Auckland racer Gary Lonergan is proving to be the driver to beat in major stockcar events this summer.
Lonergan earned a convincing victory in the North Island Stockcar Championship at Baypark Speedway on Saturday, adding to an early-season win at the New Zealand Grand Prix and third placing at the recent New Zealand Championship.
Lonergan was the pacesetter throughout the two-night meeting with his pit crew keeping his 3NZ racer running trouble-free at a meeting that had very short turnaround times between races.
He started his campaign with an unbeaten run through his three qualifying heats and continued with a victory from grid 10 in the first of the 30-car championship finals.
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He strengthened his position with impressive moves through the traffic from grid 25 to second place, chasing home Wanganui's Trevor Greig in the second final to hold a six-point advantage over Greig heading into the final race.
Palmerston North driver Matt Phippen hunted down Baypark's Jonny Morley to win the third championship points decider while Lonergan had to fend off a couple of challenges to safely secure the title by crossing the line in eighth spot.
Stratford's Sheldon Arapere had been in a three-way tie for the third spot ahead of the final race. Arapere produced a third placing behind the battling Phippen and Morley to claim the runner-up honours and continue a streak which has seen him finish second in the Grand Prix and NZ Championship this summer.
Lonergan's winning margin was six points while Greig remained in contention to finish one point behind Arapere to complete the podium. The top five was completed by Rotorua's Richard Keijzer and Phippen.
Tauranga's Stacy Keach was the top-placed Baypark driver, finishing eighth overall while Morley and Lee Porter tied for 10th position.
Racing continues at Baypark on February 6 with a new 50-lap feature event for midget cars offering a $20,000 prize fund.