It's tight at the top, with a three-way battle for the championship going in to Wednesday's race. The maths is (fairly) simple - Mike and Andy simply need a win. John needs a win and Mike finishing fourth or lower to win the championship outright. But a win and a pole for John, with Mike finishing third, would see the championship shared.
If someone else were to win the race - Darren, Simon and Keith must all be in with a shout - then Mike can come second or third (with Andy second) to pick up the championship. Andy would need to score at least twenty-one more points than Mike - they can't share the championship. John needs to outscore Mike by at least fifty-one points and Andy by at least thirty points. John can only share the championship with Mike if he qualifies first and wins.
Doors open at 6.30 tonight for Nascar practice, with heats starting around 7 - that's after an extremely brief Annual General Meeting when we present details of the 2016 season (dates here). We aim to finish by 9.30pm.
We had 20 on the grid for our Nascar championship showdown. The Darlington Raceway-inspired track was short, quick and utterly unforgiving...
There was some very close racing, as always
And some mixed fortunes in the heats
But we did have all three championship contenders in the A final
Some of the finals were breathtaking - and none more than the A final...
Huge congratulations to Mike on his win and to Ned who saw off Alex for the junior medal
The race results meant that Mike claimed his first WHO Nascar crown and Ned pipped Stephen to the Junior Nascar title by a heart-breaking 5 points. With one round to go, Mike can't be caught in the Club Championship and neither can Neal in the Rookie championship - congratulations to both.
Our Nascar championship showdown looked very tasty on paper - Mike D, Andy and John all with a chance to take the title and all needing the race win to seal it. But in a grid of twenty racers, there was plenty more to play for - not least the junior Nascar competition and the club rookie of the year crown - and several racers who could gate-crash the championship battle.
We had a slightly different oval to deal with - a little shorter at 41 feet and rather narrower than usual with some tight bends. It turned out a surprisingly quick but utterly unforgiving layout...
The heats started at an incredible pace with both Andy and John in the first group alongside Tony and Matthew, who was debuting the Mega-G+ Gen 6 Chevy in a WHO Nascar race. John set the pace with two 50+ heats, with Andy just about hanging on to his coat tails, although his score of 51.30 laps would remain the best of the night on yellow lane.
The following four groups were mixed bags - some excellent performances by the likes of Duncan and Ned, but lots of people struggled with car issues, overdriving the track and getting caught up in carnage. Even Mike D had problems, but he just sneaked in to third place at half way behind John and Andy.
In the junior battle, Stephen was in touching distance to Ned, to whom he could concede 30 points and still win the junior Nascar championship.
In the second run-through, Mike D's star rose, but Stephen's waned. John and Andy continued to set the pace with 50+ lap runs, but Mike did just enough to split the two of them and qualify second. Ned got better and better, but Stephen struggled in the gutter lanes - leaving him an awful lot to do in the finals. Neal, by qualifying eleventh had - barring a miracle from Hayley - wrapped up the 2015 Rookie of the Year Crown, but he didn't know it yet.
The G final was a head-to-head between Hayley and Deborah, both had been struggling with car issues. It was a close race, but Deborah eventually prevailed and stepped up to the F final where she lined up against Aaron, Corey and Matthew.
In another very close race, it was going to be all about keeping on the track. Last month's race winner Corey fell by the wayside, his Mega-G not quite firing on all cylinders. That left a battle between Aaron and Deborah, but Matthew was not giving up and held on very well for a close third with his Mega-G+. Eventually, Deborah's understeering Mega-G feel back and Aaron took a fine win.
Aaron stayed in white lane for the E final, which was going to give him an advantage. Could he convert it into a second win against the two Richards and Tony? It was another very close race, until the grown-ups got a bit crashy and Aaron romped away for the win. Tony came second after a disappointing debut for a Life Like that showed plenty of promise in practice. Richard P's Mega-G+ looked good and was pretty smooth around the track and he was able to beat Richard S to third place.
Aaron stepped up to yellow in the D final, which would require a completely different driving style. He struggled and came home fourth, but two final wins must have been pretty pleasing! Keith, Neal and Neil started the race very close and it continued that way until Neil's Mega-G gremlins struck and he fell back. In the end it was Keith who clinched the win, but Neal was soon beaming as he realised he was our new Rookie of the Year.
The C final saw Keith line up against Alex, Stephen and Mike McCann. Stephen really needed to win and make it to the B final to keep contact with Ned in the championship. There was a lot of pressure on the sixteen year old. In the closest race of the night so far, all four racers swapped the lead back and forth. The pressure finally got to Stephen and a few too many crashes in the quick, but demanding yellow lane saw him drop to third behind Alex and Keith. It was Alex who kept his cool and was delighted with his win.
So the junior medal battle was between Alex and Ned in the B final. And Stephen had to hope and pray that Ned didn't make the A final. If he did, Ned would win the junior Nascar championship. If he didn't, the title would be Stephen's...
Alex got off to a bad start with an early off that dented his chances and his confidence. Ahead, Duncan and Simon were taking the challenge to Ned and the lead was swapped regularly. It was another enthralling final and as the clock ticked down it looked like Simon was holding off Ned, but by the slimmest of margins. With twenty seconds to go, Simon crashed. A quick re-slot and he would keep the lead, but this was a huge crash and his car was in pieces... The win and the junior Nascar title were Ned's. Simon and Stephen were devastated. Slot car racing is a cruel game.
It was perfect that we had all three title contenders in the A final. The maths was fairly simple - Mike and Andy needed a win. John needed a win and Mike finishing fourth or lower to win the championship outright. But a win and pole position for John, with Mike finishing third, would see the championship shared. And, of course, John had that pole.
If Ned were to win the race then Mike could come second or third (with Andy second) to pick up the championship. Andy could come second to Ned with Mike fourth. Got that?
The race got underway with an amazing pace. Ned couldn't keep up and dropped back. Mike and John were neck and neck, with Mike easing out a few hundreths each lap. Andy had an off, but quick marshalling got him back just a lap down and on a similar pace to the front two, ready to pick up the pieces...
The battle between the front pair was intense and with thirty seconds of the race remaining, Mike's lead just crept over the one second mark - about half a lap. However, he then binned it. Mike returned to the track about a lap back and had nothing to lose - sadly for John, Andy had dropped too far back to come into play. Mike was on a charge and he ate into John's lead. On the penultimate lap before the chequered flag, Mike slipped through and claimed the win, his first Nascar championship and an unassailable lead in the Club Championship - a triple whammy!
Huge congratulations to Mike, to Ned and to Neal on the medals and championship wins. It was a brilliant night's racing. A big thanks to Keith whose Nascar expertise helped design and build the track - input that will continue officially next season. It was great to see Matthew and Richard's Mega-G+ cars on a WHO oval - we will have a Gen 6 Cup sub-class for these cars next year. Also next year, we'll have a third winner's medal - for under 11s, which Alex would have won tonight, ahead of Matthew.
Thanks, as always, to everyone's contributions to a great night - for setting up, packing away, race control and for creating such a fun, friendly and mildly-competitive atmosphere at the Barn. Until next time...
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