the 02 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevy Silverado for the July 19th prime time event.

Joining BRANDT on the truck will be Australian distribution partners BARMAC, a division of Amgrow Australia Pty Ltd, and GLOBE Growing Solutions.

"We are excited to put Max behind the wheel for his NASCAR Truck Series debut as a representative of BRANDT both here and in Australia, said Rick Brandt, President & CEO of BRANDT.  "The Eldora Speedway race is one of a kind and we look forward to seeing Max's skills on the dirt track."

"I'm humbled at the opportunity to race in one of NASCAR's top tier series with BRANDT Professional Agriculture and Young's Motorsports,” said Max Johnston. “Hard work and never giving up is something I live by and I want to apply that as I make my NASCAR debut"

No doubt there will be many keen Aussie fans watching the prestigious event now that there is a direct Aussie involvement.

Highline Magazine and The Motorsport Channel wishes Johnston great success on his NASCAR and Eldora debut.

Miller: "I might have been able to challenge for the podium"

Australian says more risk could have been more reward - but is happy with an impressive P6 at Assen.

Twelve months after his stunning first MotoGP win in the Dutch GP, Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) put in another great performance at the TT Circuit Assen to come home sixth in a challenging race to manage.

Initially not happy with his start, Miller was then able to tag onto the back of the group battling for fifth, fighting with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) and then pushing when the rain came to keep his tyres up to termperature. His management of the conditions paid off - with Miller able to come home in sixth and take a great haul of points.

More risk could have been more reward, says the Australian, but the result as opposed to a DNF was too valuable:

“The first lap was not good, from my grid position I got stuck on the outside through all the right hand corners and lost time, but once the group flattened out I got up to tenth in a group with Dani and Cal.

I was a having nice fight with Dani and then the rain came. I kept my pace to keep temperature in the slick tyres and pushed through to sixth. With more risks I might have been able to challenge for the podium but I wanted the points, this was a good result for me.

I never thought about changing bikes, there wasn’t enough rain for wet weather tyres.”

VSDA – Presentation Night

The worlds’ oldest Speedcar (Midget) club, the Victorian Speedcar Drivers Aassociation (VSDA) held their annual presentation night las t Saturday (8th July) and at the same time inaugurated their own, long overdue, Hall of Fame.

“This club has an 83 year history as the oldest Speedcar club in the world, and we thought it was time to recognise our won Hall of Famers,” stated co-organiser and presenter David Parker.

“We have many people within this club that will never fulfil the criteria to become life members but they’ve had hall of fame careers and should be reciognised,” added club president and car owner Tim Fisher.

“We know there are many, many worthy inductees within this club and we welcome nominations and suggestions for future inductees, but we decided that the first group would be drawn from those that were still currently active within our great club.” Fisher continued.

And with that, the first five inductees were announced:

The Beasley Family,

Eric Smith,

Robbie Brown,

Barry Power, and

Mark Brown.

The Beasley Family’s contribution started way back in the 1930’s with Arthur “Pop” Beasley and then continued with his sons Alf and Stud and into the present day through Stud’s son Leroy who proudly accepted the award on behalf of his family.

An emotional Eric Smith said very little but was clearly humbled to be inducted.

Smith was a long time competitor starting back in 1956 and raced for over 30 years before fielding cars for his sons Shane and Craig and now his grandson Toby.

Smith is also the clubs scrutineer and Chief Steward a role he has held for over a decade.

Like Smith, Robbie Brown is part of a Speedcar family dynasty having followed in the footsteps of his father as a racer and then car owner for the likes of Ian Lewis before his own son Mark took over the seat at 16 years old. Robbie’s grandson Kaidon has only recently taken over from his dad, Mark, making this a fourth generation effort.

Robbie is still actively involved mentoring his grandson and maintianing machinery.

The family theme runs deep in this historic club and the fourth inductee was another with multi-generational roots – Barry Power.

Powers influence and effect on this club can never be underestimated, as he almost single handedly kept the club alive during the late 80’s and early 90’s when the club really was on life support and the last rights had been read.

Fielding a team of two or three cars, Power Racing made up the bulk of the field for a time keeping the club alive and unprepared to let it die with drivers such as Ray “Noddy” Bishop (surely a future inductee) and his own sons Craig and Darren, and with Barry taking on the role of Club President as well.

The larger than life racing stalwart still fields cars today with the larrikin Ash Booker currently at the helm of the Power Racing #59.

The final inductee, Mark Brown, was by far the youngest having only just retired during this current season.

Brown stated he “was embarrassed” to be inducted when there are so many other great people not yet included in the hall of fame but was humbled and honoured to be inducted alongside his dad Robbie dedicating it to his mother.

Despite his own misgivings Mark was a worthy winner as he totally fitted the criteria having had a stellar driving career and now being a car owner for his son – 4th generation racer Kaidon.

Mark Brown was also awarded the VSDA life time achievement award.

“Although I live in NSW, this is my club,” stated Brown. “My family has such a long history with this club and I am a Victorian at heart, and that’s the reason we run V97 on Kaidon’s car.” he added.

The other significant award of the night was the prestigious Club Person of the Year which went to John “Fluxy” Fitzgerald.

As Club President Tim Fisher stated when handing out the award “He had 101 reasons to walk away from Speedcar racing but he didn’t”

“Flux” has had a tough couple of years with the death of his step-son Braeden “Skip” Palmer and the inauguration of Skip’s Memorial race at Avalon where post-race, in the semi darkness surrounded by family and friends, Fluxy spread Skip’s ashes on the Avalon raceway track surface.

Not surprisingly it was an emotional Fitzgerald who said through tears “This is all for Skip, I loved that kid.”

Video/photo collages of all the Hall of Fame inductees can be seen on the VSDA facebook page and website.

The seasonal awards were also handed out on the night with The Mills Motorsport Group and driver Travis Mills winning the VSDA Drivers Championship, The VSDA Owners Championship, the Avalon Track Championship and the Best Presented Car & Crew.

Mills was also tied with Kaidon Bown for most feature wins.

The prestigious peer voted Drivers Driver award was also a tie and this time Mills was forced to share it with Joe Lostitch who had a banner year also winning the National Six Crown award to go with his Tasmanian Championship.

The other important drivers award was the Rookie of the Year which went to Mitch Whiting who stunned the club by becoming the quickest ever rookie to win a feature, and if not for a late season engine blow-up Whiting may have finished higher than 3rd in the Drivers Championship behind Mills and runner up Ash Booker.

Bookers 2nd place in the Drivers Championship and third in the Avalon Track Championship also gave car owner Barry Power third in the Owners Championship behind his old mate Robbie Brown whose son Mark, and Grandson Kaidon, combined to give him 2nd in the Owners title. As Mentioned earlier Mills Motorsport Group won the Owners Title.

The Braedon Palmer/John Fitzgerald Most Improved award went to Jack Day, while 13 different drivers were recipients of the Upside down award.

The Mark Bateman Chaplaincy Sportsmanship award went to Anthony Chaffey.

As mentioned in the Avalon Track Championship Travis Mills was the victor ahead of Kaidon Brown and Ashley Booker.

Top three in the VSDA Drivers Club Championship each received a brand new wheel courtesy of Max Wheel.

Completing the nights entertainment was a magician wandering from table to table amazing guests with his sleight of hand tricks and a caricature artist. Numerous raffles were held and then to top of the night Ash and Renae Booker made a magnanimous gesture of putting up a sizeable tab on the bar to finish off the night.

Carina Speedway back from the dead

BUNDABERG race fans will only have to wait two months for Carina Speedway to be back in action.

Barry Pearce and David Vaughan were yesterday announced as the new owners after taking over from the Walker family, which owned the land for more than 50 years.

And they have big plans for the area, which is now known as the Bundaberg Shed Alliance Motorplex.

The former lease at Carina ended in December after the venue was brought back to life in 2013 following a decade-long closure.

"To run it properly you really need to own the property,” Pearce exclusively told the NewsMail.

"There's been a lot of promoters come and go over the years and you've got a serious commitment when you own the property.

"We'll be here for a long, long time and the commitment to purchase it speaks for itself.”

The duo will be busy as they prepare to get back to racing.

They hope to host their first speedway event in August with Bundy Burnouts to be involved.

"We're looking at about two months of hard work,” Pearce said.

"We've got corporate boxes we want to build, canteens we've got to put in, sheds for the machinery and we're putting a shed for the drivers to work in with hoists.”

"We'll probably do a burnout comp shortly and will probably look at a monster truck show before the speedway season starts (in September).”

Pearce said they wanted to make sure Bundy Burnouts and organiser Neil Irvine were looked after.

"We're in negotiations with (Irvine), who put the pad down,” Pearce said.

"We'll see what we can do to help him out.”

Pearce said if Irvine wanted to be involved, "we're happy to work with him”.

Pearce said he saw a big future for the track, which is why they are involved.

"It's got a very long history,” he said.

"It's one of the best tracks certainly on the east coast and it is one of the fastest tracks.

"It's certainly got potential.”

The owner also recognises how important it is to the motorsport landscape in Bundaberg and Wide Bay.

"When we announced that we'd be taking the speedway I said it is not about the immediate drivers, it is about their kids as well that come through,” he said.

"We believe it all starts with the juniors.”

There will be a focus on getting people through the turnstiles and making the area a hub for racing again.

"What I see in a lot of speedways is people not getting 'bang for their buck,'” Pearce said.

"We want to put on a good show and get people in as cheaply as we can afford to have them come.”

Pearce also has plans to expand the motorplex to involve motorcross, mud drags and go karts.