NO one in the sprintcar world ushers in a new year quite like James McFadden.
The Warrnambool driver has won five of the past 10 January 1 meetings at his home track.
He will return to Premier Speedway's New Year's Day meeting in red-hot form, having won his first three Australian races of the summer after a 10-month stint on America's World of Outlaws' circuit.
McFadden, who competed at Avalon on Thursday night after The Standard went to print, has collected wins to ring in the new year in 2012, 2013, 2017, 2019 and 2020.
His nearest rival, fellow Warrnambool competitor Jamie Veal, has won two, including earlier this year when McFadden was on the sidelines.
Other winners in the past 10 years include American-based Australians Kerry Madsen (2018) and Brooke Tatnell (2016) while the event was washed out in 2014.
Among McFadden's victories was a special result in 2019 when he came from ninth to win the A-Main in stunning fashion.
Premier Speedway general manager David Mills said the New Year's Day meeting had been "a tradition here for as long as I can remember as part of World Series Sprintcars" and McFadden's record put him in rare air.
"Going back I think Max Dumesny in the early speedweek tournament (did well) but I think James' record over the past decade speaks volumes for his talent," he told The Standard.
"We pride ourselves on speedweek and World Series Sprintcars attracting some of the country's best and also some internationals from year-to-year and for him to stand tall against that level of competition proves he is one of the benchmarks in our sport."
McFadden has had a long association with Monte Motorsport (formerly Milwaukee) but has also scored New Year's Day wins driving for Scott Milling.
Mills said the World of Outlaws' rookie of the year "hasn't missed a beat" in whatever car he drove.
"It is a team effort and obviously he's got good equipment (from Monte), a great motor program and great crew chief," he said.
"All the pieces of the puzzle are there for James and hitting the ground running here in Australia at the moment I don't think is any real surprise to anyone.
"He's done 90 nights for the year and most of our guys are knocking the rust off after a COVID-forced layoff, so that's a leg up but that is not an excuse for anyone else as he's just at the top of his game."
Mills believes McFadden's two-month break in Australia is allowing him to race without pressure.
He will return to the USA after the South West Conveyancing Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic in late January.
"Even though he's racing here for a living, he's probably taken a bit of the pressure off himself because Outlaws is his focus and while he's here he's enjoying time with family, has a young child so it's more of a working holiday rather than the full-time grind of going back to the Outlaws," Mills said.
"I think he's a little bit more relaxation, he's enjoying himself and surrounding himself with good people and the results are speaking for themselves."
Mills said American Carson Macedo would be one of McFadden's biggest challengers on Saturday night.
"He's coming off the same amount of racing as James so providing he and Sean Dyson can gel quickly, he'll be good," he said.
Veal, racing in Jack Lee's car, will be one to watch too.
"But when you've got the likes of Steven Lines, David Murcott, Grant Anderson, the two Dumesnys (Matthew and Marcus) and up-and-coming youngsters like Daniel Pestka and Tate Frost, the one-heat format means it will be wide open," Mills said.
The meeting doubles as the Victorian title. Gates open at 3pm.
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