The Andrew Edwards Sprintcar Memorial returned to the McDonald’s Kihikihi Speedway on April 15 following a one- year Covid-inflicted hiatus. It was a night of fantastic open- wheel racing, with three of the five classes competing boasting the 1NZ and 2NZ. The entire NZ TQ Midget podium were also present.

Adding spice to proceedings was the final round of the Midas Midget Allstars series, while the Sprintcars were also racing the final round of the Auto Super Shoppe Sprintcar Master Series. It was no surprise to see a big crowd along the banks of the Kihikihi Domain expecting first-class action from a top-drawer programme. That’s precisely what they got.

The Andrew Edwards Memorial boasted a massive field of 22, minus defending champion Stephen Taylor who chose to contest Ruapuna’s Salute to Goodie that night. Despite his absence, there was still plenty of A-list talent on hand.

The Heats were competitive, with four different winners in as many races, being Rodney Wood, Dean Brindle, Michael Pickens and Brad Mosen, in a rare Sprintcar outing.

The feature was arguably the best Sprintcar race seen at Kihikihi in recent years, with excellent racing from start to finish, coupled with rarely-seen slide jobs as the race progressed. Dean Brindle grabbed the lead from pole and gradually pulled away in the early laps, only for O’Conner to pile on the pressure trying to lap Baypark’s Holly Williams, the pair running side by side until Dean cleared the young lady. The battle for second became just as fierce, with Cooper, Thomas and Pickens looking to make gains after a cautious start.

Dean Brindle celebrates in style following his historic Andrew Edwards Sprintcar Memorial win.

A caution for a stationary Lance Beale with ten laps to go made it a sprint to the flag, with Brindle checking out and Pickens quickly moving to second. With Brindle taking it easy approaching traffic, Pickens made a do-or-die lunge in the final turn that saw him clip the wall and roll. The restart saw Brindle grab the win, the first for a Kihikihi driver in the event’s six years of running at the venue, having previously been held at Baypark.


Brindle has placed in all but one of the Kihikihi editions of the event, making this victory that much more special.

Making it a Kihikihi one-two was Thomas, who got past Cooper in the final dash to the flag, the latter showing he’s no longer an up-and-comer but a regular front-runner. O’Connor and locals Brian Edwards and Keaton Dahm completed the top six.

The final leg of the Midas Midget All Stars saw a full grid of 20 on tap, with heat racing showing some of the best midget action seen at Kihikihi. Series leader Brad Mosen started the night with a DNF, though he bounced back to finish second next time out, but still had some work to do in the feature, starting from tenth.

Newly crowned 10-time NZ Champion Pickens only had a middling run in the heats, stalling in the first while leading but recovering to sixth. A fighting fourth in the second heat put him in an unusually low P9 for the feature, which few pundits expected going into this event.

Cantabrian Jack Low, Jayden Worthington and local Mitch Fabish were heat winners, but the most consistent were Aaron Hodgson and Hayden Guptill, who claimed the front row for the feature.

After a couple of early cautions, the race came alive with a long spell under green that saw Hodgson and Guptill have a big joust for the lead until Aaron got the upper hand to pull away. Further back, Mosen and Pickens were having a real fight, exchanging slide jobs for several laps until Mosen got the upper hand and clawed his way to third, albeit some way off the leaders but showing the pace to bridge the gap.

Another caution was the break Mosen needed, and within a few laps of the restart, he’d cleared Guptill and then Hodgson to win the race and the series. Hodgson was second, with Guptill delighted to grab a podium at his favourite track. The promising Jordan McDonnell, who has impressed this season, was a gutsy fourth ahead of Pickens, with Leon Burgess completing the top six.

The Dusty Rhodes TQ Memorial does not, as some may think, honour an overweight 1980s US professional wrestler, but instead, a man who not only did so much for Kihikihi on and off track but also did much to establish Meeanee after moving to Hawkes Bay.

A quality field of 21 put on some blistering action, with 2NZ Kayden Barker looking impressive with two heat wins, with Cole Morrison the other heat winner. So evenly matched was the field that there were no other standouts, apart from national champion Aaron Humble who started next to Barker in P2 for the feature. Barker led from flag fall, with Humble in hot pursuit, creating the possibility of a battle royal between the NZ’s best for the entire race. Unfortunately, Humble soon became unstuck with a spin that put him to the rear, followed by a flat tyre.

Barker, unfazed by several restarts, maintained an edge over the rest to win in a manner seen in his time in Youth Mini Stocks. Barker aside, Dylan Cooke was the driver of the race to finish second, compensation for a torrid season filled with bad luck, with defending champion Reagan Tyler finishing third. Hawkes Bay’s Duane Todd, Troy Pennington and 3NZ Terrance Dorrell completed the top six.

With the NZ Saloons coming to Kihikihi next season, the King Country Saloon Championship served as the first real step in the build-up towards it. Three amazing races, typical of the racing seen by the class, gave the crowd a taste of what to expect next summer.

It was clear from the first heat that title honours in the 14-strong field would be between national champion Jarrod Fletcher, 3NZ Trent Armein and national Super Saloon champion Chris Cowling.

Fletcher and Armein reeled in local Aaron Tonks, who led the early laps to be one-two in Heat 1, Tonks holding on for third over Cowling, who flew fourth after breaking clear of a fierce midfield battle. Cowling comfortably won the second heat, with Fletcher and Armein having another fierce battle to be second and third.

The 15-lap feature was another superb battle, with front-row starters Fletcher and Armein streaking away from the pack. Cowling struggled for pace in the early laps, possibly with brake issues, until he found his rhythm, clearing third-placed Tonks and trying to reel in the lead pair. Time looked to be against him until a yellow worked in his favour. He took the lead off Fletcher with a stunning outside pass to claim the King Country title. Defending champion Fletcher had to settle for second, who again had Armein right behind at the chequered flag. Tonks was best of the locals in fourth, followed by Huntly’s Reece Clements and Baypark’s Dan Hickman.


Also on the programme was a light field of Superstocks, with drivers either saving their cars for the Waikaraka Teams Nationals, the postponed second day of the Easter meeting at Rotorua the following evening or competing at the U26’s at Stratford that night.

It could have easily been a chance to grab a coffee. Still, to their credit, the quartet chose to play cat and mouse with each other to keep things entertaining, creating an amusing sideshow to the more serious business of the evening. Trevor De Malmanche scored two wins, with Mitch Vickery, back after sitting out much of the year through injury, the other victor.