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By BSCDA, Sep 2 2017 06:15AM

Stuart Smith Jnr had an unusual and eventful bank holiday weekend. It began with a successful opening round of the Mintext National Points Championship Shootout at Birmingham, where he came away with second in the final and a comfortable win in the Grand National.


And then on Sunday morning wife Katie, who was nine months pregnant, went into labour. By lunchtime the Smith family were celebrating the arrival of a baby girl, Josephine Evelyn, into the world.


Then the following afternoon Smith Jnr was back in action for Shootout round two at Belle Vue.


And to cap it all – and the perfect way to celebrate the past 48 hours – Smith Jnr went on to win the final and take the lead in the battle for the silver roof.


“I think had about four hours kip over the weekend,” said Smith. “I went to Belle Vue and I felt as though I was dreaming. I really did. I felt like I was floating!


“It was good that my brother Andrew decided he was coming up to see Josephine but rather than go to the hospital he thought, “sod that, I’ll go and get your stock car ready!”


“He did that and saw Josephine on the way the Belle Vue as Katie was coming out of the hospital.”


The meeting began with a whites and yellow race with 16 cars on track. Aaron Cozens led until entering the last lap when his car ground to a halt, allowing Nigel Whalley to take the lead and the victory. Chris Alderson finished second, with Geoff Nickolls third.


Whalley continued his good work in the opening heat, soon taking the lead in front of the 18-car field and led at halfway from Dan Johnson and John Dowson.


Johnson soon took over at the front and went on to victory, with Whalley hanging on to second, ahead of Dowson, Lee Fairhurst, Craig Finnikin and Paul Hines.


Heat two fielded 18 cars and the yellows soon came out on lap two when Sam Jacklin hit the fence on the back straight, bringing down the fence. By this stage Shootout points leader Ryan Harrison was already out of the race.


Jack France led the restart from Eliot Smith, Richard Bryan and Frankie Wainman Jnr, and it was Wainman Jnr who cruised into the lead by halfway and went to on to a comfortable win from Smith Jnr and Mat Newson. Danny Wainman was fourth, ahead of France and Scott Davids. Front-running Shootout contender Nigel Green also failed to finish.


The consolation fielded 13 cars, including Shootout contenders Harrison, Green, Luke Davidson and Ben Riley.


By halfway Eliot Smith led from Joff Gibson, Riley, Harrison and Green, as Davidson pulled off. Gibson soon took over the lead and the win, ahead of Green and Harrison. Mal Brown was fourth, with Mark Poole and Riley rounding out the top six.


The final featured 27 cars with Whalley soon leading the pack. The yellows came out after Sam Makim clipped the fence down the back straight, collecting Robert Plant along the way.


After repairs to the fence, Whalley led the restart ahead of France, Bryan, Gibson, Dowson and Johnson, who led the Shootout pack. It was Johnson who made up the most ground to take the lead into the second half of the race from Gibson and Whalley.


Further back Wainman Jnr got spun by Davids, while Harrison and Poole hooked up into turn three and found the fence.

Smith Jnr began to pick off the leaders one by one, passing the spinning Wainman Jnr, before forcing his way passed Finnikin and Fairhurst.


Up front Johnson had the lead with five laps to go from Gibson and the flying Smith Jnr. Smith Jnr then passed Gibson a lap later and was soon on the tail of Johnson with two laps to go. Going into turn three, Smith Jnr made his move on Johnson, forcing the leader wide to take the lead.


From then on the 34-year-old pulled clear to take the chequered flag. Johnson finished second, ahead of the forceful Gibson, Fairhurst, Wainman Jnr, who made up a lot of ground after his spin, and Green.


“It was a case of picking my way through,” said Smith Jnr. “I had a bit of a collision at the beginning that me and Frank managed to get through. Dan was away at the front of the Shootout pack. He was the one to catch.


“Then there was a yellow flag and I knew my car would be good enough to beat them all but I needed the rub of the green. And I got it.


“Straight away I got under Frankie, who got spun out. So he was the first box that was ticked off, then I picked Craig Finnikin off, then Lee Fairhurst and then it was a case of chasing Dan Johnson down.


“Joff Gibson was in there and he was going really well. I passed Dan, and I didn’t destroy him to pass him. He knew I was going to be at the front in the points and he could have had a dive, but I didn’t really give him an opportunity. I think I had the pace in my car to pull away from him.”


Smith Jnr’s main concern was visibility. On a hot day, the track dried out quickly and created a dust bowl.


“ I couldn’t see the lapboards, it was that dusty,” explained Smith Jnr. “And the sun was just hitting the dust. I could tell it was Dan in front of me, but anybody else I was struggling to tell who they were. I couldn’t see anything in my mirror.


“And I couldn’t see the lapboards and what numbers they were. And when I caught Dan I thought I’d seen three lapboards, but I could have missed one.


“I thought I could have him when I caught him up going into turn three. But I thought to myself “is this the last corner or not?”


“If it wasn’t Dan was probably going to get back on me and put me wide and he’d get the win, but I decided to knock him wide, and then they put another lapboard out!


“But luckily enough my car was fast enough and I edged away from him.”


There were 22 cars in the Grand National with Smith Jnr taking the one-lap handicap. Davidson pulled off before the start.


The race was stopped after Karl Roberts whacked the fence causing more fence repairs, and on the restart Johnson led from Gibson, Finnikin and Wainman Jnr.


Johnson stayed in front despite the attentions of the Gibson front bumper as the race went green, and from then on pulled away to an easy victory. Finnikin finished second ahead of Wainman Jnr , Gibson, Fairhurst and Green.


Smith Jnr came through to finish seventh, despite a nearside rear slow puncture which eventually went completely flat on the last lap. “I was really lucky to get seventh,” said Smith Jnr. “Getting 16 points was like winning the race.”


And so as the Shootout takes a three-week break, with the World Final in between, Smith Jnr leads the National Points race with 135 points, 25 ahead of Wainman Jnr on 110. Green is third on 109, with Wainman next on 100. Fairhurst has 99 points, while Harrison, who had a meeting to forget after such a successful opening round, is currently on 94.

By BSCDA, Aug 31 2017 07:32AM

Having won the World Cup at Venray less than a week earlier, Ryan Harrison proved himself to be “The Boss” on Tarmac with victory in the final at the opening round of the Mintex National Points Championship Shootout at Birmingham.


Arriving at the Birmingham Wheels track Harrison was 26 points behind the Shootout series points leader Frankie Wainman Jnr in 12th place, but came away at the top of the table, four points clear of Stuart Smith Jnr, who was three points clear of Nigel Green.


But the meeting, run as a two-thirds format, didn’t exactly start off with a bang for Harrison – far from it, in fact.


In the 22-car opening heat, while George Elwell was taking the lead from Kelvin Hassell with five laps to go, and Lee Fairhurst was moving Rob Cowley aside on the last bend to win the drag race to the line for third place, Harrison was struggling for grip down in ninth place.


Fortunately, the handling of the car was due to one simple error, discovered soon after the race. “It was really loose and we were scratching our heads thinking, “this is really bad”,” Harrison said. “And then my dad checked the tyre pressures…


“We forgot to let the tyres down!” said Harrison. “The left rear had got 36psi and we normally run 15.”


The 23-car heat two was also led by Hassell before Chris Cooke took over by halfway, and these two comfortably stayed at the head of the field for the remainder of the race. Cooke took the flag from Hassell, who finished in another excellent second place in the Mat Newson hire car. Joff Gibson was third, in front of Shane Geary and Elwell. The Shootout drivers made little impact with Fairhurst again the main protagonist in sixth place.


Heat three had 22 cars on track and was led by Aaron Leach in the early stages, with Tristan Jackson chasing. Green, who had had a lacklustre heat two, was more of a factor, having earlier passed Harrison to close on the leaders as the lap boards came out.


Jackson caught Leach and took the lead into turn three with four laps to go. Green swiftly caught Leach to go second, and tried to deliver a last-bender on the last lap but the contact wasn’t enough to dislodge Jackson, who held on in the sprint to the line to take his first F1 stock car victory. Harrison took third place ahead of Leach, with Wainman Jnr fifth and Luke Davidson sixth.


For Harrison it was a case of playing catch up. “The car was better but it still wasn’t right,” said Harrison. “With everyone getting two races and able to adjust the car for the final, we only had, in effect, one race then able to adjust the car for the final.”


The 32-car final was fast and furious. Stephen Malkin, who had made his presence felt in the heats with some entertaining driving – and clearly not fazed by any reputations – led the field in the early stages. It was Harrison who led the Shootout drivers, with Smith Jnr close behind, having shoved Fairhurst wide into turn three on lap three.


Green was having a busy race behind. Having immediately followed Smith Jnr past Fairhurst, Wainman barged both Fairhurst and Green wide into turn one to go past both. Half a lap later and Wainman Jnr was also in front of Green.


Up front Malkin was still leading the race, as Smith Jnr pushed Harrison wide into turn three, only for Hassell and Cowley to spin in front of him in the home straight allowing Harrison to take the position back.


In the concertina-effect created behind, Wainman Jnr and Wainman got caught up in the melee, allowing Green to slip through on the inner to split the two brothers.


These three were having a great race together, trading places for the next few laps, before Wainman Jnr hooked up with Danny Colliver on the home straight.


Past halfway and Malkin remained in the lead from John Fortune and Elwell, with Harrison and Smith Jnr closing in on the leader.


Smith Jnr then pushed Harrison wide into turn one, but dived in too deep into turn three, which allowed Harrison to retake the position.


As the laps boards came out Fortune took the lead from Malkin, but the C-grader immediately fought back by diving inside of the new leader, who had drifted wide into turn one. Side-by-side down the back straight Malkin kept the inside line but both drifted wide into turn three, which allowed Harrison, who was now right on their tails, to take the lead into the home straight as the three laps to go board came out.


The feisty Malkin wasn’t done yet, and launched at the Harrison back bumper into turn one but Harrison withstood the challenge. Smith Jnr, now past Fortune, then shunted Malkin wide into turn three to take second place.


Harrison was able to sprint clear, with Smith Jnr in second. Behind them Fortune was now third, but Malkin moved him aside into turn three as the last-lap board came out. Harrison took the flag and an excellent victory, with Smith Jnr second. Fortune gave Malkin a last-bender to finally resolve their private battle for third. Gibson finished fifth, Wainman sixth, with Fairhurst, Green, Newson and Wainman Jnr rounding out the top ten.


“We changed a few things on the car and went with a rally tyre for the inside front,” explained Harrison. “When I got to the first corner I thought, “yeah, this is good enough to win.”


“And that was it. I just powered on. Stuart was doing his best to fire everyone into me, which was slowing me up and then he got by me – he gave me a good shot – and on the next bend he went straight on. He must have been expecting a big one from me and I drove right by him.


“I took the lead from Stephen Malkin with about three laps to go. I’ve been practicing with him twice, helping hjm out and getting him up to speed with a few things on his car – and once I got by he had a right good old shot at me!”


The Grand National field 25 cars with Harrison taking the one-lap handicap. Another hectic affair, the race was stopped on lap two after Whittle and Scott Davids tangled on the pit bend, which involved Newson, who was left stranded in turn four.


Malkin led the restart from Geary, as Smith Jnr catapulted his way through the field to go third. Further back the bumpers were flying in with Wainman being put into a spin by Green into turn three. Then a lap later on the same bend, Harrison made up four places with a four-way plant by firing Jackson into Ben Riley, into Fairhurst into Nigel Land.


Smith Jnr soon caught and passed the leaders to take the lead after halfway, with Green following suit soon after. Wainman Jnr swiftly moved into third spot, but was spun with five laps to go after drifting wide into turn three. Davidson had forced Malkin wide, who ended up clipped to back bumper of the world champion. This promoted Harrison into third spot.


Smith Jnr coasted to an easy win, with Green second and Harrison an impressive third from the one-lap handicap. Davidson was fourth, ahead of Paul Hines and Fairhurst.


“In the National the car was even quicker and I had my worst tyres on,” Harrison revealed. “I was really moving and shovelling quite few.”


Going into Belle Vue on Bank Holiday Monday, the National Points title already looked wide-open, with Harrison now at the head of affairs. “I said beforehand we’d see how things went in the first couple of rounds,” he said. “And at Birmingham we smoked them pretty good, to be fair.”

By BSCDA, Aug 24 2017 08:45PM

The 2017 Mintex National Points Championship Shootout begins this weekend at Birmingham Wheels on Saturday night and Belle Vue on Bank Holiday Monday with 12 drivers set to battle wheel-to-wheel for the silver roof over ten rounds.


World Champion FRANKIE WAINMAN JNR goes into the Shootout as points leader before the start of the event, based on meetings attended and finals won.


Wainman Jnr has not won the Shootout since its current guise from 2010, although he is predictably always in contention every year. He finished runner-up in both 2011 and 2012.


This season Wainman Jnr retained the British Championship at Sheffield in June, his ninth win in the event in all, which has been his only final victory of the season so far. But with six shale rounds, Wainman Jnr can be expected to in contention once again.


The intensity in the Shootout is always a lot higher than a normal meeting, so Wainman Jnr expects car damage – it’s the nature of the job.


“If you are in the 12 you are going to get your car smashed up at some point,” he says. “That’s just how it is.”


One driver the world champion is pleased to see in the shootout is BEN RILEY, who has qualified for the series for the first time. “Ben Riley wanted to be in it and he’s keen to be in it and proud to be a part of it,” says Wainman Jnr. “I think it needs a few more like him to get into the Shootout in the future.


Riley comes from a family of F1 stock car drivers, following in the footsteps of his father Dave. In only his third season in F1, competing in the Shootout has been one of Riley’s objectives this season.


“I wanted to do two things this year,” says Riley. “That was to do every meeting and to get into the Shootout – and so far we have done everything we set out to do.

“I’ve always wanted to get into the Shootout since I started in F1s and watching it. It’s a massive achievement for me because I’m the only one in my family who has been in one.


Riley has no preference for either shale on Tarmac and believes he can go well on both surfaces.


“I like both at the moment,” Riley says. “What I am looking forward to is driving both cars, because at the moment they are both really fast. I’ve had fast lap times at every track I’ve been to. I’ve just been unlucky results wise."


The 25-year-old is looking forward to the opening round at Birmingham on Saturday as it is the venue where he won heat and final last year.


“I’m hoping for a bit of rain on Saturday at Birmingham because the car goes well around there in the rain,” Riley says. “I won heat and final last year there in the rain and I won a heat this year.


“I am confident in both cars at the moment, so there’s nothing to so say we can’t be up with the pace with the big boys.”


MAT NEWSON has been in contention a couple times leading up to the final round in previous Shootouts. finishing third twice. Competing in his seventh event Newson believes he will have another good shot at winning the title, even though he will have to borrow two cars he built and hires out to achieve it.


“This weekend is going to be a bit of a mess,” Newson admits. “I’m going to have to race one of my hire cars. I’m working like hell to get my new Tarmac car ready for the World Final so I should be set up by then.


“Mark Sargent has said I can carry on using his shale car for all the Shootout rounds, which is great. My new shale car is actually ready, but every time I use Mark’s car I get good results, so I was thinking I may as well wait to bring out my new shale car until the start of next season."


Newson’s shale form is very good indeed in the Sargent car. Winner of the World qualifier at Sheffield, he also finished on the podium for the British Championship and has five other wins during the season.


For the Tarmac rounds Newson will be using his silver hire car often raced by Matt Armstrong. “I was going to use my best hire Tarmac car ,” Newson admits. “But Scott Davids wants to race and I’ve stolen it off him enough times!”


DANNY WAINMAN is another driver who has been in contention in previous Shootouts only to have his hopes dashed during the final round.


Having competed in six previous Shootouts, Wainman was still in with a slim chance of winning going into the last rounds in 2014 and 2015. At Sheffield two years ago, he needed to win the Grand National and for Johnson not to finish. Johnson, however, finished fourth and Wainman tenth.


“This year I’m I’m up for more than any other year because I’ve got two cars that are both quick now,” Wainman says. “It’s a lot better when you have two car that are running right.


“For the last few years I’ve been down to one engine and swapping engines. So, all being well, I know it’s ten rounds, but I’ve got consistency now.”


And consistent he is. Wainman has nine top five finishes in finals this year, although he is yet to win one.


“The problem is the car is set-up for the end of a race rather than the beginning,” Wainman revels. “So I tend to be slow away at the starts. That’s why I never win!


“Both cars finish races now all the time, that’s the main thing. We looked at it, and when it comes to the Shootout you need to finish races – and then go for it in the last round when there are double points on offer.”


Wainman professes to prefer shale to Tarmac, so with six shale rounds this year, including three at Belle Vue, he feels optimistic about his prospects.


“The finale is at Belle Vue and last year I won the Belle Vue track championship,” says Wainman, “I’m more of a shale racer than a Tarmac racer. I don’t really like Tarmac – it bores me!”


While he starts on pole position for the World Final at Ipswich next month, the principal target this season for NIGEL GREEN is the National Points Championship Shootout.


Green will be competing in his second Shootout, after coming so close to winning the title last season. Green led the series right up until the Shootout finale at Belle Vue, before finishing second to Rob Speak.


Winner of nine finals this season, including the European Championship at Northampton and the World Championship semi-final at Skegness, Green goes into the Shootout as the series favourite.


“I’ve said all along I think a championship over ten rounds is more likely to have the best driver winning it,” says Green. “So, I personally think it’s a good representation at the end of the year of your performance, rather than a one-off race.”


Six of the shootout rounds are on shale, four on Tarmac, and although Green is noted more this season for his Tarmac form, he currently prefers racing on shale.


“I’m probably more competitive on Tarmac but I probably enjoy shale more,” Green admits. “I just seem to be a bit more relaxed on shale for some reason. I just let the race come to me on shale and hopefully get some points at the end of it."


STUART SMITH JNR has had two weeks away from racing as he prepares for the arrival of his second child with wife Katie. The couple’s second offspring is due within the next two weeks, as Smith Jnr gets set for the World Final.


“With the time off I’ve done a lot of work, checking things over, getting ready, getting some spares ready, so yep, I’m all ready to go,” Smith Jnr says.


With a baby on the way, will he be taking time off if it arrives during the Shootout or World Final? “ It is safe to say that if that happens, I will be missing the birth,” Smith Jnr reveals. “I need to win a championship this year and I’ve got the two bites at it.”


But he knows it won’t be easy, and believes the series this year is wide open.


“I think anyone can win it,” he says. “I know some like Ben Riley, it’s the first time he has been in the Shootout, but I really think my main dangers are everybody. Over ten meetings you can have one bad meeting and you can end up way down the order.”


Since winning the silver roof in 2009, Smith Jnr has surprisingly only competed in two Shootouts before this season. He had a luckless year in 2016 and didn’t qualify but had a chance of being in the mix for the silver roof the year before.


However, he hit the fence hard when attempting to remove Rob Speak during the Grand National at the King’s Lynn round, and knocked himself out. As a result he had to stand down for 10 days and his Shootout went with it.


“I would have had a really good shot at it that year,” Smith Jnr says. “I’d brought myself back from 63 points behind and to only two or three behind the leader so I know I can do it.


“I’ll just do what I do normally. My average is really good – in the 30s – so there’s no reason I can’t continue that and win."


Winner of the silver roof in 2011, CRAIG FINNIKIN is the only driver apart from Frankie Wainman Jnr to now compete in all seven Shootouts since 2010. He is also another driver who will miss Birmingham and will start his Shootout challenge at Belle Vue on Bank Holiday Monday. It’s a track he goes very well at, having won three finals there this season.


The reason why he is missing Birmingham is because he has plenty of work to finish on his existing Tarmac car. “It’s cut up at the moment,” explains Finnikin. “I’m changing the suspension on it, but when it’s done I’ll be going for it without doubt."


Being an absentee for the opening round isn’t such a bad thing for Finnikin, in fact it could be a good omen. “The year I won the Shootout I also missed the first meeting,” he says.


In 2015 LEE FAIRHURST led the Shootout until the final round and goes into the Shootout optimistic he can take the silver roof this time round, the one of the four major titles in the sport he has yet to win.


Fairhurst debuted the new Tarmac he has built for Daniel van Spijker at Venray and will be using the car for the Tarmac rounds of the shootout.


The car has yet to run in earnest in Britain, using British specification tyres, brakes and suspension but Fairhurst is still hopeful the car will be a front-runner on Saturday.


“On Saturday night the car felt good. Decent pace-wise – not the fastest car – but I couldn’t get any brakes. On Sunday I wasn’t expecting too much but the brakes were a lot better in the World Cup. The more laps I did the more I got used to what the car was doing, where I could push it and in the end we finished sixth."


Runner-up to Ryan Harrison in 2013, Fairhurst will take a measured approach in his seventh Shootout. “I think it’s best to race round by round and not think too much about the points,” he says. “ Whenever I’ve done well in the past, I’ve just taken it one race at a time and not really thought much about anything else.


“I’m more determined than ever to win it, now I have two good cars to do well in. I’ll be giving it everything I’ve got."


LUKE DAVIDSON competes in the Shootout for fifth time, but this season is the first time the 27-year-old, who is a Tarmac specialist, has opted to go for all ten rounds.


As well as using his regular Tarmac car, Davidson will be using the Perter Falding shale car he hired for the World semi-final at Stoke for all four shale rounds of the Shootout.


“We’re planning to do all the rounds,” says Davidson. “We want to give it go. My dad spoke to Peter Falding and with Tom (Harris) using our shale car we didn’t have a car, but but Peter and my dad got talking and we came to an agreement and ending up using it.”


Davidson has had limited time in the car, with a short-lived race in the semi-final, suffering damage and a flat front tyre early on.


“To be honest, I haven’t done that many laps in the car,” admits Davidson. “Stoke was a bit of a nightmare but these things happen in semi-finals.


“I finished three races in the car at King’s Lynn and it felt alright. Just getting used to it is hard work when you’re not racing shale all the time.”


Tarmac racing is where the former European champion feels most comfortable. “I’m looking forward to all the Tarmac rounds,” Davidson says. “I’m not saying it’s not possible to win the Shootout, but the main thing is to go out and enjoy myself more than anything.”


DAN JOHNSON has competed in six previous Shootouts, winning the series in 2015, after snatching victory in the Shootout Finale at Sheffield.


However, the Worksop star will miss the opening round at Birmingham due to the wedding of his sister. As well as that Johnson suffered engine problems at Venray last weekend and was forced to load up after racing on Saturday night – a problem he could well do without.


“It’s valve and piston damage,” says Johnson. “I’ve got another engine I will be using for the World Final. It’s a refurbished engine that has only done one meeting. It should should alright.


“I’m missing Birmingham, but I’ll be at Belle Vue and we’ll see how it goes in the first few rounds. If I’m doing well I’ll be going for it, but otherwise I’ll just have some fun and see what we can do.”


RYAN HARRISON is in a win, win situation. Another former Shootout winner in 2013, Harrison has built up his form as the season has progressed, and now in top form he is widely regarded as a major player for Shootout glory – so long as the opening rounds go well.


Entering his third Shootout series, Harrison’s Tarmac form is second to none, having dominated the World Cup at Venray. It’s his shale car where he will need to grind out the points, however.


“Winning the World Cup was one of my best wins ever,” says Harrison. “But winning the Shootout was the best championship I’ve won to be fair, because it was over ten meetings.


“Now I have won the World Cup, it doesn’t matter what happens for the rest of the year to me.


“It will all be their problem. I’m going to do the first two rounds and see where I’m at and if I’m in thereabouts, I’ll be going balls out – win or crash. Definitely.”


PAUL HINES enters the Shootout as a late entry after leading contender Tom Harris was given a suspension for the incident in the Stoke Grand National with Mick Sworder, for which he misses the rest of the season.


Hines was next in line as first reserve and so takes the 12th slot and his fifth Shootout. While the Hinckley star has won both the British and European titles on Tarmac, shale is currently his preferred surface.


The new Mat Newson-built Tarmac car is being prepared for the World Final after Hines finished an excellent second place to Johnson in the Stoke World semi-final two weeks ago.


Hines will line up at Belle Vue and is hopeful of a decent run. “Obviously, I wasn’t expecting to be in it, but now I’m here I intend to enjoy it,” ays Hines. “My shale form hasn’t been too bad this year. I’ve got some decent pace around King’s Lynn so I hope to go well there, and we’ll just see how it goes.”


Hines finished third in the shootout in 2010.

By BSCDA, Aug 24 2017 08:39PM

The 12 month ban with six months suspended only includes racing calendar months and excludes the closed season. At the time of writing, the ban will be lifted on May 12, 2018, subject to any appeals.