Chequered flag bid

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Arrowtowner’s big drive for national speedway title this weekend.

Demon Arrowtown driver Greig Johnston will have a crack at his first national speedway super saloon title this weekend.

Johnston will battle 38 other drivers to qualify for one of 20 spots in the Super Saloons New Zealand National Championships at Cromwell’s Central Motor Speedway.

Four qualifying heats tomorrow night – and a second-chance race for non-qualifiers – will smoke out the top drivers for the three-heat finals on Saturday night.

Johnston, a foreman supervisor by day, has been racing methanol-powered saloons for four years, stepping up to the top grade last year.

It’s the first time the 31-year-old has been eligible for the champs – even though he’s been around speedways since his parents took him to his first race meeting aged two.

He admits to being “a bit nervous” facing top competitors but remains confident.

“I’ve also been racing for a long time in other grades, and talked to a number of people who say nerves are good,” Johnston says.

“The name of the game the first night is to keep out of trouble and keep those points coming in.”

Fellow Arrowtowner Andy Erskine – who’s made the national champs qualifiers in the past two years – will keep Johnston company.

Building contractor Erskine, 33, missed out on the finals by one spot both times previously but reckons he’ll get lucky in 2009.

“I’ve come very close [to qualifying] but will be really pushing to do it on my home track,” says Erskine, who started racing aged 15, before taking a 12-year break and then getting back into the sport three years ago.

“It’s a big hurdle but once you qualify – which is a big achievement in itself – you go from there,” he says.

Erskine, who’s also president of Cromwell’s speedway, expects 3000-5000 people at the event – the first time it’s been held in Central Otago in its 40-year history.