THERE is a new speedway champion in Penola and it just happens to be another Gartner – Steven.
Steve Gartner won the SA Street Stock title on Saturday at the Whyalla Speedway, with a strong run throughout the night and a tough fight in the A Main feature race.
The 25-lap feature saw Gartner duke it out with eventual runner-up Nigel Reichstein, holding on for an impressive victory.
For Gartner it was his first state title and a welcome result after around a decade in the sport.
“You try so many times you think it is never going to happen,” he said.
“It was a big relief when I finally did get it done.”
Gartner was made to work hard for his win, despite some impressive efforts through the heats on the night.
It all began with light rain threatening to derail the whole meeting, but some hard work from the track officials saw everything run to plan.
He claimed second place in heat one, before a win in heat six, after battling power steering issues.
From there he went on to record a third place in heat seven to qualify out of second place in the feature race.
While the car was well set up for the final, the lead changed several times, with Gartner taking the first part of the race easy to preserve the car.
“It was a pretty demanding race,” he said.
“I got the lead early and was a little bit cautious, trying to look after the tyres.
“I probably didn’t drive it hard enough and started to make a few mistakes.
“I let Nigel past me, but then got my composure back and held him for a bit.
“Then with about 10 laps to go I just threw everything at it, forgot about tyres and drove it 100pc.”
From there Gartner reined Reichstein in and made his move at a crucial point in the race.
“I passed him with a few laps to go through lapped traffic,” Gartner said.
“When I was trying to pass him, every time I went past the start finish line I looked for the white flag, thinking ‘please don’t bring it out now’.
“Once I passed him that was all I wanted to see.”
Gartner said his nerves began to play a part once he was in front and the SA title was in sight.
However, he worked hard to make no mistakes and held on in a close finish.
Having tried to claim a title for many years, it was a relief for the Penola racer.
He said this time around things fell into place on the track, with gaps opening up at the right time or other drivers making mistakes.
He said a refreshed engine from Craig Carrison recently had also made a big difference.
“The engine has been together for a few years now,” Gartner said.
“I said to him it seemed to be not quite running as it should, so he went through it and put new pistons in and a few things which made it a lot better.”
The night was made even more special, with Gartner’s father Dave also at the venue, competing for the SA Super Sedan title.
Dave went on to finish second in his feature race, but was there to share the moment with his son.
“We had a good chat throughout the night,” Steve said.
“I watched a couple of his races and he watched a couple of mine.
“We gave each other feedback throughout the night and it was good to share the win with him.”