Going for Gold on Boxing Day
Boxing Day for Australians means one of two things, busy shopping sales or sport. Although the cricket test matches get most of the attention, along with the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, all over Australia at drag strips and speedways, the racing competition is more than fierce.
Just as the Cricket goes for a whole five days, and the Sydney to Hobart yacht race goes until the final day of the year, this final week of the year is called Speedweek for the Speedway community at large.
The largest events during this year's Speedweek are the state championship rounds for Sprintcars (replacing the World Series until it returns for the 2023/2024 season). That doesn't mean however that any other speedway racing held during this final week of the year is ignored, quite the opposite.
Avalon Raceway was packed for Boxing Day's Sprintcar Gold Cup. Joining the bonkers Sprintcars would be the Modified Sedans. The Sprintcars deserve its own article on how crazy they are, so for now I'll just share a few of the ins and outs of the latter category.
Modified Sedans are much similar to Street Stocks, them being stripped out sedans that were sold in Australia. The engines for Modified Sedans must be from factory, however, can be as large as 4.5 litres. The bodies can also be upgraded from body panels of the same series of automobile. The most interesting difference I noticed was the wheel and tyre combination. Unlike the Street Stocks, chunky rubber and off-road wheels are permitted, with tyres being the maximum size of 8 inches or 265mm.
Before you knew it, it was time for the main attraction to begin the nights action. All the Sprintcars and their teams would head to the centre of the speedway to set their qualifying times.
Drivers would be pushed out for a few practice laps before coming in again allowing their team to make any adjustments on the car.
David Donegan would go quickest overall on the 390-metre clay track in his Sprint Pig, followed closely by Corey McCullagh.
Qualifying would set the grids for the five 10-lap heat races of the night. Drivers would need to be at the front to score points for a chance to qualify for the main races at the end of the night and therefore have a shot at the overall win.
The Heat 1 win would go to Jordan Charge, Chris Solomon would win Heat 2, whilst Jacob Smith, Brett Milburn and Grant Anderson would claim victory in Heat 3, Heat 4 and Heat 5 respectively.
Next up would be the bronze, silver and gold shootouts. Four cars on track at a time to determine the how they would start the main event. Impressively, Bobby Daly and Chris Solomon would transfer all the way from bronze to the gold shootout, battling for the top four spots. However, it would be Grant Anderson who would go ‘Quicktime’, landing him the pole position spot for the A Main, with Solomon alongside and McCullagh and Daly right behind.
The rest of the field would be set behind them in the A Main or classed into the B and C Main. Finish in the top 4 in the C Main and you’ll graduate into the B Main. Finish top 6 in the B Main and you’ve got a shot at the A Main, the final race of the night and the one for the Gold Cup.
Jett Bell would have a comfortable lead in the C Main until a yellow flag bunched up the field. From then he would unfortunately go backwards until a flat right rear tyre ended his race completely and any chances at advancing into the B Main.
That’s sometimes how it goes in Speedway racing. A certain win is put in jeopardy after a yellow flag and the field being bunched up. The last thing you want sometimes as a driver is a complete reset with only a few laps to go. This wouldn’t be the last time it happened during the night either.
Ashley Cook would win the C Main and thus advance into the B Main along with Steven Spark, Grant Stansfield and Tim Van Ginneken.
Before the final two Sprintcar races of the night, the Modified Sedans would go head-to-head for Boxing Day glory.
Despite the packed grid, there was no stopping Brad Wicks, after not only winning both his heat races, but claiming a dominant victory in the main event to claim the Modified Sedan' s Christmas Cup title. Tristian McGraw would claim second followed closely by Kye Walters.
With the Sprintcars back on track, Michael Tancredi would claim victory in the B Main, advancing to the A Main with the rest of the top 6 setting the field for the 25-lap showdown.
From the drop of the green flag, Grant Anderson and Corey McCullagh would drive away from everyone on the low groove of the track. Even after a couple of cautions and resets, nothing seemed to phase them.
McCullagh would however get past Anderson with less than ten laps to go, building a lead. With only three laps until the chequered, the yellow would be brought out again, meaning there would be one last sprint to the finish. One the final lap, Brett Milburn would pip Anderson for second.
No one would have anything for McCullagh during those final laps, allowing him to claim Gold Cup victory.
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