Speed­way group is rac­ing into the fu­ture

The Southland Times - - FEATURES - JAMIE SEARLE

To many it could be pie in the sky, but Dean Miller’s long-term goal is to see a dome cov­er­ing River­side Speed­way at Sandy Point.

Miller, the track’s pro­moter, men­tioned the dome when asked for his goals.

A cov­ered-in track would al­low rac­ing in all weather con­di­tions.

‘‘We’ve joked and laughed about the dome, but who knows what can hap­pen in the fu­ture. It would be like the rugby sta­dium in Dunedin. If it did hap­pen, we could race all year round.’’

The speed­way sea­son is from Oc­to­ber to April, end­ing with the De­mo­li­tion Derby.

In­stalling lights for night rac­ing is an­other of Miller’s goals.

He is in his sec­ond sea­son pro­mot­ing River­side and has a sup­port team of five peo­ple.

‘‘For pro­mo­tions we get to­gether and have brain­storm­ing ses­sions. Other times, we talk about what we can do bet­ter.’’

River­side didn’t have a pro­mo­tions of­fi­cer when Miller was spo­ken to about the role by com­mit­tee mem­ber Lloyd Phillips in 2015.

Phillips and other of­fi­cials wanted to lift River­side’s pro­file with fresh mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tions, as well as up­grad­ing fa­cil­i­ties and equip­ment.

‘‘We’ve in­vested $100,000 in the last 18 months,’’ Miller says.

Some of the money has been spent on buy­ing a grader, scales (to weigh cars), fenc­ing, sig­nage and ex­tend­ing the burnout pad.

‘‘It’s look­ing re­ally good .. we’re set­ting it up for the next gen­er­a­tion.’’

Dis­cus­sions have also been held on im­prov­ing toi­let fa­cil­i­ties and build­ing new club rooms/kitchen and con­trol tower, but they are long-term projects.

River­side opened 40 years ago, has 150 mem­bers and its race days have in­creased this sea­son from 12 to 15.

Of­fi­cials are helped at meet­ings by 30 to 40 volunteers.

‘‘We’ve got busi­ness peo­ple on the com­mit­tee with strong and good busi­ness heads,’’ Miller says.

‘‘We’ve seen a lot more fam­i­lies com­ing to our [race] meet­ings, new faces ... we’re there to put on a show.’’

The next meet­ing is on Satur­day night when nine grades will be in ac­tion. Af­ter the last race, there is a fire­works dis­play.

Miller reck­ons 60 to 80 cars from all over the coun­try will be at River­side for the New Zealand Street­stock ti­tle on Jan­uary 19-20, while the first run­ning of the NZ Pro­duc­tion ti­tle is sched­uled there on Fe­bru­ary 16-17.

Manawatu speed­way great Peter Rees is or­gan­is­ing a North Is­land team to com­pete in races for su­per stocks and stock­cars at South Is­land meet­ings early next year, in­clud­ing River­side on March 9.

Miller un­der­stands Rees has booked 56 spa­ces on in­ter-is­land fer­ries to trans­port the team’s ve­hi­cles across Cook Strait.

‘‘He’s never been to In­ver­cargill,’’ Miller says.

For major race days, cars in the main event are dis­played early afternoon on the Gala St re­serve.

The pro­mo­tion, named Show and Shine, gives fans the op­por­tu­nity to check out the cars and talk to driv­ers. Free ad­mis­sion tick­ets are given to chil­dren.

‘‘The Show and Shine has been very suc­cess­ful.’’

River­side and Beach­lands in Dunedin are the only speed­ways in the coun­try with a youth grade — for 12 to 16-year-olds. They com­pete in sa­loon cars.

Club of­fi­cials and mem­bers and par­ents of youth sa­loon driv­ers help run the grade at River­side, Miller says.

Miller hopes a Leg­ends’ Night can held at a race meet­ing, at which for­mer top South­land driv­ers are guests of the club.

Some of the greats have been Peter Woods, Nor­man But­ler, Don Black and Jamie Seaton.

‘‘All those guys were great ped­lars in sa­loon cars,’’ Miller says.

Miller be­came a club mem­ber six years ago af­ter com­pet­ing in three or four De­mo­li­tion Der­bies.

He now drives in the mod­i­fied sprints but is yet to race this sea­son due to a shoul­der op­er­a­tion three months ago.

He might be able to race again early next year.

When Miller climbs into his mod­i­fied sprint car the adrenalin starts kick­ing in, he says.

‘‘As soon as I put the hel­met on, it’s a dif­fer­ent world.

He re­grets not start­ing ear­lier in mod­i­fied sprints.

‘‘I should have been do­ing it years ago.’’

Some of his best re­sults have been in the Brett Cooper Me­mo­rial (first), club cham­pi­onships (sec­ond), Dunedin Cham­pi­onships (third) and Bul­let Se­ries (fourth).

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