DEFENDING champion Steven Lines will have to cool his wheels until the second night of the expanded Lucas Oil Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic after the bumper field was split for qualifying.
Under the new three-night classic format, half the 118 entries will race on January 24 with the other 59 opening their campaigns the following night.
Premier Speedway general manager David Mills yesterday released the qualifying draw for the first two nights.
Lines, a two-time winner, is grouped with last year’s runner-up, American Terry McCarl, three-time Classic winners Brooke Tatnell and Max Dumesny and another former winner American Shane Stewart in the second night’s action.
Mills said drivers had been seeded in groups of four with two from each group allocated to either night.
“That way you still get two pretty even fields on both nights,” he said.
Reigning Australian champion James McFadden is grouped with six-time Classic winner American Danny Smith, world number one, American Donny Schatz, who has two wins in the famous race and triple winner, Australian Kerry Madsen, on the opening night.
Mills said the quality of the line up meant both nights would be equally tough.
He said entries had hit 118 yesterday after another American, Bud Kaeding, accepted a drive in the car usually campaigned by Terang’s Jack Lee, who is sidelined.
Lee suffered burns after a fuel leak in a race at Avalon last month.
Kaeding’s inclusion takes the number of Americans to a record 22.
Mills said the opening night of the Classic would have a strong American presence with 13 international raiders.
Under the new format, 59 drivers will each contest time trials, two heats and a main on the opening night, with the other half of the field doing the same the next night.
The traditional Australian-American Challenge Cup — the name of the qualifying night A main — will have two winners with both the Friday and Saturday night features carrying the name.
Mills said the feature races on the first two nights would carry $10,000 to win purses, almost double the $6000 last year.