American Speedway  

All Speedway Race Results

2000 West Coast Results Page


Costa Mesa Speedway
Orange County Fairgrounds - Costa Mesa, CA

2000 United States National Speedway Championship
Costa Mesa Speedway
October 14, 2000
Three reports are on this page, from Gary, Linda, and Ryan

Charlie Venegas Wins the 2000 Costa Mesa National! Charlie after winning three weeks in a row! June 10th, 2000

From Gary Roberts.

The United States National Speedway Championship took place at Costa Mesa on Saturday night. This is the third year that there has been a separate US National, as opposed to the AMA National, which took place 3 weeks before at Auburn, and for the third year running, we had a different winner at each, so we have in effect 2 National Champions.

The winner was Charlie Venegas, no real surprise, in fact its a surprise it has taken him this long to actually win the event, having been within striking distance for the last half decade.

Second was Josh Larsen, and third Chris Manchester. I have not liked the format used at the Costa Mesa National, but then I was not too keen on the Auburn National format either. But I believe, and most people I talk to afterwards agreed, that despite the format, probably the top 3 riders on the night took the top 3 places, in the right order, so no more complaints just yet about the format.

The event started with 20 heats, each of 20 riders getting 4 rides, so getting the opportunity to race against 12 of the 19 competitors. The top 10 points scorers went on to two, five man semi-finals. The points for the qualifying rounds were as follows:

Josh Larsen        11
Gary Hicks         10
Mike Faria          9
Bobby Schwartz      9
Billy Janniro       9
Charlie Venegas     9
Chris Manchester    8
Dukie Ermolenko     8
Eddie Castro        7
Bart Bast           7
Shawn McConnell     7
Ryan Fisher         6
Randy DiFrancesco   5
Bobby Hedden        4
Jim Estes           3
Ian Ferris          3
Brad Oxley          3
Gary Ackroyd        1
Brian Thompson      1
Rick Ellis          0

Reserves Mark Adams and Brad Sauer did not get to ride.

A run off for the last 2 places in the semi-finals between the three 7 point men went to Eddie Castro. Shawn McConnell made it easy for Bart Bast to take the second place, by falling on the first turn. I am sure he will be kicking himself for that for the next 6 months.

Most riders complained that the track was slippery and lacking in dirt. This did not stop some extremely good races. Heat 17 was a classic. Gary Hicks came into his fourth race unbeaten. Mike Faria was penalized in his second race by 20 yards for touching the tapes, as they went up. Witnesses at the starting gate were convinced that he missed them, so was Mike, but he got one hell of a start. In the re-run he only managed third, but Mike came into his last race with seven points. Brad Oxley had a night I am sure he will want to forget. As the reigning National Champion, he must have been disappointed to be going into his fourth race with only 3 points. Final member of race 17 was 44 year old Bobby Schwartz. On the occasions I have seen him, Bobby has visibly slowed this season. From a rider who would consistently make perfect gates followed by his circular racing line, he was almost impossible to pass, to this year, where at Auburn, Bobby has been missing gates and actually getting overtaken. Bobby came into the race with 6 points and needed two points to guarantee a place in the semi-finals. The tapes went up and Bobby took the gate. Gary Hicks, who had been gating brilliantly in his previous races was outgated and diced with Mike Faria for second place, while fending off Brad Oxley's front wheel. A couple of times Mike pulled up along side Bobby, trying to get around the outside, but it was not to be. To the cheers of the large crowd, Bobby took the checkered flag with Mike in second and Gary in third. At no stage in the race was there more than a couple of bike lengths between the first and last man. It was definitely the race of the night. Bobby Schwartz, who has been entertaining us for so many years now, proved he can still go out and beat the best, when he has to.

Rick Ellis the North West Champion, from Oregon struggled badly in his first couple of races, falling three times in one race. By his fourth race it was too late, but he had got the hang of the track. He mentioned that he is thinking of moving to Northern California next year, to become an Auburn/Cal Expo competitor.

How did the Northern California riders do? Since moving to Northern California, I have learned to appreciate the talents of Bobby Hedden. He won the Northern California points championship this year, but he had a rotten night last night. Four third places is not up to his normal standard. Having taken fourth in the main of this event a couple of years ago, I expected him to do better. He is a rider who likes to use the outside of the track if there is dirt there, and this track was low on dirt. Another Northern California rider who does well with a heavy track is Billy Janniro. I thought Billy did well last night, scoring 9 points, on this track. Bart Bast had a couple of good races, but did not show the form that won him the title here two years ago. Ryan Fisher had an average night. His best race was his second, where he took a win over his Northern California fellow competitors, Hedden, Ferris and his season long rival, Billy Janniro. I actually expected Ryan to qualify, but it was a tough field.

With the exception of Brad, the Costa Mesa regulars all did about what I would have expected. Charlie Venegas missed the start of his first race and lost all three points to Faria, Hedden and Castro. That kind of indicated the importance of the start. If Charlie was unable to recover from a bad start, it left little hope for others. He made no mistakes in his other 3 races.

On to the semi-finals:

In the first one, Hicks, Venegas, Janniro, Ermolenko and Bast lined up at the tapes and as they rose, Billy Janniro was heard to be snoring by the people in the VIP stands! He eventually woke up but entered the first turn a couple of bike lengths behind the rest and started to make up a little ground. But a very determined Venegas lead the field out of the second turn, then going into the back straight Gary Hicks's master link parted company with his rear chain. In my opinion Gary was almost certain for a rostrum place, and this was particularly bad luck. It put him in fifth place, missing the last chance qualifier/ B main. Venegas and Ermolenko pulled away from Bart Bast and took the qualifying places to the main, leaving Bart and Billy Janniro for the B final.

The second semifinal was more dramatic. Eddie Castro livened things up by breaking the tape. Eddie was convinced afterwards that he only moved gently into the tapes, it was the other riders who followed him, who broke them. At the riders' meeting the referee stated that touching the tapes was a 20 yard penalty offense, breaking them was an exclusion. I have always had a problem with this. Whether the tapes break or not, when touched is a fairly arbitrary thing. From my own experience as a referee, the time taken from pushing the button until the tapes actually start to move is a very long time. If a front tire is touching the tapes as they actually go up, there is a good chance they will break. How to discriminate between moving gently into the tapes or riding through them is open to all kinds of debate. I see the rule of broken tapes as an easy way for the referee not to have to make this decision. So Eddie was out of the re-run. In the next attempt, Mike Faria broke the tapes. This put Mike out too, so the race suddenly got much easier for Larsen, Manchester and Schwartz. Josh Larsen seemed to be having all kind of engine problems and twice his engine cut out in mid-turn, requiring interesting avoidance tactics by both himself and Bobby Schwartz. Chris won the race, and Bobby moved into second.

The Last Chance/ B main saw Bast, Janniro, Faria and Larsen. Larsen and Faria got the gate and came out of turn two side by side. Going into turn three Mike went down, and the race belonged to Josh. Billy Janniro took second place, the highest non-qualifier with Bart in third.

Now to the main, with Venegas on the pole, it looked like a foregone conclusion - unless he was to break the tapes! In addition to the touching/breaking the tapes speech as the riders meeting the referee also mentioned that the rider on the inside had to turn left immediately at the corner, or face exclusion. Charlie left his left turn late, so late that Chris Manchester on the outside was in the wall. The race went on. Chris was still on the ground expecting a re-start, but the race went on! Charlie lead Josh Larsen, while Dukie and Bobby tussled for third place. Coming out of turn two on the third lap they tangled and went down. Red flag. There was a restart. This was fortunate for the Chris, although the announcer stated that it would be at the discretion of the referee whether Chris would be in the re-run, having effectively finished his race. Then there was the question of who was responsible for stopping the race, and what the referee would do about disqualifying the culprit. No problem, it was a complete restart! This struck me as unusual, and unlucky for Charlie, who I think by this stage must have been picturing his name on the trophy.

So all back for the re-run. Again Charlie got the gate, this time he turned left at the corner and everyone got round OK. Bobby Schwartz took second and Josh was in third. This time Dukie ran into the back of Josh, bringing them both down. Out again came the red flag. This time Dukie got penalized 20 yards and the race was started for a third time. Again Charlie got the gate and lead Josh and Chris with Bobby Schwartz in fourth. Bobby tried a valiant effort coming up on the outside moving up first beside Chris, then beside Josh, then back and forth between them several times before finally falling on the last turn. Charlie was a worthy winner. He lead the race each time and I was fearing a tape infringement with each re-start.

Interestingly Charlie rode all night on a Jawa upright, again proving the theorems of Professor John Cook that a laydown is not needed to win races on California's short tracks. .

I have to say it again, I did not like the format. Taking 20 heats to eliminate only 50% of the field, then only four races to find the event winner made it a bit of a lottery. The more I think about it, the more merit I see in the European GP format. Despite this, Charlie Venegas did a great job, he deserved to win.

So the major events for another season are over. Remember Charlie Venegas's events at San Bernardino next month. Otherwise it's back into till next season!

Gary Roberts - groberts@iee.org

From Mouse - Hey Gang,
Thanks Gary for the report and I know Ryan will be posting so I won't give the details that have already been posted so far.
First off, TIM MARSH...patience my dear! hehe I didn't post because I hadn't made it home yet! ;o)

Since Gary has already posted the places etc...I'll just give you guys a little more event details.

Event 4: Hicks was the leader but the battle for second place points by Manny and Fisher was awesome!! These two went at it all four laps but I think maybe Manny's experience paid off this time. (this was Fisher's first national appearance)

Event 9: Dukie did not gate well and had his work cut out for him, but unfortunately his efforts of working the outside did not pay off. :o(

Event 10: Gary posted that Faria was penalised for touching the tapes. I was sitting near turn three and had to rely on the call by the announcer which I believe he said "anticipating" the start. Now I don't know. I do have to say (and it is only my opinion) that I don't like that "anticipating" the start thing. Anyway, save that for another time. After Faria's 20 penalty (which his was not happy about) he had a very good start...it was so good that he was already in motion before the tapes (totally!) but no call was made about that. Ok, nit-picking but I'm just giving you my eyes view.

Event 12: Fisher, who was already in 3rd place during this race (ahead of Reserve rider Brian Thompson) did a complete 360 and still managed to keep his place for the third place point! This was cool to see and I'm so glad he held on!

Event 13: Ackroyd was penalised 20 yds for causing Manny to go down. I could have this info wrong but why was he not disqualified from the restart. ?

Event 16: Hedden, 20 yd for anticipating (I really don't like this rule). This was another exciting event. Bart and Manny bumped in turn one. Bart got ahead of him but Manny worked it and mananaged to get by him in the end. Both of these guys are former National Champs (yes, I know you already know this!)

Event 17: This had to be the most crowd involved event of the night! Gary Hicks had a perfect score going into this event but that ended when Bobby Schwartz got the gate, the checkered flag, and got the 3pts to win this event.

It was not an easy task I might add as Faria and Hicks made him earn those points and got the crowd on there feet to give Boogaloo a standing ovation for a job well done! You would have thought by the crowd's reaction that this was the main event of the night! ;o)

(After a runoff to fill the last two qualifying spots we go into the first of two Semi events.)

Event 21: This had to be the heartbreaker of the night. Gary Hicks who was 2nd in points going into this event had a most disappointing end to his night. As Gary already posted, he lost his chain. He and Charlie seemed to have gated simultaneously (from where I was sitting anyway which was too far from the start gate) but seeing Gary fall back on the back straight to end his great night was just too sad! :o(

Event 22: To me, this had to be the most controversial event. I was so bummed for Eddie Castro who had to run off to place himself in the semis only to be DQ'd by a tape breaking offense (did you catch that readers? "DQ'd" for a "tape breaking" offense). Restart, oops...Faria breaks the tapes! Faria is now DQ'd for tape breaking offense which leaves 3 riders. Two riders will go to the main, one rider to the Last Chance. Larsen was to take 3rd giving him a spot in the Last Chance qualifier. Larsen lead in points going into the semis with 11. This put Manny and Schwartz in the main.

Last Chance Event 23: You remember that Farie was DQ'd for breaking tapes in the previous event? Going back to event 22: After Castro broke the tapes and was DQ'd, that left 4 riders. Top two would go to Main, and last two to the Last Chance and the 5th place rider (which there wasn't one as Castro got DQ'd) was done.

So, since Faria drove all the way from Reno, they didn't want to send him home packing, they decided that he would have had an automatic place at the very least in the Last Chance. In my opinion, I didn't like this call. To me, again it's only my opinion, is that Faria was DQ'd for the same offense as Castro and that he should have been out. AFter all a DQ is a DQ. ? Had Faria won the Championship I feel that it would have been tainted.

Anyway back to event 23, Faria fell in this event and did not go on. So, no harm done and the fans got to see him race one more time that night.

Main Event 24: I was glad to see the Edge FINALLY get the title! As some of you may remember that I had the Edge down to win last year. Josh Larsen took a noble 2nd place to make the podium. Manny earned his spot as well for the third spot on the podium. (Gary already posted of the restarts for this event)

All in all, it was a fantastic night of racing. I felt it was more exciting than last years Costa Mesa National. Congratulations the to top three riders. They certainly earned their places! And thanks to all the competitors for making my drive well worth it! ;o)

ok...what is the deal with the flashing red light on the back of Charlie's helmet? ;o)

That's all for now folks!
Cheers, Mouse

From Ryan Evans

He had to do it three times, but Charlie "The Edge" Venegas captured his first United States National Championship in front of a huge crowd that was thoroughly entertained with spectacular racing at Costa Mesa.

The main event was filled with controversy that began before the tapes went up the first time. Venegas, who qualified by winning his semi, chose the pole position. Josh Larsen, who qualified through the Last Chance Qualifier thought that he had last choice, but was delighted to be given second choice and chose gate two. Two-time National Champion Bobby "Boogaloo" Schwartz thought that he had gate two and was visibly upset when he was told to stage in gate four. Schwartz sat behind Larsen to show that he believed he should be in gate two. After some posturing by both Schwartz and the referee, Schwartz took his place in gate four. The field was rounded out with Points Champion Dukie Ermolenko in three and 1992 National Champion Chris Manchester in gate five.

Venegas got the gate and went wide into turn one with Manchester becoming a casualty of the domino effect that followed. Manchester remained down hoping for a restart that did not come immediately. Venegas held a comfortable lead ahead of Larsen on the first lap and looked to be the new champion. Exiting turn two the second time Ermolenko took himself and Schwartz down on the back straight and brought out the red flag.

After several minutes of sorting things out, the referee found no clear cause of the accident and allowed all five riders into the restart. As the other four lined up at the tapes, Schwartz was in the pits and the gate closed thus signaling his two minutes were up. Schwartz came storming up the pit lane, but the track crew member refused to open the gate. Billy Janniro and Bobby Hedden attempted to pull the gate open themselves, but the crew member refused until the referee came over and insisted that Schwartz be allowed to restart.

The second attempt again saw Venegas get the start with Larsen chasing him. Venegas was comfortably ahead again when Ermolenko took Larsen down in turn three on the second lap. This time Venegas showed his frustration as he had twice had the championship in his grasp only to have the red flag nullify it. This time Ermolenko was deemed the cause of the restart and penalized 20 yards on the restart.

Venegas made it three for three as he took the start, but he drifted a bit in turn two and it appeared that Larsen had an opening up the inside. Venegas, however, was not going to let that happen as he slammed the door on Larsen entering turn three and take control of the lead. Manchester and Schwartz battled for third the entire race with Manchester on the inside and Schwartz on the outside. Larsen stayed close the whole way, but Venegas was not going to let his first title slip away and he jubilantly pumped his fist as he took the checkered flag. Larsen finished second, Manchester finished third, Ermolenko took fourth when Schwartz fell in the last turn.

For Venegas, winning the championship brought a form of redemption from the ghosts of last year's championship and the AMA National Championship two weeks ago. After sweeping the qualifying rounds last year, Venegas failed to qualify for the National Championship Final after finishing last in his semi. At the AMA Championships in Auburn, he had the National Championship in his grasp for one lap before being overtaken by Greg Hancock.

The format for the National Championship was 20 riders competing in four rounds of four-man scratch heats with the top 10 qualifying for two five-man semis. The first two from each semi qualified directly to the National Championship Final, third and fourth transferred to the Last Chance Qualifier, and fifth place was eliminated. The winner of the Last Chance Qualifier transferred to the National Championship Final.

The qualifying rounds settled eight positions in the semis, but Shawn McConnell, Eddie Castro, and 1998 National Champion Bart Bast had to compete in a runoff to determine the last two spots in the semis. The race was anticlimactic as McConnell fell in turn one leaving Castro an easy win and Bast in second after they cruised the four laps. McConnell finished his season by doing several wheelies for the crowd during and after the race.

In the first semi second-highest point scorer Gary Hicks and Charlie Venegas gated together and exited turn two side by side. Going down the back straight Hicks slowed drastically as he was the victim of a broken chain. This allowed Venegas to take a comfortable lead and Dukie Ermolenko to take second. Their places remained the same as they booked themselves into the Final, while Bast took third and Janniro had to be especially thankful for Hicks' misfortune after he was caught napping at the gate. As the distraught Hicks walked across the infield, the fans gave him a rousing ovation in part for sympathy as well as appreciation for his effort this season.

The second semi was a struggle to even get started. Eddie Castro blew through the tapes on the initial attempt and was disqualified. On the second attempt, 3-time National Champion "Flyin" Mike Faria broke the tapes. Manchester trapped Larsen, who was the top point scorer in the qualifying rounds, and was quickly followed by Schwartz. Manchester took an easy victory and Schwartz took second as both qualified for the Final and sent Larsen to the Last Chance.

Larsen took the start in the Last Chance but was immediately challenged by Faria on the outside. They remained that way entering turn three, but Larsen was not about to let a chance at the National Championship slip away and he pushed Faria a little wide and Faria fell down. Larsen was unchallenged the rest of the race as Bast took second, Janniro was third, and Faria was fourth.

The four preliminary rounds provided some incredible races with a lot of overtaking from both the inside and the outside lines.

Ermolenko kicked off the evening with a start-to-finish victory over Schwartz. Race two provided the first surprise not so much that Faria was the victor, but that Venegas finished last. Shawn McConnell used the pole to his advantage as he took the victory ahead of Brad Oxley and Brian Thompson, while Northwest Champion Rick Ellis struggled to adapt to the bullring oval and fell a couple of times.

Hicks took the gate in race three and was an easy winner, but the battle for second between Manchester and 17 year old Ryan Fisher was a classic as they leaned on each other and battled inside and outside the entire race before Manchester finally took second. In the last race of round one, Larsen took the win and Bast had second before he drifted wide and allowed Janniro to steal the place.

Venegas began his winning streak by winning the first race of round two as Jim Estes valiantly held off Schwartz for second. Castro made a lightning-quick start and took the win over DiFrancesco and Oxley in race seven. Fisher and Janniro gated together in race eight, Fisher gave him a slight tap on the back straight and it was just enough to give him the advantage that he needed to take the win. Hicks took his second easy win of the night ahead of Bast in race nine.

Race 10 provided controversy as Faria got the gate, but the red light immediately came on. The referee determined that Faria was moving before the tapes went up and was penalized 20 yards. Faria refused to back up and took his place at the tapes. After a lengthy argument, Faria begrudgingly accepted his penalty. Larsen took the gate and the win ahead of Manchester and Faria was able to pass Brian Thompson for third, but he wasn't finished with the referee and he stopped after the race to further voice his displeasure about his penalty.

Hicks trapped from gate four and won his third consecutive race to open the third round.

Schwartz came to life in race 12 with a win, but the real race was behind him as Fisher and Bast put on a classic side-by-side battle for two laps before Fisher spun completely around in turn one and almost went into the fence. He recovered and was able to pass Thompson to salvage one point and receive an ovation for his spectacular performance.

Race 13 was restarted after Ackroyd moved at the tapes and was penalized 20 yards. Venegas trapped from gate four on the second attempt and took another easy victory ahead of Janniro, but not before Ackroyd put in an awesome battle with Manchester for third before finally settling for fourth.

Ermolenko knocked Larsen from the ranks of the unbeaten in race 14 with the former World Finalist settling for second. Faria finished the round with a win over DiFrancesco and McConnell.

The fourth round began with the two best performances of the night. Manchester missed the start and trailed Bast after one lap. He quickly went to the outside and despite Bast's best efforts to hold him back, Manchester was able to use the outside to take the lead and get a hard-earned three points to the delight of the crowd which provided a much-deserved standing ovation.

The crowd had barely sat down when it they found themselves standing again after the next race as they saw the tightest quartet of riders this track has seen in a long time. Schwartz got a great start and held the lead after lap one. Faria battled Schwartz on the outside, but he couldn't move out to block him because he had Hicks trying to pass on the inside. Schwartz was left to simply outrun his opponents and that is exactly what he did as he put in a champion's performance to hold off both riders. Faria was able to take second, Hicks was third, and Oxley, who was never more than a bike length behind Hicks, had the best seat in the house but had to settle for fourth. Hicks' third place left the door open for Larsen to become the top scorer and have the pivotal first gate choice in the Final if he won his semi.

Larsen quickly capitalized in the next race as he made a great start from the outside and was a runaway winner ahead of McConnell who had to fight off the determined Fisher who tried in vain on the outside, but settled for third.

Venegas further proved that his first race was a fluke by winning his third race of the night ahead of Ian Ferris. Janniro finished the qualifying rounds with his only win of the night as he beat Ermolenko in race 20.

After the four preliminary rounds, Larsen was the top scorer with 11 points. Hicks was second with 10. Faria, Schwartz, Janniro, and Venegas were tied with nine. Ermolenko and Manchester each had eight, leaving McConnell, Castro, and Bast to have a runoff for the last two spots in the semis.

SCORING                 1   2   3   4       T      
  1 - Brad Oxley        2   1   0   0       3
  3 - Gary Hicks        3   3   3   1      10
  4 - Josh Larsen       3   3   2   3      11
  6 - Shawn McConnell   3   1   1   2       7
  8 - Gary Ackroyd      1   0   0   0       1
  9n - Mike Faria       3   1   3   2       9
 11 - Bobby Schwartz    2   1   3   3       9
 12 - Randy DiFrancesco 0   2   2   1       5
 14 - Eddie Castro      2   3   2   F       7
 14n - Billy Janniro    2   2   2   3       9
 15 - Dukie Ermolenko   3   0   3   2       8
 17w - Rick Ellis       0   F   F   0       0
 36 - Ryan Fisher       1   3   1   1       6
 36n - Ian Ferris       0   0   1   2       3
 43 - Charlie Venegas   0   3   3   3       9
 56 - Jim Estes         0   2   0   1       3
 57 - Brian Thompson    1   0   0   0       1
 63n - Bobby Hedden     1   1   1   1       4
 87n - Bart Bast        1   2   2   2       7
130 - Chris Manchester  2   2   1   3       8
166 - Andy Northrup     injured - did not compete
223 - Mark Adams (R)    did not ride
119 - Brad Sauer (R)    did not ride

 1: Ermolenko, Schwartz, Ackroyd, Ferris
 2: Faria, Castro, Hedden, Venegas
 3: McConnell, Oxley, Thompson, Ellis (fell, remounted)
 4: Hicks, Manchester, Fisher, Estes (tape penalty)
 5: Larsen, Janniro, Bast, DiFrancesco
 6: Venegas, Estes, Schwartz, Ellis (fell)
 7: Castro, DiFrancesco, Oxley, Ackroyd
 8: Fisher, Janniro, Hedden, Ferris
 9: Hicks, Bast, McConnell, Ermolenko
10: Larsen, Manchester, Faria (tape penalty), Thompson
11: Hicks, Castro, Ferris, Ellis (fell)
12: Schwartz, Bast, Fisher, Thompson
13: Venegas, Janniro, Manchester, Ackroyd (tape penalty)
14: Ermolenko, Larsen, Hedden, Oxley
15: Faria, DiFrancesco, McConnell, Estes
16: Manchester, Bast, Hedden (tape penalty), Ellis
17: Schwartz, Faria, Hicks, Oxley
18: Larsen, McConnell, Fisher, Ackroyd
19: Venegas, Ferris, DiFrancesco, Thompson
20: Janniro, Ermolenko, Estes (tape penalty), Castro (fell, remounted)
Runoff for last two spots in the semis: Castro, Bast, McConnell (fell, 
Semi Final #1: Venegas, Ermolenko, Bast, Janniro, Hicks (retired)
Semi Final #2: Manchester, Schwartz, Larsen, Faria (excluded, tapes), Castro 
(excluded, tapes)
Last Chance Qualifier: Larsen, Janniro, Bast, Faria (fell)
U.S. National Championship Final: Venegas, Larsen, Manchester, Ermolenko 
(penalty line), Schwartz (fell)
www.speedwaybikes.com - All rights reserved.