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Added: 05 Apr 2014 Category: 2014 Oval Racing
No Easter Eggs but Plenty of Nationals
The local oval racing season kicked off last night at Ballymena Raceway with all eyes on the resumption of the National Hot Rod World Qualifying series.

It feels odd to break away from the traditional Easter start to the season. When I was (much) younger, the racing kicked off when you were off school, stuffing Easter Eggs into you and kicking a ball around the streets before being whisked off to Ballymena, Aghadowey and sometimes a further trip to Aghadowey to watch the start of the bike racing season too, in recent times its been the Friday night you get off work for a few days and then the Saturday at Ballymena before going to Nuttscorner or Tullyroan on Easter Monday. Im sure Easter wont feel much different this year with the amount of racing there is to take in, but the start of the season feels different without having the days off to look forward to surrounding it, and off course the Easter Eggs.

Aside from the absence of holidays and Easter Eggs, the season did kick off at Ballymena last night, and Im pleased to say the Nationals grid has swollen once again. That Nationals were once a class that I didnt get all the hype about, Id only seen them at our home tracks and I grew up in an era when you qualified for the world final just because you had a car (I think that was how it worked anyway). The World Qualifying super round at Ballymena was really the only time Id seen anything you could really get excited about. Many a year of wondering why there was a qualifying series when wed the same amount of drivers whod do all the rounds as there was spaces to go, and it was always the same people who represented us. Furthermore I seen an army of people arrive at the fence to watch half a dozen Nationals and then trundle back off again when 25 2 Litres came out and I thought they were possibly mad!
In recent years though things have changed, the National numbers rise season on season, with it there is more overtakes, more variety in talent in machinery, better racing, a greater noise, a greater atmosphere and the theatre of the whole thing makes me realise what other people had seen from the class before my time. No longer are the nationals there just to fill a gap in the fixture list, they are there to top the bill and become a good enough reason on their own that you would want to attend a meeting.

Needless to say I was most impressed with 18 National Hot Rods at Ballymena and while I dont recall any great scraps throughout the evening, there was plenty of overtaking and there was plenty of around the outside driving. Glenn Bell took the opening heat, Andrew Murray took heat two and went on to take the win in the final.

In the other classes there was final wins for Niall McFerran (Juniors), Stewart Nicholl (Gp 2s), Stephen McCahon (EuroStocks), Steven McKane (Stock Rods) and Andrew Russell (Retro Rods)

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