Australian Speedway's biggest week began on Wednesday the 25th of January with the famous President's Cup held for the fortieth time at Avalon Raceway. 60 Sprintcars would be nominated for a chance in the prestigious event, the first of three big Sprintcar races, followed by the King's Challenge at Mount Gambier and the biggest race of the season, the 50th Annual Sprintcar Classic at Premier Speedway.
First held during the 1981/82 Speedway season, it was named after the Corio Shire President, who would be given the honour of presenting the trophies. The name would stick even after the joining of shires into the Greater Geelong region, and the race would find itself as the opener for Australian Sprintcar's most spectacular week of racing.
With the President's Cup being the first of three massive races, it attracts the best drivers and teams from around the country, and also those from the USA. Chase Randall, Sheldon Haudenschild, Tyler Courtney, Brad Sweet, Brock Zearfoss along with Carson and Cole Macedo would all be flying the stars and stripes as they raced on Australian clay.
Sprintcar teams and haulers were overflowing around the pits, even into the area usually reserved for the support category, them being the Street Stocks for that night's racing.
From gates open to 4:30, race fans would get the chance to be up close and personal with the drivers, teams and these wild machines we call Sprintcars.
An hour later, the infield of Avalon Raceway was busy with teams preparing for the car's hot laps and qualifying runs.
This is the best time to take a close look at how the teams communicate with their drivers and adjust and prep the cars for each run. One thing I wanted to take a closer look at was the new Tozuda Impact Indicators, made mandatory by SCCA (Sprintcar Control Council of Australia) and fitted to the top of drivers' helmets. What makes this device controversial however, with drivers like Cam Waters speaking out against it, is that the device hasn't been certified by FIA or Snell, thus ceding the warranty and homologation of driver's helmets, since now, an unapproved accessory has been attached. Sprint Car Hub have a great video on why this is a big deal. Safety should always be number one, but a device that is not approved by the appropriate governing bodies and manufacturers can sometimes be just as dangerous as not having that device there in the first place.
The large amount of rain that the track had had the day prior seemed to make the cars extra tough to drive. I've never seen Sprintcars bounce, pop wheelies and lift up their front left as much as I did during the President's Cup. Regardless of track conditions however, these cars get very dirty, very quickly.
Ian Madsen would fly out of the gate with the overall Quicktime of a 13.039, showing he wasn't messing around with the competition. McFadden, McCullagh, Grant Anderson and Brendan Quinn were also unsurprisingly up the top of the time sheets as well.
In between the Sprintcar wars, the Street Stocks literally tore up the track as they bumped each other clockwise and anticlockwise around Avalon Raceway.
Jamie Veal would run away from the rest of the field in Heat One despite an early yellow flag bunching the field back up.
Ian Madsen would continue his perfect form with a win in Heat 2, ahead of David Donegan and V8 Supercar driver Cam Waters.
Arguably the most popular driver, James McFadden would hold off Brooke Tatnell in Heat Three for the win ahead of Tim Hutchins.
Brock Zearfoss would take the first victory for the Americans in Heat 5, ahead of Marcus Dumesny in the beautiful no.1 Valvoline car and Bobby Daly.
Queenslander Ryan Newton would grab victory in the final heat race for the Sprintcars, before the main races of the night.
Drivers would begin to get really racy in the main races, starting with the C Main. Chase Randall would grab another win for the Americans and progressing to the B Main. Alex Attart, Jett Bell, Luke Thomas and Marcus Green would join him, finishing in the top five and transferring also to the B Main.
The entire width of the track would be used in the B Main as Grant Anderson led to the chequered flag ahead of Jordan Rae, Carson Macedo, Sheldon Haudenschild and Brad Sweet, all progressing to the final race of the night, the A-Main.
Before long, it was time to determine this year's President Cup winner. Ian Madsen would fend off James McFadden early, before McFadden fell into the clutches of Jamie Veal.
Three cautions would bring a hault to the races proceedings, including a scary head on collision for Tim Hutchins. Everyone was relieved when he clambered out of his wrecked Sprintcar. The final caution would give McFadden and Veal one more shot at Madsen with two laps to go.
However, to no avail. Madsen would claim victory ahead of Jamie Veal in second and James McFadden third.
From here it was off to Mount Gambier for the Australia Day King's Challenge, then on to the big one, the Sprintcar Classic at Premier Speedway.