Desert Empire Fairgrounds - Ridgecrest, California - USA
High Desert Spring Festival Invitational
April 26, 2008 - Ridgecrest
By: Ryan Evans
Defending National Champion Billy “The Bullet” Hamill began his season in perfect style by going undefeated in front of a packed arena of fans at High Desert Spring Festival Invitational at the Desert Empire Fairgrounds in Ridgecrest.
Hamill’s perfect evening earned him first choice of starting position in the main event and he selected the pole. Buck Blair chose gate two, Under 21 National Champion Ricky Wells picked gate four, which left Tim Gomez with gate three. When the tapes went up Hamill launched off the line and into the lead followed by Blair. Hamill eliminated any drama regarding the lead by pulling away from the field on the first lap. Blair, however, had to contend with Wells who was trying every line in an effort to get second. Hamill extended his lead all the way to the checkered flag and Blair was able to hold off Wells who made a great save after lifting in the final corner. Gomez finished in fourth.
The first of three rounds of heats began with Gomez leading before Wells charged up the inside at the end of the second lap to take the lead and the win. The second race had to be restarted and the second attempt ended in Tommy Hedden being awarded the victory by the referee after Nate Perkins fell and brought out a red flag. Hamill closed out the opening round with a dominant win over Dale Facchini and Blair.
Wells started round two by using the outside to pass Dale Facchini on the second lap for a hard-earned second victory of the evening. Blair kept the pesky Hedden at bay for his first win. Hamill trapped the field from the outside and scored his second straight runaway win ahead of Gomez to finish the second round.
Blair and Wells started the final round of heats with a great battle that ended prematurely when Wells fell which allowed Blair an easier path to victory. Dale Facchini parlayed a great start into his first win in the next race. Hamill made it three for three with a win over Robbie Sauer in the final heat. Neil Facchini beat J.T. Mabry and Brad Sauer in a runoff to fill the final spot in the semis.
Hamill won the first semi handily but Wells and Hedden had an awesome bar-to-bar battle for second behind him. Their duel ended when Hedden slid off and handed the main-event transfer to Wells.
Blair led the second semi from start to finish and Dale Facchini seemingly had second wrapped up before a bobble in the final corner allowed the opportunistic Gomez to steal second at the line.
Hedden was victorious in the Consolation over Dale Facchini, Robbie Sauer, and Neil Facchini. Mabry won the C Main with John Marquez finishing second, Brad Sauer getting third, and Nate Perkins being credited with fourth.
The Last of the Mohicans Last Man Out Challenge saw Hedden get eliminated first, then Wells, which left Hamill and Blair for the final two-lap battle. Blair was first out of the gate and led Hamill into turn three. The former World Champion showed his mettle and charged up the inside for the lead. Blair tried to regain the lead, but his dive back to the inside found Hamill already there and the Colorado native ended up on the ground in turn one while Hamill finished the final lap uncontested for the victory. Blair got up with no injuries and both riders shook hands in a show of mutual respect for the effort.
Marvin Sonnier was the early leader in the Second Division Main Event, but Steve Dziadus never gave up and on the final lap he closed Sonnier’s back tire. Sonnier made a mistake in the final corner and Dziadus made a one last charge for the lead. The pair drag raced to the finish and Sonnier was first to the line by inches over Dziadus. Tyler Hansen finished third and Dave Delbridge was fourth.
Matt Davis, who usually competes as a sidecar passenger, made an auspicious debut with wins in both his heats and an easy triumph in the Third Division Main Event. Jeff Shaffer finished second, Tony DeAlmeida was third, Paul Thornton finished fourth, and Rick Huspek was fifth.
The High Desert Spring Festival Invitational marked the first time that speedway was held in Ridgecrest since a handful of meetings were held there in 1983. Hamill, who competed as a junior that season, was the only competitor who had raced in Ridgecrest before. The event filled the bleachers full of enthusiastic fans whose satisfaction could clearly be interpreted by their loud ovations. The track was inside the same rodeo arena, but it was significantly smaller than the original layout.
Promoter Steve Evans was very happy to report that the Desert Empire Fair Manager was so impressed that he immediately began trying to arrange multiple future dates for speedway to return.
Third Division Main Event 301 – Matt Davis 10
399 – Jeff Shaffer 20
157 – Tony DeAlmeida 20
124 – Paul Thornton 10
226 – Rick Huspek 10
Second Division Main Event
52 – Marvin Sonnier
212 – Steve Dziadus
104n – Tyler Hansen
338 – Dave Delbridge
Last of the Mohicans Last Man Out Challenge
1 – Billy Hamill
39 – Buck Blair
142 – Ricky Wells
40n – Tommy Hedden
First Division Scoring 1 2 3 T
1 – Billy Hamill 3 3 3 9
13 – Nate Perkins Fx R N 0
17 – Robbie Sauer 1 1 2 4
19 – Dale Facchini 2 2 3 7
21 – Brad Sauer 2 0 1 3
30 – Tim Gomez 2 2 0 4
39 – Buck Blair 1 3 3 7
40 – Tommy Hedden 3 2 1 6
41 – John Marquez 0 1 1 2
86 – Neil Facchini 1 F 2 3
93 – J.T. Mabry 0 1 2 3
142 – Ricky Wells 3 3 F 6
Race Results 1: Wells, Gomez, R.Sauer (tape penalty), Marquez (fell, remounted)
2: (restarted, awarded) Hedden, B.Sauer, N.Facchini, Perkins (excluded)
3: Hamill, D.Facchini, Blair, Mabry
6: Wells, D.Facchini, Marquez, Perkins (retired)
7: Blair, Hedden, R.Sauer, B.Sauer
8: (restarted) Hamill, Gomez, Mabry, N.Facchini (fell)
10: Blair, N.Facchini, B.Sauer, Wells (fell)
11: D.Facchini, Mabry, Hedden, Gomez
12: (restarted) Hamill, R.Sauer, Marquez (fell, remounted), Perkins (non starter)
Runoff: (restarted) N. Facchini, Mabry, B.Sauer
Semi #1: Hamill, Wells, N.Facchini, Hedden (fell, remounted)
Semi #2: Blair, Gomez, D.Facchini, R.Sauer (fell, remounted)
First Division C Main Event
93 – J.T. Mabry
41 – John Marquez
21 – Brad Sauer (retired)
13 – Nate Perkins (non starter)
First Division Consolation
40 – Tommy Hedden
19 – Dale Facchini
17 – Robbie Sauer
86 – Neil Facchini
First Division Main Event
1 – Billy Hamill
39 – Buck Blair
142 – Ricky Wells
30 – Tim Gomez (fell, remounted)