Local Production Saloon driver Brent Hackett finished the weekend's racing as the new 2NZ. But with an ounce of luck, he could have been putting the coveted 1NZ stickers on his car over the weekend.
Almost 60 of the country's top production saloons, from as far away as Invercargill, turned on an outstanding weekend of racing, where Christchurch driver and current 2NZ Matt Sherlock became New Zealand champion in the class, but by the barest of margins.
After qualifying heats on Friday night, seven Wanganui cars made the top 20 to contest the Tom Francis Building New Zealand Production Saloon Championship on Saturday.
Along with Hackett; Grant Loveridge, Bailey Goldsack, Jason Pointon, Daryn Smith, Nathan Smith and John Huijs all did enough to make the top group.
One driver who wasn't so lucky was Gisborne's Lloyd Stuart.
In the one major incident of the weekend, Stuart's Holden Commodore was clipped by another car, turning it headlong into the wall on the front straight, sustaining significant damage. Stuart was bruised and shaken, but otherwise uninjured.
Saturday night's racing began with a three-car run-off for the final spot in the top 20, and Dunedin driver Josh Glover's long haul north was made worthwhile when he claimed his place in the finals.
Loveridge took advantage of his front-row grid to storm to the lead in heat one, chased home by Hackett, who finished only 0.4s behind his Wanganui clubmate. They were followed home by Christchurch's Vaughan Fairburn, Huijs, reigning 1NZ Brad Johnston, Pointon and Sherlock.
Sherlock took out the second heat ahead of Nelson driver Vaughan Cornelius, Goldsack and Hackett, who made up 10 places from grid 14 in another excellent drive.
After two heats Hackett held the points lead on 36, with Sherlock two back. They were followed by Fairburn on 31, Loveridge, who was unable to progress through the field in heat two, on 30, and Goldsack and Huijs on 29.
1NZ Johnston had a disappointing second heat, like Loveridge, unable to make progress through the field. His hold on the title was tenuous.
The grid for the final heat saw title contenders Hackett off 14, Sherlock off 15, Fairburn off eight and Loveridge, Goldsack and Huijs near the rear of the pack.
With every car passed effectively worth a point, the title was going to be decided on who could get closest to the front.
From the start, Johnston was quickly to the lead, and his tenure as 1NZ ended with a chequered flag, although it was too little, too late. The defending champion finished in a tie for fifth overall.
Hackett and Sherlock both looked to thread their way through the traffic, and midway through the race, Hackett had the title in his grasp as there was just one car between him and the Christchurch flyer.
Then came the moment that changed the race, and ultimately the championship. Hackett was clipped by a slower car and took a glancing blow from the wall in the front straight as he corrected. As he lost momentum momentarily, three cars passed him, giving Sherlock a buffer.
Although Hackett tried everything to recover, he was only able to pass one car in the remaining laps, and Sherlock's fifth placing ahead of Hackett in eighth was enough to see the title remain in Christchurch.
Sherlock finished on 50 points, just one point (or one passed car!) ahead of Hackett on 49, with Fairburn in third place. Cornelius finished fourth overall, and one point back Bailey Goldsack continued the tradition of women performing with distinction in the championship, sharing the fifth place with the now-former 1NZ Johnston.
The win capped off a big week for Matt Sherlock, after proposing, successfully, to his fiancée. At prizegiving, he told the crowd that it was touch and go as to whether he would make the meeting after engine issues kept him out of last weekend's Grand Prix, but he was ecstatic to finally take the top step of the podium, after previous second and third placings.
Hackett added the 2NZ title to his second placing in last week's Grand Prix. In thanking his sponsors, his Wanganui clubmates and his wife Kelly for putting up with his long absences preparing for racing, he was gracious in defeat but delighted nonetheless to become the first Wanganui driver to reach the podium in the Production Saloon class, and the second Wanganui driver to stand on a podium in a New Zealand championship this month.
Fairburn, a model of consistency over the three heats, was especially complimentary towards the efforts of the Wanganui Stockcar and Speedway Club in running the event, and especially in preparing what was an excellent racing surface throughout the weekend.
There was more success in Tier Two. WSSC club captain Ray Jaggard secured his first-ever race win en route to third place overall.
The Wanganui Toyota Vulcans Stockcar team drivers were ecstatic after two wins against the Manawatu Steelers in the Trev's Concrete Teams Challenge.
Callum Sturzaker had a dream debut in teams racing, winning the first race as the Vulcans overpowered the Steelers 165 to 30, then Cody Alabaster took out a closer second race, continuing his recent good form as the Vulcans won by 120 to 75.
The teamwork of the Vulcans was the key to their victory, and blockman Dennis Black put in two massive shifts to be a constant thorn in the side of the Manawatu drivers. The wins bode well for the NZ Stockcar Teams Champs in Wellington next month.
The final race of Saturday night saw Palmerston North driver Angus McLeod take out the Ginza Bargains West Coast Midgets, passing Stratford's Mark Willans late in the race. Baypark driver Ricky McGough led for most of the race but finished third.
So ended a big weekend at Fast Lane Spares Oceanview Family Speedway, but one that all involved can take much credit for. And when Brent Hackett takes to the track for the West Coast Production Saloons in three weeks with 2NZ on the side of his car, you can be sure he will be doing so with immense pride.