Harding wins Speedweek opener

Daniel Harding struck the first blow in the USA v WA Sprintcar Speedweek at the Perth Motorplex on Thursday night, taking the feature race win in dramatic fashion from American Shane Stewart and Jamie Oldfield.

Harding started from P5 for the main event and after being locked in some entertaining battles with Jason Kendrick, he set his sights on Stewart in the dying stages of the race and pounced when the USA 87 was running on nothing but fumes in the last three laps.

Despite a lack of fuel in the tank Stewart held on for second from Oldfield who attempted to run around the outside in the last turns before belting the concrete wall, tagging Stewart and sliding across the finish line sideways.

It was another sensational result for Harding who has been one of the standout drivers in the first seven rounds of the 2019-20 Maddington Toyota Sprintcar Series.

The driver of the HRP Specialties #12 has enjoyed five podium finishes so far this season, including two wins.

Harding was eighth in qualifying, before taking a third and a win in the heat races.

Stewart set the pace early in the show by claiming Victory 1 Performance Quick Time with a 13.723 second lap, bettering that of Jason Kendrick’s 13.838, White’s 13.886, Ben Ellement’s 13.906 and teenager Tom Callaghan’s 13.907.

He started 10th in the final after being a non-finisher in the first heat race after cutting a left rear tyre on some debris and then a third in the second heat.

Oldfield was 11th in qualifying and enjoyed a pair of fourths in the heats in what turned out to be a busy night, also campaigning his Late Model.

Kendrick was the early bolter in the feature race after starting with White on the front row and led early from Andrew Priolo (who started P3), White, Ellement (from p4) and Stewart.

The race was only two laps old when American Bud Kaeding (who started from P15), spun around in pits bend.

On the restart Ellement pounced and slipped into second while Stewart put a slide job on Priolo to take third on the next lap.

By lap seven Kendrick was into lapped traffic and on lap 8 Stewart got by Ellement for second.

On lap 10 Callaghan spun when coming out of turn four, but managed to keep the power on and resumed further back in the pack and shortly afterwards Stewart took the lead from Kendrick.

By midrace distance Stewart had opened up a sizeable lead over Kendrick, Harding (who was now into fourth) and Priolo.

On lap 18 Stewart put a lap on White and about the same time Harding had entered in a battle for second with Kendrick.

On lap 19 Kris Coyle cut a left rear tyre and limped the #79 to the infield and on the following lap Harding finally won his battle for second with Kendrick with Priolo was now closing in on Kendrick.

On lap 24 Harding signalled to Stewart that he was in contention for the lead by running underneath him and at the same time Kendrick and Priolo started a series of slide jobs that ran for a few laps before, with three laps remaining, Priolo ran too high and hit the wall.

Kendrick made contact and was able to resume, albeit with a severely damaged top wing and back in fourth.

It was a disheartening result for Priolo who continues to show great pace and believed he was capable of claiming his second podium finish for the season.

As the field regrouped, Mitchell Wormall lined up in 1th with a deflated left rear and was unable to complete the journey, falling short by two laps.

White had a good result in her first outing in the USA2, taking fourth, while Kendrick limped home in fifth, ahead of AJ Nash who started seventh and finished sixth, Callaghan who started ninth and finished seventh, Matthew Cross who started 12th and finished eighth and Trevor Jolly who started 13th and finished ninth.

The third American in the field, Bud Kaeding, was a non-finisher after only putting 14 laps in the book in a night that he struggled in the USA1.

White took the first heat race after getting the jump on Stewart, crossing the line ahead of Priolo and Coyle.

This race was marred by Adrian Haywood losing traction early on the back straight and being collected by Cameron McKenzie, with both cars suffering major damage.

Haywood took the rap for the contact and his crew was able to rebuild for the next round of heats, while McKenzie was out in his debut sprintcar race.

In the second heat Wormall hit the fence and crashed hard after he was involved in a spirited battle for track position with Kendrick and was out - also forcing Wormall Motorsport to work hard to rebound for the next heats.

Ellement took the heat win from Kendrick and Harding.

The third heat went to Priolo, who started from P5, from Kendrick who started from P8 and White who started from P9.

The fourth heat was won by Harding who started from P5 and stole the race on the last corner from Kris Coyle who started on the front row and led for most of the journey, with Stewart coming home in third after started P8.

The night was pretty much over before it began for Callum Williamson who went into the show as the leader in the Maddington Toyota Sprintcar Series points.

He posted the quickest lap in hot laps but withdrew with engine damage and now the team is in a race to sort out their motor issues before the second round of USA v WA Sprintcar Speedweek returns to the Motorplex on Saturday night.

Qualifying: Shane Stewart 13.723, Jason Kendrick 13.838, Harli White 13.886, Ben Ellement 13.906, Tom Callaghan 13.907, Mitchell Wormall 13.911, Andrew Priolo 13931, Daniel Harding 13.963, AJ Nash 14.123, Adrian Haywood 14.125, Jamie Oldfield 14.151, Kris Coyle 14.169, Cameron McKenzie 14.429, Trevor Jolly 14.545, Brodie Minchin 14.700, Matthew Cross 14.762, Callum Williamson NTT.

Heat 1: 1st Harli White, 2nd Andrew Priolo, 3rd Kris Coyle, 4th Tom Callaghan, 5th Brodie Minchin. DNF: Shane Stewart, Bud Kaeding, Cameron McKenzie, Adrian Haywood.

Heat 2: 1st Ben Ellement, 2nd Jason Kendrick, 3rd Daniel Harding, 4th Jamie Oldfield, 5th AJ Nash, 6th Matthew Cross, 7th Trevor Jolly. DNF: Mitchell Wormall. DNS: Callum Williamson.

Heat 3: 1st Andrew Priolo, 2nd Jason Kendrick, 3rd Harli White, 4th AJ Nash, 5th Mitchell Wormall, 6th Brodie Minchin, 7th Trevor Jolly. DNS: Callum Williamson.

Heat 4: 1st Daniel Harding, 2nd Kris Coyle, 3rd Shane Stewart, 4th Jamie Oldfield, 5th Ben Ellement, 6th Bud Kaeding, 7th Matthew Cross, 8th Tom Callaghan.

Feature: 1st Daniel Harding, 2nd Shane Stewart, 3rd Jamie Oldfield, 4th Harli White, 5th Jason Kendrick, 6th AJ Nash, 7th Tom Callaghan, 8th Matthew Cross, 9th Trevor Jolly. DNF: Mitchell Wormall, Andrew Priolo, Adrian Haywood, Kris Coyle, Ben Ellement, Brodie Minchin and Bud Kaeding. DNS: Cameron McKenzie and Callum Williamson.
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