In a flurry of dirt and dust SuperStock driver Stephen Penn has completed one last lap around his beloved speedway track at Central Energy Trust Arena.
Cheering and clapping from the sidelines, more than 1000 people paid tribute on Thursday to the man they described as humble, hardworking and family focused.
Penn was competing in the first race of the SuperStock Teams Champs on Sunday evening when he died after crashing into a wall.
Penn, 41, had worked hard to be selected for the Manawatū Mustangs who he proudly represented under his signature number 59P at the competition in Palmerston North.
Officiating the ceremony at Arena 2, friend and teammate Todd O’Donnell said Penn’s family and friends had received messages of kindness and compassion from all over the world.
“He has not left without making his mark, without making a contribution and leaving a legacy,” he said.
Touching on Penn’s passion for racing, O’Donnell said Penn “died doing what he loved”.
He said the accident was blameless, and reassured members of the team Penn was racing against, the Auckland Allstars, that Penn was honoured to be competing against them.
“They raced exactly as they should have raced. They raced hard, they raced fair, and they raced skilfully.”
O’Donnell ended by saying Penn would encourage the community to go on and pursue the things they enjoyed, and it was important to continue racing in Speedway events.
“In doing so we will keep Stephen’s memory alive.”
Penn’s friend of 25 years, Shaun ‘Sharky’ Pearson, spoke of his life growing up in the small, rural town of Tokomaru.
He described Penn as a “hands-on sort” who started his working life as a farmhand before going to work in the construction industry, with jobs at the Building Depot in Palmerston North and ITM in Feilding.
After landing a building apprenticeship, he started work at Gary Douglas Engineers in 2016, where he remained for 11 years until his death.
Pearson said his friend was a proud dad to daughters Brooke and Kyla and a loving husband to wife Vanessa.
He told the crowd Brooke had “given up the day to her dad”, as his send-off also marked her 21st birthday.
Kevin Penn said his brother always put family first and took time for people when they needed him.
Describing his brother as competitive and stubborn, he said Penn lived life to the fullest and “always called a spade a spade”.
Penn’s Manawatū Mustangs captain Rebecca Barr was unable to attend the service after testing positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday.
In a tribute read by O’Donnell, Barr said Penn was genuine, quiet and underrated. She thanked his family for sharing him with the team as they prepared for champs.
“Stephen you shared a wonderful life and time with your family, we thank you for sharing your dream with us and being a part of the Manawatū Mustang family.
“Every Teams Champs we know you will be there with us on that start line, alongside us always in the heart of every Mustang.”
Following his service friends and family tied Penn’s casket to the back of a modified flat-deck Bedford truck and led a procession of stockcars and supporters to the track.
Over 50 vehicles assembled around the grass verge in a guard of honour while Penn took his final lap of the track.
Drivers revved their engines and followed Penn in solitude as a video tribute played footage of his former races on the big screen.
Refreshments were served at Barber Hall before the family went on to have a private committal at Kelvin Grove Cemetery.