AN emotional victory a night after a shattering defeat exorcised some mental demons for Mount Gambier’s Steven Lines when he claimed his second Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic in three years early yesterday morning.
The 28-year-old took the lead on lap three after sweeping passed Americans Tim Kaeding and Terry McCarl in one move and was never seriously challenged despite a number of race stoppages.
Lines, who was the only Australian driver on the first two rows of the grid, was the toast of the 10,000-strong crowd at Allansford’s Premier Speedway after beating McCarl and three-time winner Brooke Tatnell to the $30,000 winner’s cheque.
While Lines had more than a quarter of a lap lead for much of the race, he admitted to having mental battles after sensationally being passed on the last lap in Saturday night’s Australian American Challenge Cup when he looked to have the race won. The move by Kaeding as Lines struggled to find a way beyond lapped traffic haunted Lines, conceding he was shattered leaving the track 24 hours earlier.
“It’s a dream come true,” Lines said of the victory.
“After last night I was trying to keep a cool head ... I was struggling. After last night I’m just so stoked.
“It was hard. We sat down (after Saturday night) and took stock. At the end of the day we knew tomorrow was the one that counted.”
Lines said he had to change his mindset quickly.
“I think there is always doubt. You can try and be as positive as you like but you have to get it done.”
Lines, who was second-highest points-scorer, slipped to third on the opening lap and had to push hard to stay in touch with the American pair.
“I started getting swamped. I knew I had to hang in there.”
He said late in the race he was determined to avoid a repeat of Saturday night when McCarl stuck his nose under Lines on the low-line.
“I thought if I could keep it straight. I didn’t want to make the same mistakes. I was trying to keep my head together.”
Lines was delighted for his Albany-based Halls Motorsport team owner Brian Hall, who he said had shown a lot of faith in him by giving him the drive last season.
His first Classic win was with the Monte Motorsports team, another Western Australian outfit.
“I think it’s harder to win the second time. The first time I didn’t expect to win.
“The second one seemed so far away, to achieve it ...”
Lines, who grew up competing at the nearby Lake Gillear motocross track, received high praise from Hall, who started the team nine years ago for his sons, who no longer race.
“We got Steven in and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made,” Hall said.
Asked what it was like to win the Classic, he replied: “I’ve never thought about it to be honest.”
“To me it is a big thing to win the Australian title but this means a lot more.”
Second-placed McCarl said the stoppages halted his progress in lapped traffic but conceded Lines was too good with a clear track ahead of him.
“I thought we had a shot at it and then the yellow came out and then I thought we had a shot at it and the yellow came out again. The best guy won,” he said.
Third-placed Tatnell said he had never stopped believing he could win a fourth Classic despite rolling in the Saturday night A main.
Two heat wins on Sunday night guaranteed him a third-row start and it wasn’t until the last couple of laps he made progress, grabbing third with little over a lap to run.
Tatnell now has an impressive record in the Classic, having won three, finished second three times and third three times. He has been on the podium in four of the past five Classics, including a win in 2009.
The race was marred by several stoppages including one on lap five when Warrnambool’s Darren Mollenoyux rolled in turn two while running seventh. Australian champ James McFadden spun in trying to avoid Mollenoyux and stood his car on the tail tank and landed on the top wing on the infield. He re-started but was forced to the back of the field.
A lap later American Jason Sides, who had been running strongly in fourth, crawled to a halt in the front straight.
Five laps later American Kyle Hirst destroyed his front end after hitting the turn two wall bringing on the yellow lights.
The race was stopped with 14 laps to go because debris on the track and then two laps later South Australian Matt Egel and Dave Murcott were involved in a spectacular high-speed collision that saw them locked together sliding along the wall.
Lines then held on to win, taking the chequered flag more than 30 minutes after the 40-lap race had started.