Written by: Pete McNae

Brayden Nell is 14 and living the dream. Okay, perhaps some 14-year-old lads have different dreams but for a hardcore speedway family like the Nells, winning races at home and away rates pretty highly. Brayden, a third-season driver who attends Nayland College, commanded some extra trophy space on the mantelpiece following two big race nights last weekend.

He and the family took the 88N youth ministock to Christchurch last Friday to compete as part of the big field at Woodford Glen in support of the Battle of the Stocks promotion. Once the dust had settled, two Nelson drivers; Nell and close friend and rival Hamish Carter, were tied for first. Despite a couple of close encounters with the turn four wall which saw Nell scrape his way in to the home straight, he held off Carter in front of a receptive crowd.

“It was a pretty cool meeting with so many people watching and a big track that’s so different from home,” Nell said. “I started seventh in heat one and battled through to the front quite early and got the win, then in the second one, I was off about 10 and Hamish got away – I was back in the traffic and just tried to get as many placings as I could.

“For the third one, Hamish was one point ahead and I was going off from seven again. I got through for the win with him behind me so that meant we had to run off.”

For three seasons, Nell, older brother Josh, Carter, Blenheim’s Wade Sweeting and – for a time – Holly Donaldson, formed Gumboot Racing, an unofficial grouping of Redbands wearers who have become best mates and each other’s toughest competition on the clay. Even 400km from the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway, it was no real surprise to see two of the Gumboot gang in the runoff. “I love racing Carter, eh … he’s clean and real quick although I think our car had better speed on those longer straights.”

Nell had pole in the runoff and got the jump. When his mirror fell out, he had no clue where Carter was so pedalled it home for the win with his only anxious moments coming as he kissed concrete off the tricky turn four.

Two days later, the team towed to Ashburton and the South Island youth ministock championship, an unofficial Speedway NZ title so it could be held at a so-called “black track”. While the meeting lacked the polish of the big show at the Glen, Nell had another tight tussle with Carter which was only definitively decided when Carter was taken off for unintentional contact. “It was a weird race, a bit of a weird meeting but we went to win so I was pretty happy to get that done.”

There are some big race meetings ahead for the almost (April) 15-year-old. Nelson will run the youth class on Saturday and at Easter, and there’s the youth King of the Coast in Greymouth to come and the New Zealand title meeting in Oxford in May. Again, it is not an official SNZ championship meeting but Nelson has a proud track record with Connor Rangi the current champion. His younger sister Sophie and Brayden Skurr also competed on the road last weekend to hone their race craft among different fields.  Brayden Nell came eighth in his rookie season and would like to feature in Greymouth and at Oxford. The close racing at the front of the pack in Nelson has helped, although he did have a minor moment a couple of meetings back when he turned right on Raiden Hearne, a no-no in the youth class. “Yeah, we got tangled and slid up to the wall, you won’t see that again,” Nell said.

Josh has graduated from the youth ranks and shared a streetstock drive with Graeme Kitto before the car was sold. He also ran three tidy races in Jared Gray’s superstock at Nelson’s last meeting. “You couldn’t shut him up about it,” Brayden says.  So who is the better driver? “I think he is better in traffic but I think I am more aggressive on the track … he’s always just going to do the big brother thing and say he is better.” Stockcar racing appeals to the younger sibling and he’s sweeping floors and saving his pocket money to move up in a couple of years.

There will be no shortage of advice and assistance from Donaldson Civil, where father, Ken, is manager.  A fair chunk of the Nelson Speedway Association’s membership – including race caller Jody Scott – work there so it was no surprise to see the winning bid on a TradeMe auction for a demolition derby car, entry fee and licence emanated from Donaldson Civil’s Tahunanui base. The Ford Telstar was a charity fundraiser for the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation and was put together through the combined efforts of Milestone Homes, Nelson Car Transport, Carters, Flow Drainage, Jacks Tyres and The Signman. Although the winning bid was $745, Ken Nell said Donaldson Civil intended to round that up to send $1000 to the charity. The lucky driver will come from a draw at work and, should he or she collect any of the Hits 89.6FM derby prizemoney, that too would be donated to the Breast Cancer Foundation.

At this stage the derby has roughly 20 entries, including the pink Telstar, while Saturday’s other features include the final rounds of club championships for TQ midgets (where Alicia Mclauchlan will try to extend her lead over Jayden Corkill) and the production saloons featuring a tight race between Jono Sutton and Dave Leitch with half-a dozen potential spoilers in the mix. Racing starts at 6pm.

Main images: Tom Laney,