Casey's Top End reward for great season
MOTORSPORT: Loaded with confidence after a National Junior Sedan title podium finish the previous weekend, Casey O'Connell finished even higher.
The Ipswich racer stepped up to another level claiming victory in the Northern Territory title last Saturday night at Katherine Speedway.
O'Connell maintained his momentum and determination in the lead-up to the final event of what has been a massive 2017-18 season, having spanned 11 months from September to July.
The 16-year-old racer continued to make gains throughout the tail end of his fourth season with the class, collecting two career highlights in as many weeks.
Bolstered by his National title podium result in Darwin, O'Connell was hoping for another strong result heading into the Northern Territory title.
However, he ended up coming away with more than he bargained for thanks to a consistent performance throughout his heat races, which resulted in him clinching a win and a pair of runner-up finishes.
Qualifying on the inside of the second row for the 25-lap NT title deciding feature race, O'Connell spent the opening five laps fighting for his position with several rivals.
His challengers included newly-crowned national champion Ardie Jonic.
He eventually found his groove and held strongly in third until making his move in the mid-race distance.
When race leader Sam Gartner dropped backwards rapidly due to car issues, O'Connell was ready to pounce,.
He drove around Jonic and into the lead where he endured significant pressure from two of the country's prominent junior sedan drivers in Blake Iwanow and Jonic.
Showing great composure and maturity, O'Connell didn't put a foot wrong, continuing to control the pace out in front for the remaining laps before claiming a narrow but hard-fought victory and the biggest so far in his career.
"I was quite shocked and overwhelmed after crossing the finish line in first place and I didn't really know what to say," the Tivoli resident said.
"After clinching a National title podium one week prior, I'm thrilled to have gone a few positions better to win my first state title, and to do so against such a tough field of competition is a huge accomplishment."
According to O'Connell, his racing accolades were only some of the highlights he experienced during his maiden Top End visit, with the teenager having just as much fun with his fellow drivers off the track as he did on it.
"I loved every minute of our trip to the Northern Territory both in terms of the racing and also the social side of things," he said.
"The hospitality of the locals was fantastic and all of the drivers got on with each other very well.
"We're looking forward to returning to the Northern Territory next season to defend our title."
With only two months until the beginning of the 2018-19 season, O'Connell will enjoy a short break before hitting the track again in September.