Whether you're a Meeanee Maulers stockcar team supporter or not you have to admire Andre Stenson's commitment to the cause.
Despite living in Auckland since 2005 where he now works as a transport manager, Stenson has raced for the Maulers for the last three seasons and raced at Meeanee for the last 10 years. That regularly involves a six-hour drive from Auckland towing his car and then a return trip the following day.
"I'm a Hawke's Bay boy born and bred and I always wanted to race for the Bay. I grew up watching the likes of Beatle Tarrant race," Stenson said referring to one of the most feared Maulers who is now retired.
"I'll always stay with the Bay as I love the team. They are a good bunch of guys and with their partners and crew a good culture has been developed. We've got an awesome group of sponsors and Andrew [Powell] is doing a great job as manager," Stenson explained.
He believed that culture and the progress made by the Maulers during the past three years could see the team deliver their best performance at their national teams championship which will be raced in Stratford on Friday and Saturday nights. The oldest in the team, Stenson, 32, will be joined by Brett Loveridge, Daniel Melling, Brandon Symes, Cameron Swift and sixth driver Regan Penn.
"Obviously we don't know who we will meet until the draw is done on Friday. But to be the best you have to beat everyone you race. It doesn't matter who we meet ... you've just got to do the job," Stenson said.
He pointed out the team gained plenty of confidence out of their Rees Shield win against the Rotorua Rascals earlier this month.
"We've got good young fellas with the likes of Cameron and Regan coming through. Brandon and Brett are pretty experienced and I rank Brett as one of the best teams racers in the country," Stenson explained.
"All of us guys have looked up to the Hawkeyes superstock team for the last five years. If we can start replicating what they have done it will be great for teams racing in the Bay," Stenson said.
It was no surprise when he ranked the Maulers' third placing at the 2018 national teams championship in Auckland as the highlight of his racing career.
"We did well for a Maulers team which was thrown together at the last minute."
Stenson heaped kudos on the crews for all six drivers.
"They put in the time and effort so we can go out on the track and have our fun. Without them we don't race and they don't see any racing. They are the MVPs ... they do it all," he added.
The Maulers will be one of 11 teams in Stratford. Powell, who has retained the same six drivers as last year but with Penn replacing Melling as the sixth driver, is confident his lads can improve upon last year's sixth placing.
"We know there will be no easy teams there but the boys are in a lot better position than they were last year. There is a different level of maturity there. We want to be the first Maulers team to bring this national title home and that's our whole focus."
Powell pointed out his drivers gained a lot of inspiration from watching the Hawke's Bay Hawkeyes superstock team win the Palmerston North Teams Champs title earlier this month. This was the third time in five years the Hawkeyes have won this title.
Title winners for the past two years, the Stratford Stormers, the Palmerston North Pumas, the Gisborne Gladiators and the Rascals are the seeded teams for this weekend.
Saturday night's meeting at Meeanee will feature the Hawke's Bay superstock championship and the Masters (over 40s) title will also be up for grabs in the superstock class. Hawke's Bay's current 1NZ Randal Tarrant, former 1NZ Jason Long and fellow Hawkeyes Thomas Stanaway, Quinn Ryan, the defending champion, and Mike McLachlan are among the favourites in the 21-strong field for the Hawke's Bay championship.
Palmerston North's 2NZ Scott Joblin and brother and 3NZ Adam Joblin are two visitors capable of upsetting the hosts' chances of producing a winner. Twenty-two drivers will chase the Masters title and it will be a surprise if this isn't won by a Palmy-contracted driver with the likes of Simon Joblin, Andy McCabe and Scott Miers serious contenders.
The East Coast streetstock championship title should attract a quality field. Ministocks and saloons will be the support classes and a demolition derby will end the meeting.