Aeroflow Sportsman racers excel at Willowbank Raceway – Part Three

The Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship saw its Eastern Conference come to an exciting close at Willowbank Raceway at the weekend, where the chase was well and truly on for not only the conference victories, but also prestigious Gulf Western Oil Winternationals event wins.

The sportsman racers well and truly delighted the packed house across the event’s four days, lining up alongside Top Fuel, XPRO Nitro Funny Cars, Top Doorslammers, Pro Alcohol, Pro Stock Motorcycles, Top Fuel Motorcycles, Pro Stock, and FuelTech Pro Mod, who were enjoying the final round of their NDRC season.

The Eastern Conference final winners and runners-up – those with the most points within that conference at the close of the Winters – have now secured their place at the invite-only Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship Grand Final, as have the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals event winners and runners-up*.

These invitees will be joined at the prestigious finale, to be held in October, by a to be determined number of invitees of the top racers for each category (based on the cumulative points of each racer’s best four events across the season across both conferences) **.

For an overview of the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals results for all brackets, including group one, please click here.

For a detailed rundown of how each of the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship brackets unfolded over the weekend and to hear from our event winners and Eastern Conference winners, we are pleased to release this three-part feature.

Part one  was released on Monday – please click here to view.
Part two (below) covers  (below) covers Super Street, Top Sportsman, Super Sedan and Modified. Part two will be released on Wednesday, followed by Part Three on Friday, covering all of the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship Eastern Conference brackets.


Eastern Conference winner: Leonard Azzopardi; Eastern Conference runner-up: Brendan Miglionico; Gulf Western Oil Winternationals Top Qualifier and Winternationals winner: Nathan Neilson; Winternationals runner-up: Dillan Lacey

In Extreme Bike, Leonard Azzopardi was able to claim the Eastern Conference title ahead of runner-up Brendan Miglionico thanks to their strong performances across the season, with neither racer in attendance this weekend.

Nathan Neilson took home the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals event and Top Qualifier honours ahead of runner-up, Dillan Lacey. 

Neilson found his way to the final with a bye in round one and a win in round two over Branden Lacey, and a win over Dillan Lacey in the final. Lacey meanwhile had made it to the finals with wins over Russell Lacey and Craig Edwards in rounds one and two. 

Leonard Azzopardi (Cackling Pipes)

“I was lucky enough to have the most points and away we go!” smiled Azzopardi.

“Thank you to my wife Deanne and also my daughter Bianca, and all of the Extreme Bike competitors that have come out and are continuing to develop and build the class up.

“I was very proud to see the Queenslanders coming out at the Winters, they really took the class under their wing and ran with it. We weren’t able to attend, but it was great to see their achievements, including Nathan running his first six second and 200mph passes over the weekend and all the other guys who are continually stepping up. I am really proud to see how the class is progressing and developing.

“Thank you also to all the volunteers and the track staff and everyone else involved for doing what they do and getting us out on track.

“There have been a lot of promoters come and go in my time in drag racing, I have been doing this since god knows when, and I must say none of them have gone to the limit that NDRC has to get things finished and that really impresses me,” Azzopardi added.

Neilson’s win was accompanied by a number of PBs.

“I was shocked to win, and absolutely rapt. The bike went flawlessly all weekend, I couldn’t fault it,” Neilson said.

“It was consistent and smooth, and for the first time we ran a six and also broke 200mph. At the end of the weekend, I had four time cards that all had sixes on them and were within eight hundredths of each other. The best MPH was 204mph and the best ET was 6.93.

“Thank you to Paces Paint Shop, AM7 Coatings, Woodfire 600 Pizza, and my crew Col and Darrin, and of course thank you also to Vanessa.

“The track was excellent, and they did an unreal job to get it done ready for the event, and everything ran really smoothly. It was a really good event.”


Eastern Conference winner, Gulf Western Oil Winternationals Top Qualifier and Winternationals runner-up: Edge Mallis; Eastern Conference runner-up: Ken Collin; Winternationals winner: Phillip Webster 

Edge Mallis and Joe Khoury were both sitting atop the points standings heading into the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals on the points cap. However, it would be Mallis who would go on to claim the Eastern Conference title, along with the Top Qualifier and Winternats event runner-up accolades. 

Winternats winner Phillip Webster put on a good show taking it all the way to the final where he took victory from Mallis. Webster had earlier taken wins across the weekend from Khoury, Chris Collin and Ken Collin in rounds one, two and three. Mallis had enjoyed two byes in rounds one and three on his way to the final, with a win over Jon Mengel in round two.

“It would have been better to have two golds, but I can’t complain!” Mallis laughed.

“It was between me, Joe Khoury, Ken Collin and Chris Allen, and there was basically half a round of points between all of us, so it was up for grabs. Right up to the semi-final it was still between Ken and I, and there was only 2.5 points between us, so it was only when he lost in the semi-final that I got it.

“In 44 years of racing, this is my first Gold Christmas Tree. I have tubs of trophies from over the years and lots of Silver trees – I got five in the last year alone – but this is the very first Gold Tree and I can’t believe it.

“We have been fighting clutch issues from day one on this bike and we are not 100 percent of the way there, but we did three meetings on the same clutch which we have never done before so we are nearly there.

“Thank you to my crew, Daniel Fox, and also my son Jeram who couldn’t make it at the weekend but was at the warm-up and has been crewing for me for the last four years. And also, Blaze Hansen of Blazecraft – he tunes the bike from Queensland and he also built the bike and gives us lots of advice.

“The weekend also happened to be my 10th anniversary, so my partner Letishia flew up and we spent the four days between the warm-up and the Winters having a nice holiday in the Queensland sunshine, instead of freezing in Victoria!” 

Webster took out the event glory despite coming to the Winternats with a largely untested bike.

“It was good, a long weekend, but a good lead-up seeing the track get put together and the data coming out of it was nice and smooth,” Webster said.

“We pretty much had tested the bike for weeks beforehand and then the week before deciding to change everything, so we came out with another untested package and crept up on it pass after pass, finding another tenth each pass, and we ended up going the whole way through and running under the record too.

“The bike is colloquially named Barbie, and as everyone was yelling yesterday, Barbie decided to party!” he laughed, while thanking STS Speedshop and Aussie Princess Charters.


Eastern Conference winner and Gulf Western Oil Winternationals event winner: Toby Austin; Eastern Conference runner-up and Winternationals runner-up: Davydd Estcourt; Winternationals Top Qualifier: Matthew McKnight

In Supercharged Outlaws, Toby Austin claimed both Eastern Conference and Gulf Western Oil Winternationals event glory in a winner-takes-all final race against Conference and event runner-up, Davydd Estcourt.

Austin started the weekend’s racing with a win over Fiona Reed in round one, before defeating Top Qualifier Matthew McKnight in round two, and Matt Watts in round three. 

Eastern Conference and Winternats event runner-up Davydd Estcourt booked his place in the final with wins over Josh Fletcher, Stewart Prior, and Shane Atkinson in rounds one, two and three.

“I am very happy with how we went this weekend as a team, we support Peter Leahy Custom Imports and we did them well,” Austin said.

“We came into the event up the top of the points, and going into eliminations we knew that Dave Estcourt would be fast, and we might meet him in the finals.

“We did end up facing off in the finals and whoever won it, would win the Eastern Conference final as well.

“In the final we ran pretty much spot on the dial-in so that was good, and the car performed well and just as expected.

“We are excited to win both the event and the conference, it is very rewarding as a lot of work goes in back at the workshop to get the job done and to make the car consistent.”


Competition Eastern Conference winner: Mitchell Oxley; Eastern Conference runner-up: Peter Pisalidis. Super Stock Eastern Conference winner: Darrin Gay; Eastern Conference runner-up: Steve Norman. Super Stock and Competition were run as the combined SuperComp bracket at the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals, with Luke Cartledge taking the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals event win over runner-up, Mitchell Oxley. 

Luke Cartledge took home the SuperComp Gulf Western Oil Winternationals honours over Super Stock Eastern Conference winner Darrin Gay, despite a post-finish roll-over for the winner, from which he quickly emerged unscathed.

Cartledge had enjoyed two byes (rounds one and three) on his way to the final and a win over Chris Sankey in round two. Gay had also enjoyed a bye in round one and took wins over Super Stock Eastern Conference runner-up Steve Norman and Peter Pisalidis – who dispatched Competition Eastern Conference winner Mitchell Oxley in round one – in rounds one and two before lining up against Cartledge in the final. SuperComp Top Qualifier Steve Sloan was unable to take part in the weekend’s racing after suffering a breakage.

For Competition Eastern Conference winner Oxley, it was a nail biter right to the end.

“I am pretty happy and excited to be the Eastern Conference and it was a bit of a nail biter as it was pretty close in the points, and Pete was only a few points behind us. We actually raced him in the first round, and he beat us, so we thought he might get around us at the end,” Oxley said.

“I want to say thank you to Luisi Race Engines, Oxley Haulage, Deano’s Deals, Jemma Oxley, Jai Schluter and Dave Tucker, as well as my crew Brendan Sniadro and Brent O’Donnell.”

For Super Stock Eastern Conference Winner and event runner-up Gay, it was a big weekend.

“I started racing in 2018 and we have travelled everywhere from Adelaide to North Queensland chasing a Super Stock championship. We are big advocates for Super Stock, my dad raced Super Stock years ago and it is a bit of a learning curve before we go to Pro Stock, which is our end goal,” Gay explained.

“So, it has been a good six years of chasing it and it is an unreal feeling. It was a good event too, we qualified number three, had the championship race in round two against Steve Norman and managed to get around him, and we also go around Peter Pisalidis and went into the final against Luke.

“I tried to hot it up a bit for the final and it didn’t quite pay off, which is probably not a bad thing in hindsight given Luke had an accident at the end there. But it is good for Luke and his family to get the win as they have had a hard 12 months, so congratulations to them on the win.

“I would like to thank my family, my mum and dad Steve and Lenore, my wife Jennah, my kids Maison and Caiden, my crew Wally, Peter, Matt, Adam and my brother Ross and his partner Sarah, and my sponsors CHD Motorsports, S and S Heavy Haulage North Queensland Global Mining Support and Chaptech.”

For Cartledge, the win follows a difficult twelve months for him and his family.

“We lost my old man about three weeks ago now. Before then he wanted me to run the car and we had agreed to do it, so we decided to still do that as that is what he wanted. We came with no expectations, it was more about getting the car out there and having a run for dad, we didn’t expect to go this well this early on,” Cartledge said.

“The weekend ran smoothly with minimal dramas, the car ran like clockwork except for one qualifier, and it all went to plan, almost like it was meant to be.

“In the final as I crossed the finish line I knew I had won as I was a fair way ahead, so that was good for a moment, but then a second or two later it all went pear shaped and so for the first couple of hours there it was hard to celebrate.

“This morning (Monday), I have woken up feeling a fair bit better about it, and it has settled in that we still won the Winternationals, and it has been a childhood dream of mine to win that. And it is my first Gold Christmas Tree, so it is pretty special to do that at the Winters and in the first event since dad passed.

“The car isn’t as bad as we first thought either, so that is something. It is pretty special for all of us, for me and the whole family, with everything that has happened this year. I want to say thank you to my whole family, my mum, my wife, my brothers, and all the crew guys who came up with us and put in the effort. And also, the Schluter and Leo family who have been there for us, as well as Pro Street Towing and Transport, Wild Ink and ETS Race Fuels.”


Eastern Conference winner: Colin Griffin. Eastern Conference runner-up: Vince Panetta. Super Gas was not contested at the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals.

At the Gulf Western Oil Nitro Champs in Sydney, Colin Griffin was confirmed as the Super Gas Eastern Conference winner over runner-up Vince Panetta following a strong season that also saw him claim the Western Conference win.

Colin Griffin (Cackling Pipes)

“It is great to have won the Conference. I have had a good year, we had a few breakages early on in the season, but the car has been running well and I am pretty happy to have won both conferences now, that is pretty cool,” Griffin said.

“(The conference win) is one of the main reasons I went to Sydney was the double event and another chance to get a Gold Christmas Tree, and it was well worth going! Now we are looking ahead to the Grand Final, which is at what is basically my home track now.

“Thank you to my wife and also Maggie, and also to Wacker, Spence and Turbo for helping me in Sydney.”

The Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship will now head to its Grand Final in October.

To learn more about the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship and the NDRC, visit

*Assuming those racers have completed at least three NDRC events across at least two different tracks. The Gulf Western Oil Winternationals can be included in the three events.

**The exact number of invitees per category for the Grand Final is to be confirmed but will be based on the average number of competitors for each bracket across the season. No points will be carried into the Grand Final with a winner takes all format to be employed.

Related Posts

Aeroflow Sportsman racers excel at Willowbank Raceway – Part Two

Aeroflow Sportsman racers excel at Willowbank Raceway – Part One

Celebrations abound at NDRC season-ending Winternationals

Aeroflow Sportsman Eastern Conference, Winternats Winners crowned

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