The national title success of Tauranga speedway families continued at the weekend as Sam Waddell matched his father Dean as a New Zealand Super Saloon Car champion.
Waddell, 22, raced to victory in a weather-delayed national title at the Woodford Glen Speedway in Christchurch on Sunday night, becoming the youngest winner of the Super Saloon title. Dean Waddell won the national title in 1995 and 2003.
Waddell led the qualifying standings after three phases of heats were completed on Friday night. Saturday was rained out but Waddell resumed in top form on Sunday and retained the points lead after two more heats to earn pole position for the 30-lap championship final.
He led the full race distance in his HyperMac Corvette, controlling each restart after multiple incidents in the pack and was just over one second ahead of Napier's Grant Flynn at the chequered flag.
"We capitalised on our front grids the first night and didn't get caught up in any of the carnage on the second night to qualify on the front row,'' Waddell says.
"We had good car speed and I was able to put a gap on the field at each restart. And during the yellows I could see the big screen and could see who was behind.
"The yellows probably worked in my favour a bit as they came as we were catching the traffic and were about to start lapping cars.''
Waddell is only in his fourth season in the Super Saloon class after a youth racing career in mini stocks and karts, but made an immediate impact when he finished second two years ago.
"I've grown up around the sport and have been going to watch New Zealand Super Saloon Car titles my whole life,'' he said.
"So it's very special to win it. And I've become the youngest champion at 22 and the previous youngest was dad when he won at 27, so I'm five years ahead of him.
"I think he was probably more nervous than I was this weekend but he keeps me calm and helps me think about the finer details of the track and the car set-up.
"In the clubrooms after the meeting I was talking to some of the legends I grew up watching like Maurice Cowling, Tony Cardwell and Denis Bolt and that's when it really felt special.''
Defending champ Steve Cowling (Tauranga) was among the top contenders throughout the weekend and drove to third place in the final.
And there was an impressive recovery from 2019 runner-up Chris Cowling (Tauranga) after his car was damaged in a multi-car Friday night accident. Well down on points he advanced through a repechage and then raced from grid 19 to sixth place in the final, also recording the fastest lap.
The other Tauranga drivers in a 45-strong field to reach the 20-car, 30-lap final were Peter Dickson who finished eighth, Dan Corrin in 11th place and Kevin Moore who was 17th.
Waddell will be chasing a title hat-track – he won the North Island champs at Wellington in December – on Friday night at the New Zealand Grand Prix at Eastern States Speedway near Blenheim.