ALLANSFORD’S Premier Speedway will host the world’s biggest sprintcar race starting tomorrow night.
An unprecedented 118 drivers are converging on the circuit for the first official three-night staging of the Lucas Oil Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic.
A capacity field of 98 started last year’s two-night Classic, prompting organisers to break with tradition and open a new chapter in the race’s 42-year history tomorrow.
The decision to go with a three-night Classic has helped lure the massive field, including a record contingent of 22 Americans who will fight for more than $200,000 in prizemoney. The 118 entries surpass the unofficial world championship, the Knoxville Nationals in Iowa, which had a field of 102 in August last year.
The Classic line-up is a who’s who of sprintcar racing, according to Premier Speedway general manager David Mills.
Nine drivers with a combined 22 Classic victories are entered, including six-time champion American Danny Smith and three-time winners, Australians Max Dumesny, Brooke Tatnell and Kerry Madsen.
Defending champion Steven Lines, from Mount Gambier, is chasing his third win in four years while the sport’s world number one, American Donny Schatz, is back for a tilt at a third victory.
The American contingent is not only the biggest ever assembled at Premier Speedway but the best. It includes Daryn Pittman, who won last season’s World of Outlaws (the toughest series on the planet), two-time World of Outlaws champion Jason Meyers, Knoxville Nationals third-placegetter Justin Henderson, Outlaws rookie of the year Dave Gravel, multiple Chili Bowl winner Kevin Swindell and former Classic winner Shane Stewart.
Mr Mills said the field assembled for the Classic was the classiest put together for a race in Australia. It vindicated the club’s decision to move to a three-night format, in which half the field will contest qualifying tomorrow night and the other 59 drivers on Saturday night.
The full field will then be put together for Sunday night’s finale.
“It’s going to be an exciting weekend,” Mr Mills said. “The Classic is what we are all about. It’s what we as a club work hard for the whole year.
“I want the fans to go home happy and want the hard-working volunteers and committee members to go home happy. I’ll be happy if they are all happy.”
Mr Mills said he was expecting the banks around the Allansford circuit to be jam-packed with fans keen to soak up the racing action from tomorrow night.
“Pre-sales have been very strong and we think speedway fans will embrace the new format,” he said.
“We went to a three-day format to make it user friendly for the fans.
“We were concerned about the Friday night, being a work night and we had to check with our volunteers as well, because they all have to work as well, but the response has been excellent so far.
“The three-night format will be exciting and a bit different.
‘‘I’m sure the fans and the competitors are going to enjoy it.”
Mr Mills said the club had also looked at the pricing structure to ensure the three-night program was in reach of the fans.
He said aside from the racing there was a full program of events away from the track.
“We want to make the Classic weekend an event,” he said.
“The Standard fan appreciation day is going to be huge.
‘‘In previous years drivers and fans would still be travelling to Warrnambool for night one of the Classic, so it’s looking to be bigger than ever.
“The kickball game is back on Sunday and is looking to become a regular fixture for the weekend.
‘‘Hopefully we can raise a good amount of money for The Royal Children’s Hospital again.”