BLAIR GRANGER CRANKS IT UP FOR THE BIG ONE
This year’s (2011/12) Australian Late Model Championship, to be held at Tyrepower Sydney Speedway January 27/28, has special meaning for Queenland leadfoot Blair Granger.
Granger was a competitor in the inaugural Australian title held at the Perth Motorplex in 2002, won by fellow Queenslander, and speedway legend, Allan Butcher, and finished in the runner-up position in last year’s title at Mildura, behind 4 times Champ Brad Blake.
But it’s not personal gratification that drives Granger to desperately want the top step on the podium this year. He is racing with a purpose, more important than having a gleaming trophy on a shelf.
You see, Blair Granger is racing with a heavy heart, following the recent passing of good mate Matt Stocker from cancer.
“I’d really love to win the national title for Matt. We were good mates, and I already miss him heaps” Granger said.
“When Matt was diagnosed with cancer it hit me hard. You just don’t expect these things to happen to people you are close to, and when it does, it rocks your world”.
“With Matt passing away last weekend I was in two minds whether to even run at the title. He was very ill towards the end, and I didn’t want to burden him with my thoughts. I know however, that he would have told me to get down there and kick some butt!”.
“Matt was a straight shooter, and he earned the ‘Cranky Red Head’ title! But he was a great bloke, and we were making plans to get him back on track until the health issue surfaced”.
“If I could win this year’s Frank’s Auto Parts Australian Championship for Matt that would be fantastic” concluded Granger.
To win this year’s title Granger will have to defeat the strongest field ever assembled for the National Championship.
ABOVE : Blair Granger had a special reason for wanting to win the
2011/12 Australian Late Model Championship.
Photo by Ben Graham of www.zoomxtreme.com
FOOTNOTE : Blair Granger failed to make the A Main of the 2011/12 Australian Late Model Championship after breaking his right thumb in a crash on Night 1
(Friday January 27 : the date that would have marked Matt's 40th Birthday).
REMEMBERING THE CRANKY RED HEAD
As we travel down the bumpy road of life, with its undulating highs and lows, we chance upon many people. Some are but a brief part of our lives, while others are ‘keepers’. Matt was definitely one of the later.
I only knew Matt through my involvement in Speedway, but that was enough to cement a life time bond. It’s not that we lived in each other’s pockets, far from it, but anytime we met or talked the conversation switched on just like it was yesterday.
I’m not sure when I first met Matt, I do know it was at a Speedway meeting somewhere, and he was probably tagging along with good mate Blair Granger.
Matt always called a spade a spade, and was about as straight forward an individual that you could find. He said what he thought, and that’s probably what earned him the ‘Cranky’ tag!
Matt purchased an ex Bert Vosbergen car from Western Australia and his addiction to Late Model racing was born. In those early days he would phone me regularly, seeking news about the division. Matt couldn’t get enough of the new love of his life.
I’m not sure that Matt would ever have been a Champion speedway driver. Having watched him race a few times he seemed to struggle, and my viewpoint didn’t change when Steve Jones jumped into the car at Parramatta one year and was markedly quicker than the owner!
But Matt enjoyed himself, and that’s the important part.
Granger Stocker Racing was soon born, with Matt and Blair racing as a team with the support of Pennzoil. This only lasted a short time, but was a highlight of Matt’s Speedway career. He then sold his car to concentrate on his family, and his business Matt Stocker Automotive at Browns Plains.
I only saw Matt now and then after that. I remember standing at Parramatta one year as the rain started to tumble down to washout a race meeting. Through the drizzle came Matt to shake my hand, before he hurried off on some important mission!
When Matt was diagnosed with cancer, it really hit home. The biggest fight of his life was underway.
Matt phoned me just before he started his radio-therapy treatment. At the time I knew what was involved, and how difficult it would be, but he was upbeat, and still had that fighting spirit. He thanked me for my part in the Cranky Red Head Appeal, but I didn’t need any thanks, it was just good to hear his voice, and talk.
When the news filtered through that Matt had passed away, yes, I was sad, but also glad that Matt had lived his life the way he did. He may have been, from my viewpoint, an average speedway racer, but he was a champion bloke, and that’s what really matters.
I certainly hope in the place that Matt has now gone to, that there is a speedway, and Matt is ‘cranking’ out lap after lap. I’ll see you there buddy one day, I’ll see you there…..
Always in my memories,