The Kiwi charge in the 90s was much stronger, not only were we winning International Test Series Races, back to back, local hero Ted “cyclone” Tracey claimed our first 5O lap Midget Car win, followed a couple of years later by Mike Harker, then Justin Insley, Mr 100% Graham Standring was also now on the scene picking up NZ titles, and just missing out on holding both the 1nz and 1aus, a major feat for the times, in fact Standring went on to win over 100 feature races here at the Springs alone. VW were now dying out replaced by faster and bigger chassis and engines like, Canadays, Pontiacs, Cosworths and Garete machines.
Carl Olsen managed to send his bright yellow Agip sponsored car head over end along the fence line more than 14 times, one of the first accidents that made promotions realise the safety catch fence needed to stand tall and high above the track purely for the audiences safety and also the drivers.
Accidents meant tyres and other parts were now finding its way into the grandstands and the sport was proving to be faster, more entertaining but also a risk for both driver and crowd.
TQS were still going strong, drivers like Standring, Alan Franklin and Lance Beale we’re now setting the pace, Beale would start Grid 18 in a feature and be in the lead by lap 2, Strandring was also running both the TQ and Midget with matching paint jobs successfully on the same night, something the crowd had not seen since the outlaw himself Barry B in the 80s.
A kiwi kids class also entered the scene, small style midget cars based on their heroes raced by children aged 8 to 14, this class has produced some of the biggest names in kiwi speedway history, and given them a chance to race competitively on a large track in front of a huge crowd.
Back then the class would open the night as a display, run 6 laps of cuteness and be done with the night, today they race with speeds hitting 18 sec laps on a good night in three heats including a feature race, even a King of the SprIngs event is on today’s calendar. The Midget class grew larger meaning the cars were separated between grades A and B depending on their strengths, the B grade would become an important stepping stone when Bill Buckley took over promotions in early 2000s, and he met with B grade star Eddie Patrick, together they worked out a class for adults to start on even ground, with the same engine power adding restrictions, a starter class that was more affordable, based off the premier Midgets, that allowed more competitive competition between drivers, the birth of today’s Formula 2 Midgets.
Alan Wakeling dominated the Sprintcar class, especially since the retirement of Jones, Simpson and Rusher, and 60 Lap Sprintcar winner Owen Shaw, sadly the class was starting to struggle with lacking fields, sometimes only 8 cars would be in the pits on any given night. Other Speedways were starting to run the Winged Warriors with Success and it wouldn’t be long before an International Injection from Australia and USA, Sprintcars would come alive again in the mid 2000’s
Without doubt the Buckley era and the dedication and commitment this one man has put into the sport, has allowed for it to evolve and emerge and become the show we have today. The introduction of bigger prize money has attracted the biggest names in World Motorsport, the big screen, TV shows and a professionally tuned event in a world class establishment is why Western Springs Speedway stands out and is one of the most wanted race tracks for drivers around the globe to add to their calendar.
Names like Kyle Larson, Tony Elliot, Christopher Bell, Bryan Clauson, Spenser Bayston, Sammy Swindell, Donny Schatz, Tony Stewart, they have all travelled to with the goal to win down under, even The King Steve Kinser finished his astonishing career off with a tour here at the Springs. In fact, if it wasn’t for drivers like Jonathan Allard, who I believe help inject new life into Sprintcar racing when he arrived on the scene around 2008 with his American pal Ricky Logan Sprintcars could well have died off at the springs. The American dominance was the very push that the kiwi’s needed to once again build that healthy competition and the love that was always there for the V8 powered thrill seekers, When the WOO (World of outlaws) stars started to come to NZ, the Sprintcar fields tripled in numbers.
Other Drivers who’s time spent on the track will forever leave a mark on its history, people like Geoff Harper and the Late Robert Leonard, together, a team on the track, off the track Car Owners of HLR, Today with drivers at the helm like Nathan Howard, Ryan O Conner, Matthew McCutcheon and also drivers from the past like Hayden Williams. Harper and Leonard are now forever stitched in history.
Then there is dirt royalty, simply labelled “family” people like the Johnson’s and Butterworths, Ray Easton, Kevin Hyde, Gary Payne, Bruce Kennedy and Mark Cooper, We can’t forget people like that and I wish I could name and mention them all, like the late Zahn Turner and also Wayne Scott, Steve and Pam Shanley, and characters like Paul Sutherland, Peter Benson and Tjebbe Bruin that even though some of these guys never won major titles or held world records, their very existence here has helped shaped the track that we all know and love.
People that have worked behind the scenes to bring racing to the Springs like Danny Lenditch, Ron Salter, Yvonne and Brent Holden, Brett Morris from Seamount racing just to name a few, every person a different piece to a 90-year puzzle.
Right now, our modern-day heroes are named Pickens, Mosen, Alach and Kendall, Baker, Hunnibell and Harris the list goes on and on, I wish I could name them all, everyone just as important as the last. We also can’t forget the Endless hours of work by Promoters, Volunteers, Driver Reps, Commentators, Track Prep Crew, Push truck drivers, Safety crews, Flagstaff, Vendor Operators, Merch ladies, they all had a hand in 90 years of magic, 90 years of memories, 90 years of heartache and emotion, and I’m sure 90 years of being blessed to be a part of history, and of course you the loyal fans, Your support and cheering, clapping and gasps, living in the moment and being able to stand with greatness at this very holy grail, the place we call “the home of speedway” “Auckland’s fastest traffic Jam”, our very own piece of a summer paradise,
We thank you for all for everything from Lap 1 to the chequered, here’s to another magical 90 years of history and memories, to be made at the one and only Speedway at Western Springs Stadium. 1929-2019