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Crazy Night at the Grand Arena.  Harleys and Speedway on the 1/8 mile

Yea, I know you’ve heard it before.  500cc four stroke motors running alcohol fuel in a brakeless machine that weighs less than 185 pounds wet.  The tapes go up and it’s a drag race to the first turn and then a wrestling match of slides, pushes and bumps till the laps run out.  A handful for the trained racer on a specialized machine wearing all the latest in safety gear and suicidal for all others.  A real thrill for those of us lucky enough to witness the action.

Now what would happen if street legal Harley Davidson motorcycles raced the small dirt 1/8 mile oval?  Crashes, chaos or a walk in the park?   Well my friend that is the question and premise that’s made this night a must see event on the Southern California Speedway Circuit.

Harley Night at The Grand Arena is a tradition going back eight years.  All Industry Expo Center promoters including Freddy, Dukie, Kelly, Hugh and Lee held this event here with a various degrees of success.   Now it was our turn to sink or swim.

Carol, Kelly and I were concerned.  It had been hot in LA.  100+ for over a week.  Nobody doing nothing ruled the days.  Still to borrow that “What me worry” phrase from Alfred E. Neuman we knew that the Harley Night promotion would work out well.  After all “What could go wrong”?  The band was ready and the bar was stocked.  All-right, bring it on.

It had already cooled some when I arrived at 4:30.  The ‘you can’t get there from here” freeway drive was surprisingly easy.  Although early many racers and even some fans were already on site.  Have to really compliment the “hard core”.  They are here every week,  They do their share and more.

Things got serious in a hurry as the rest of field showed up.  Each staked out their piece of real-estate for a pit area.  Some always in the same place and others who could care less.

Soon Harleys started showing up.  Four, five at a time.  A special Harley Bike parking area was soon filled with many stock and modified versions of this American Classic.  Spectators flooded the area looking at this and wowing about that.  So many come early to hear the band, hang out at the bar or talk with any of the sponsors at their pop-ups on the plaza or go see the riders in the pit area.  The Grand Arena has really turned into the Wednesday Nights Fun-Race place.

Laidlaw’s Harley Davidson was this nights title sponsor.  A hard core Speedway supporter they have been here at the Grand arena all year.  Our Industry Racing Speedway posters are hung on their dealership wall and our Wednesday night events are promoted on their http://www.laidlawsharley.com website.  They are truly committed.  Thank You Laidlaw’s Harley Davidson for all your support.

The show started in earnest at 7:30 with a rider lineup.  A chance for spectators to see the field with their helmets off.  Its always cute to hear a newby say “Oh that’s what Bobby Schwartz or Shawn McConnell or whoever look like.

A Harley parade followed.  Twenty Five + riders taking a few laps around the track.  In front the San Gabriel Valley HOG Chapter Honor Guard.  The national anthem was sung and it was time for the fur to fly.

Speedway was good.  The best did their worst to keep the others at bay.  #16 Jake Isaac took the Pee Wee Main, regular #45 Braydan Galvin the Youth 200cc and #308 Max Ruml the Youth 250cc.  Both Max Ruml  and Braydan Galvin will be tomorrows superstars.  Can’t wait till they can start campaigning here at the Grand on a 500cc machine.

Big bikes.  D-3 #221 Steve Howard and D-2 #162 Danny Baker won their first main here at Industry.  Both rode hard and proudly deserve their rostrum spot.

D-1 was a war all night.  Regulars #104 Billy Hamill and #43 Charlie Venegas made the main event along with Speedways newest superstar #46 Aaron Fox and the former Supercross rider #26 Tyson Burmeister.  It’s hard to describe a battle as intense as this main was.  Usually when “the Edge” gets the lead the race is over but ”the Bullet” showed his 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2007 U.S. National Champion experience with a unbelievable pass on the outside of the twelve time and current Ice Champion Venegas.


The Harley?  Oh Yea.  It was insane.  The Blue Haired Dude and Horny Guy were ringers.  Not their first rodeo they come with striped down Harleys and a take no prisoners attitude.  If your not scared about being in the same race with these dudes you better go see the doctor because you could have your own issues working.  Matter of fact if your in the same race as these two you better also have a ambulance ready.

The Blue Haired Dude won the four lap heat race.  Joe Papa AKA the Horny Guy because of the Viking helmet he wears with two giant horns on the front of it was second.  No love between the two it showed as they lined up for the seven man main event.  Insane visuals as all roared off the line.  A lap later two were down.  Pushing, shoving the action packed main had Joe Papa first for the win.   Now its customary for the winner to circle back and take the checkered flag for a victory lap.  Problem was as Joe stopped for the flag the Blue Haired Dude was doing a wheelie behind him.  Yes it was ugly.  Two Harleys in a huge collision.  Both riders on the ground.  Both bikes badly bent.  Luckily both competitors were able to get up and appeared to have no physical insures other than one of the horns being tore off Joe Papas helmet and a case of gee I’m sorry, did I get stupid and do that blues.

So did anything else happen?  Well Yea. Wally Pankratz brought down two Ford Focus Midgets.  The 2000 USAC Western States Midget Series champion drove one and Billy Hamill drove the other.  The former 1996 World Champion and 1998 World Teams Champion did quite well in his first four wheel race.  Hey Billy maybe you could do Midgets if you ever get to old to handle these two wheel monsters.  Rumor has it that Wally will be holding schools here at The Grand Arena during our off season.  Want to learn how to drive a Midget or other four wheel contraption?  Contact him at http://www.wallypankratzracing.com/WallyPankratzRacingSchool/Home.html

So any more craziness?  Well I’m sure you couldn't possibly be talking about the Laidlaw’s Harley Davidson employee race.  Hopefully a annual event the rules are simple.  All Laidlaw’s employees could race their own personal bikes in a winner take all four lap heat.  All showed up with off road bikes and knobby tires.  The five man field did good.  Nobody knocked down the crash wall all everybody kept the rubber side down.  Participants include Jerry Laidlaw, his son Matt and Ty McPherson.  Want to thank them all again for making this one of the best Harley Nights ever.

Have to give a shout-out to Bob Laidlaw.  Friends from the way-back days I worked for Bob putting choppers together when we were both young.  Great seeing you again my fiend.

Also need to thank photographer Craig Hashey for providing those excellent on track action shots.  See more of his work at http://www.speedtrapphotography.com

So there it is.  Another night of great entertainment and racing action at Americas nicest weekly Speedway Stadium.  If your not on our mailing list well shame on you.  Full color mailers, you don’t know what your missing.  Sign up now.  More information about Industry Racing is on our http://industryracing.com website.

Get involved.  Spectator, sponsor, rider, mechanic there is a place for you.

See you at the races and again thanks for supporting American speedway racing in the Grand Arena at he Industry hills Expo Center every Wednesday night.

We love you guys.

Howie

 

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