By T.J. Buffenbarger
WARRNAMBOOL, Au. (January 21, 2017) — James McFadden etched himself into the record books by winning the biggest sprint car race in Australia. McFadden dominated the finale of the 45th Lucas Oil Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic Sunday night at Premier Speedway in Warrnambool, Australia.
McFadden led all 40-laps from the outside of the front row, pulling away from the field through two late race restarts and a close call with an accident in front of him in the closing stages of the event. For McFadden picking up his first Classic victory was a dream come true.
“It’s not just a race, its history,” said McFadden in victory lane. “I thought it was going to be one of those races that eluded us, but the Milwaukee car was bad ass all weekend every time we hit the race track.”
For McFadden the classic win was a culmination of joining Luche Monte’s race team during the off season.
“It’s just unbelievable,” said McFadden. “I have to thank Luche and Monte Motorsports. This is something you strive for as a kid. You bust your butt and do what you can to get in a ride and do what you can to get to this race. To win it is unbelievable.”
Three time classic champion Brooke Tatnell and McFadden started on the front row. McFadden pulled away are the start while Tatnell tried to keep pace while fending off Kerry Madsen running third. Shortly after Madsen slid into second as McFadden started overtaking slower cars by lap six, finding himself in heavy traffic when he slid up the race track on lap 10 and allowed Madsen to close. Madsen was unable to take advantage though as Tatnell could pin Madsen behind a slower car to take over second.
Further back in the field Brad Sweet and Darren Mollenoyux broke into the top five and were contesting the fourth position. Mollenoyux was able to get around Sweet and started closing on the lead trio.
By the halfway point, Madsen was closing on Tatnell for second, but McFadden had checked out. With 15 laps to go McFadden had an open track in what looked like a feature that would be go the distance non-stop. The complection of the race changed though when the first caution flag appeared on lap 26 of Dominic Scelzi’s spin.
McFadden opened up a sizeable advantage during the restart while Mollenoyux drove by Madsen for third and brought Sweet along with him shuffling Madsen back to fifth. McFadden continued to pull away until a red flag on lap 28 for Bradley Keller, who was running 10th at the time. Keller was uninjured.
McFadden was able to drive away from the field during the restart, but this time Tatnell was able to start closing the gap using the top of the race track. McFadden saw Tatnell coming and was able to change his line.
“I watched the big screen and I saw Brooke got rolling on the top, so I just moved up,” said McFadden.
That line change allowed McFadden to drive away as Tatnell and Mollenoyux started racing for the second spot. As McFadden worked slower traffic Tatnell closed the gap again right up to McFadden’s back bumper.
The complexion of the race changed with four laps to go when Carson Macedo spun and elected Matt Egel and Jason Johnson with Egel getting upside down right in front of the leaders. McFadden had to take evasive action threading the needle between Macedo’s and Egel’s cars to avoid the incident. All drivers involved in the incident exited their cars under their own power.
The third and final restart was a duplicate of the previous two with McFadden pulling away. Mollenoyux got a run on Tatnell, running side by side for an entire lap before Mollenoyux took away the second spot.
Up front it was all McFadden pulling away for his first victory in the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic. Mollenoyux, a resident of Warrnambool, took home the runner up position. Tatnell, Sweet, and Madsen rounded out the top five.
For McFadden the Classic win was the biggest of his career in front of family and friends.
“You work your tail of and fortunately I’ve had great people like Scott and Steph, my Mom and Dad to back me. My girlfriend, everyone involved. Fuzzy (last name) was stressing he made the wrong call, he doesn’t have any fingernails left. It’s a tough race, it’s our grand final. To pick this up is unbelievable.“
45th Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic
Sunday January 22, 2017
Feature (40-Laps): 1. W17 – James McFadden, 2. V52 – Darren Mollenoyux, 3. W2 – Brooke Tatnell, 4. USA99 – Brad Sweet, 5. A1 – Kerry Madsen, 6. S81 – Luke Dillon, 7. V10 – Kyle Hirst, 8. W66 – Ian Madsen, 9. W3 – Steven Line, 10. Q83 – David Murcott, 11. Q23 – Lachlan McHugh, 12. USA0 – Corey Eliason, 13. N99 – Carson Macedo, 14. V29 – Terry McCarl, 15. Q17 0 Luke Holdfield, 16. USA1 – Dominic Scelzi, 17. Q7 – Robbie Farr, 18. W26 – Jason Johnson, 19. S97 – Matt Egel, 20. ACT2 – Ben Atkinson, 21. V3 – Ian Loudon, 22. S19 – Bradley Keller, 23. V6 – Shane Stewart, 24. NQ21 – Jorydan Brazier, 25. N16 – Daniel Sayer, 26. V90 – Corey McGullagh.