If you've ever wondered about the popularity of superstock racing, a quick look at the crowd at Paradise Valley Speedway at the weekend would have provided an emphatic answer.
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The venue hosted its biggest event of the season on Friday and Saturday, the TWS World Invitation Superstocks, which attracted a record 120 drivers and a crowd of well over 8000 people.
In such a high-speed, hard-hitting sport, the margins for error are minuscule and after highly competitive heats on Friday night the top 26 drivers lined up for the three-race finale on Saturday, Wellington's Keegan Levien (5W) racing consistently throughout to take the overall win.
Race one saw an international visitor take the chequered flag, Great Britain's Frankie Wainman Junior (515GB) managing to avoid the carnage - 10 of the 26 drivers failed to finish the race - and take the 26 competition points on offer.
The start to race two was as hectic as the first, multiple vehicles flying into the concrete walls surrounding the track within the first two laps. Wainman Junior was spun out and finished the race in 11th while Levien took the win on the back of a fifth place finish in race one.
The chaos of the first two races meant several drivers were unable to line up for the final race but the bulk of the field remained and it was Palmerston North's Wayne Hemi who took the win.
Levien finished fourth in the final race for a 5-1-4 scorecard which was enough to be crowned champion. Hawke's Bay's Jason Long (2-7-2) was second and Gisborne's Nick Vallance was third (6-2-3).
Lance Ashton (23R) was the best of the Rotorua drivers, finishing fourth overall with an 11-4-5 scorecard.
Meanwhile, the female drivers were also putting pedal to metal in the Hynds Pipe Systems Aotearoa Ladies Stockcar Championship. Carol Podjursky took the title with finishes of first, sixth and fourth. Hailey James was second (12-4-5) and Brittany Carpenter was third (2-9-DNS).
Paradise Valley Speedway secretary Sonja Hickey described the racing throughout the weekend as "brutal".
"It was huge, it was probably one of the biggest weekends we've ever had up there, rivalling the New Zealand Superstocks back in 2010 which was the biggest we'd had by a long way.
"The racing itself was really, really hard. To have won that, you've really done well. It was very fast and the track was well prepared. We had the ladies racing as well and that was no less brutal than the boys, they were into it.
"The ladies one is growing - it's gaining momentum from the crowd and they really look forward to it. They've come into their own and earned the respect of their male counterparts."
With the final crowd numbers still being tallied, Hickey said there were definitely well over 8000 people in attendance and "probably closer to 9000".
"It was the first big test of the new seating we put in during the off season and that worked magnificently - that got us an extra 400 people in. It all went really well and we're really pleased. Next year we're going to add in more seating at the other end because it was so popular."
TWS World Invitation Superstock Championships - Top Five
1st Keegan Levien (5W) 71 points
2nd Jason Long (41B) 70 points
3rd Nick Vallance (45G) 70 points
4th Lance Ashton (23R) 61 points
5th Carl Shearer (75S) 60 points