Indianapolis based Shane Stewart secured his first Warrnambool Standard Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic victory tonight at Sungold Stadium in a brilliant race long duel with defending champ Brooke Tatnell. The pair traded slide jobs with the lead changing multiple times before Stewart raced to the win following a restart with nine laps remaining. West Australian ace Ryan Farrell finished third behind winner Stewart and runner up Tatnell.
“Honestly it hasn’t sunk it yet, it probably won’t until I lay my head on the pillow tonight,” said a relieved Stewart at the post race presentations before a massive crowd who had gathered to hear the champion’s thoughts.
“Brooke (Tatnell) is a true champion and I can’t say enough about how good Aussie drivers are,” said the American ace.
“My crew thought they were nervous for the final but I guarantee I was more nervous when Brooke got around me. It’s hard to maintain your speed as well as get around lapped traffic with Brooke breathing down your neck.”
“This classic win race probably rates the highest out of all my achievements and like Brooke said earlier there’s no event like this anywhere else in the world.”
“I really do have a great time every time I come here and everyone has been great, Colin and Kerry Bulmer and the kids, they are awesome to drive for. My hats off to the team and their sponsors including KRE, Bayair Industries and Campbell Cranes. I hope this Classic win is not my last one and I hope there’s more to come.”
Stewart had the holeshot at the drop of the green ahead of polesitter Tatnell who elected to start from position two. Fifth starting James McFadden enjoyed an awesome start, shooting to third place ahead of American duo Danny Smith and Jason Johnson. As the laps wound down the race tempo increased further back in the field with Craig Dollansky and Stephen Bell swapping positions in the battle for the minor positions, as well as Jason Sides and Danny Reidy further back.
Ten laps into the 40-lap finale Smith shot under Johnson for fourth while three laps later Tatnell had reeled in Stewart to draw alongside as he challenged for the lead. On lap 16 Tatnell finally slid under Stewart and assumed the lead only for Stewart to slide back under Tatnell the very next lap. Tatnell wasn’t finished as he sped back past Stewart to once again take control of the race on lap 18.
Lap 22 saw Tatnell streak back under Stewart as the pair waged a titanic battle in lapped traffic and traded the lead in a thrilling battle. Meanwhile Johnson had slipped past McFadden into third and was in pursuit of the leading duo who were wearing each other out with slide jobs.
With 10 laps to run Stewart made a decisive pass for the lead with Jonathon Allard and Steven Lines simultaneously stopping in turn 3. Allard suffered a flat right rear while Lines exited in spectacular fashion when his right rear exploded as he crashed hard ending his run while challenging for sixth.
Yellows were brought on again at the restart with Garry Brazier slowing in turn three when his power steering failed and Tim ranking also lost his front wing on the back straight.
The field was lead away with 9 to go by Stewart, Tatnell, Johnson, McFadden, Smith and Farrell inside the top six. Farrell used the yellow to his advantage rocketing into third in the dying laps when Johnson bumped the wall following an intense battle with Tatnell for the second position.
From the restart Stewart powered away to with win ahead of Tatnell, Farrell, McFadden and Danny Smith. Kerry Madsen was awarded the Skwid Signs Hard Charger Award when he raced from 18th to sixth finishing ahead of Jason Johnson, Matthew Reed, Craig Dollansky, Stephen Bell, Terry McCarl, Jason Sides, Jamie Veal and Tim Rankin. Non finishers were Lines, Brazier, Danny Reidy and Allard.
The all important last chance B-main was a lifeline for the 4 drivers transferring into the A-main of Craig Dollansky, Tim Rankin, Jason Sides and finally Kerry Madsen. The B-main also led to the unfortunate end for young gun Nick Lacey who suffered a massive crash in the final laps of the B-main while in the battle for the final transfer position.
The C-main saw successful transfers into the B-main for Grant Anderson, Paul McMahan, Troy Little and Max Dumesny.
D-main transferees included Wayne Johnson, Jamie Bricknell, Bryan Mann and Jerry Richert Jnr while the E-main saw Jason Kendrick, Steven Caruso, Glen Sutherland and Daryl Clayden all advance.
Heat race wins in round three were Danny Smith, Stewart, Tatnell, Johnson, Reidy, Allard and Matthew Reed. The final round of heat races saw Damien Thorne, Steven Caruso, Garry Brazier, Kurt Luttrell, Stephen Bell, Daryl Clayden and Jason Kendrick take well deserved wins.
The heat races were full of action including heat two which marked the end of the weekend for David Murcott when a steering component broke on the Q29 and sent him sailing into the wall in turn 2 followed by a wild series of flips. The same misfortune occurred for Eddie Lumbar after coming together with Jamie Veal damaging the N36, which was the parked for the remainder of the evening.
“We gave it everything we had and that wasn’t enough tonight, but we walked away knowing there was nothing left on the table and we’re not leaving with our heads hanging down that’s for sure,” said runner up Tatnell.
“I hope the race fans enjoyed it tonight and I know a lot of drivers say it but I truly believe I drive for the best race team there is in the country, Shane, Jodie and the Krikke family.”
Farrell was impressive all weekend and deserved the final podium position.
“We could always say would have, could have, should have, and if we had started up the front maybe we might have stood higher on the podium. I’m happy to bring home this third place for the Monte Motorsport team.”
“I love coming here with the atmosphere and I race all over Australia and this is the best place in the country to race.”
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