The SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks kicked off their fifth season of racing on Friday. Held on the streets of Adelaide as an undercard to the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, it marked the third year that the track hosted the season opener.
Bill Hynes, who recently acquired sponsorship from Myponga-based Fleurieu Milk Company, started the race on the pole. As the race began, 3rd-placed Craig Dontas took the lead after taking off at the right time. Hynes fell to 2nd, but continued. On lap two, Toby Price, defending champion Sheldon Creed and Gavin Harlien made contact with one another; while Creed and Harlien were unaffected, Price lost his hood as he landed off a jump coming to the start/finish line. Price’s struggles continued as he missed a jump, instead going into the grass. During the lap, Jeff Hoffman, a Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Pro Lite veteran making his SST debut, was penalized and given a stop-and-go penalty.
On lap four, Erik Davis spun as he entered a corner with too much momentum. Creed, who started in last, began to move into podium position and applied pressure to Paul Morris for 2nd as Hynes dropped down the field. The competition caution scheduled for lap five was delayed to lap six for unspecified reasons; during the caution lap, Creed went to the back after he was also penalized.
The caution set up a two-lap sprint to the finish spearheaded by Dontas. With Creed out of the picture, former Traxxas teammate Matt Brabham began to fight for the win with Morris and Dontas. On the final lap, Brabham and Morris passed Dontas before he was able to recover and regain the lead. However, the race came to a premature end when Gavin Harlien, who lost his hood earlier on the lap, collided with Davis and the turn five tire barrier, flipping his truck. The race was red-flagged and eventually declared official, with Dontas announced as the winner. The red flag is only the third in series history.
The victory is Dontas’ first in four starts. The V8 Utes driver and Adelaide native made three starts at the Gold Coast race weekend in 2016, but failed to finish any of the races. In January, he gained sponsorship from Shannons Insurance, an auto insurance firm. Shannons marketing manager Mark Behr expressed excitement at being involved in a series like the SST, calling it “one of the most exciting race categories in the country and our support reflects our deep involvement across all motorsport categories throughout Australia.”
Morris and Brabham joined Dontas on the podium, while Price was able to overcome his early troubles to finish 4th, marking an Australian sweep of the top four positions. The 4th-place run is a solid effort for the former Dakar Rally winner, who broke his femur in the 2017 Rally eight weeks earlier. “After the Dakar Rally crash, all my progress with my leg and strength has been going really well,” Price stated in a press release with sponsor McDonald’s. “We are pumped to be back here at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide to contest the Stadium Super Trucks series.”
Former NASCAR K&N Pro Series driver Travis Milburn, driving the #2 TRG Transport truck in place of Matt Mingay, finished 5th. Mingay was originally scheduled to make his return to SST after suffering facial injuries in a wreck at Detroit in June 2016, but the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) required him to provide medical records that he did not have available on time, despite already providing sufficient records on two occasions.
Greg Gartner finished 6th in the #410 truck, followed by Creed, who drove the #1 SPEED Energy truck, and Davis and Hoffman. Hynes and Robby Gordon finished 10th and 11th, respectively. After his flip, Harlien was classified in 12th.
The Clipsal 500 support weekend continues with two more races on Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 and 2:15 PM ACDT, respectively.
Featured image courtesy of @TobyPrice87