PAYING IT … FORD

 

By Pete McNae

 

It’s the Rednecks to the rescue at the speedway on Saturday after serious shuffling delivered a different programme from the one planned.

Crashes and meeting clashes left the Nelson Speedway Association with insufficient entries to run the Dirtworks Nelson South Island Sprintcar Championships, with the decision made to hold that over until later in the season. When stockcars and sidecars also failed to muster the numbers required to run their classes, alterations were needed, with youth ministocks and historic stockcars coming in. And, as they have all season, the streetstocks put up a collective hand to entertain the fans.

Bradley (Redneck) Evans, one of the longest-serving current competitors in the streetstock class at Nelson’s Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway, said the current strong group of local racers would front every week, if allowed. “The feeling’s that good, I’ve been around a while now (12 seasons on the track in Nelson) and I haven’t seen the class enjoy each other’s company as much,” Evans said. “You get stuck in on the track but once we get round to our dirty part of the pits, it’s all in together to get cars back out there.”

A field of at least 15, mostly N-registered cars but with honorary Nelsonian Dave McSherry slipping in, will grid up on Saturday, good numbers in a category that looked shot three seasons ago. With the State of Origin streetstock teams racing meeting just around the corner at Woodford Glen in Christchurch, the Nelson Knights squad will get a bit of practice in the first race of the night for the streeties before they shift gears into open racing. The Knights squad has already been named so Saturday’s teams race will be an N v N affair with Knights drivers distributed across the two teams to make a decent race of it.

“Normally we would have Blenheim here for a trophy teams race but they have copped some damage and can’t come so we will tune up on each other,” Evans said. Don’t expect wholesale wreckage as there was at the Capelli Hair Salon NZ Streetstock Grand Prix a few weeks back, but plenty of tap and spin as the Knights polish their armour. The aim will simply be to test the Knights drivers in different situations, perhaps having to swap roles mid-race if the leader is spun.

Then Evans will hop out of the seat of his Falcon van and hand the drive to Kylie Hall for the rest of the meeting. Hall, whose dad, brothers and partner are experienced speedway competitors, has been itching to have a go.

“A few people had promised Kylie a drive but no one had been able to front up with a car for her yet, she’s a neat kid and has speedway running through her veins so I’m happy to sit one night out so she can have a crack.”

It’s that approach that has seen Evans become a father figure in the class locally. He grew up watching his grandfather, dad and uncles race, competed in offroading and on dirtbikes and was a Nelson track volunteer before joining the streetstock class using a Valiant Charger shell that was lying around. Evans’ early seasons were spent in Valiants, including a two-door hardtop the size of an aircraft carrier (“If you’re going to wreck sh*t, wreck cool sh*t,” he says) before one terrible season with an HQ Holden that barely made it to the track and a later move to Fords, with the XF panel van his current weapon of choice.

Evans admits the 5N Ford isn’t a race winner as it stands but he loves the simplicity and setup of the leaf-sprung van. Most of the front runners are in twin overhead cam BA Falcons or the nimble coil-sprung Japanese V8s but Evans is old school and says the leaf springs come into their own when the track is bumpy. “She floats across that stuff,” he says. “When everyone else is moaning because the track is choppy, I know my old horse will be lapping it up. The technology is prehistoric but so am I, it’s what we drove growing up so I know what it does and when it will do it.”

There’s a second panel van doing the rounds in Nelson this season, too. Evans’ wife Malita has stepped into the class and is hitting her stride. After feeding her competitive drive as a small-bore shooter, then taking time out with newborns, Malita was informed by Evans and his team that there was a race car planned for her.¬† The 10N “Wembley” streetstock has a number of Malita’s own touches on it, including the paint, and midway through her rookie season in the class she’s running on the lead lap with much more experienced drivers and beginning to test her bumpers.

“It’s the best feeling in the world, having your partner loving what you love and sharing that interest,” Evans said. “I always said going to the track was just spending time with my best mates but now we are there as a family and I couldn’t be more proud of how Malita has jumped into it and is doing work on her own car and racing alongside us.”

That Evans crew has a significant stake in the Nelson field, either through support from his business, Richmond Exhaust and Radiator Specialists, or as an actual build with up to eight cars having the team’s hands on them. Recent stirrer of the night and another streetstock newcomer, Greg¬† (Spud) Taylor, had been involved with a few of those cars and, when he made the decision to go racing, the 55N car was put together in a remarkable 14 days. It’s that kind of commitment that has seen the streetstocks clamber off the bottom of the pile to be a cornerstone class for the club this season.

“The feeling out there is we have each other’s back and if we can help, we will, no questions asked,” Evans said. “It was drummed into me a long time ago that when you can, you pay it forward. There were people who did things for me when I was working 100 hours a week and still had nothing and that’s swung around now to the point where I can help out in some small ways.”

That’s how Kylie Hall earned her drive this weekend and why a number of cars will carry parts and labour sourced from Richmond Exhaust and Radiator Specialists. If money was no object — and it always is — Evans would love to have a crack in a superstock, but he feels that might siphon off time and money he’d rather share with his family.

“I actually love being at the bottom of the pack,” he says. “We know why our pits are round the back and we know we are sometimes the ugly cousin but my race budget for this season is $1500 and we built Malita’s car out of stuff that was lying around. You can spend money, of course, like any class, but there still has to be an entry level for any sport.

“If we can knock each other about a bit, have a laugh about it and then go and fix them together, you can’t really ask for a lot more.”

  • Bradley and Malita Evans have help on race nights from Earl, Hamish, Greg, Rik and Brad’s daughter Bailey while there is sponsorship support from Lift N Shift (“primo guys, cannot say enough about what Steve Eggers has done for speedway”), Doctor Diesel, MuscleCar Parts and Richmond Exhaust and Radiator.
  • Due to a clash with the Mag and Turbo Cup, the super saloon class will run their Trackman Trophy with a field of 6, including the travelling Boulton brothers Ricky and Josh, while the superstock ranks will see another name added to the roster this weekend as a well-known driver takes a look at the competition.
  • Regular ministock entrants Blake Hearne, Callum Russ and Jack Burson will race in Rotorua this weekend at the iconic Ministocks in Paradise meeting with massive fields entered at the Dirt Track Racing Magazine-backed event.

 

Photos: Rebecca Connor Maling, BM Photography