Eleven consecutive wins at three different speedway venues last season was an indicator for Hawke's Bay saloon driver Josh Smith.
"I had finally got a car which was good for the job. I had also had a bit more experience in the class," Smith recalled.
More importantly for Smith, who is now in his third season in the class after three in the stockcar ranks, it was a confidence booster for the 48-car Auto Super Shoppes Onekawa-Kiwi Motorsport Media-sponsored New Zealand Championship which will be raced at Meeanee on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
Naturally he is hoping for a repeat of the form which saw him record three wins in Wellington, three in Meeanee, three in Stratford and two at Kihikihi towards the end of last season.
"Qualifying is the main goal. I've got a tough group but I can do it if I stay out of trouble and take things nice and easy," Smith explained as he polished the 355 Chev-powered car he built himself before heading out as a support class driver on night one of the North Island Stockcar Championship at Meeanee last night.
This was to be his final rehearsal before Tuesday night. During the winter Smith, who runs Value Master Motors in Hastings, rebuilt his motor and made a couple of upgrades to his car's rear end.
Those changes were justified with a second placing in the 11-car Wellington Champs at Te Marua on Boxing Day. Despite being taken out and breaking a thumb Smith finished second in the first race.
Six blokes worked on his car to prepare the damage get it ready for the second heat in which he finished seventh. Although he started the last race at the back of the field father of two Smith, 35, won it to claim his spot on the podium.
In addition to Wellington and Meeanee, Smith, has raced at Stratford and Bay Park this season. These trips have given him plenty of opportunities to race against many of the favourites for next week's title.
Smith, who won the Hawke's Bay championship, Kihikihi's King of the Mountain title and finished third in the North Island championship last season, listed Canterbury's Peter Schouten, Gisborne's Daniel Cook, Blenheim's 2NZ Paddy North, Mount Maunganui's Trent Amrein and Gisborne's Ethan Cook as the top contenders for next week's title. One of nine Hawke's Bay starters in the event, Smith, likes the format.
The 48 drivers have been divided into three groups, each of which will have three 15 lap heats on Tuesday night. The top six from each group will qualify for the three 20-lap heats on Wednesday night which will decide the overall placings.
The top 18 drivers will also be joined by the top two finishers in the sole repechage race.
Smith, the father of Hawke's Bay ministock driver Bailey Smith, said he is in the saloon class for the long haul.
"People keep asking me when I'm going to move up to the super saloons. I want to get to the top in saloons first and even if I get the title next week I won't move. There is no urgency to move on," added Smith who is grateful for the assistance he receives from his main sponsors, fellow owner of his car Grant Kelly of Mag & Tyre Hastings and Blacklion Tyres New Zealand.
The other Hawke's Bay starters next week will be the Martin brothers Steven and Kevin, David Hunter, Wayne Melling, George Hildred, Kareena Annan, Shane Laking and Steve Goodwin.