From Gary Roberts
Last night Fast Fridays hosted the annual Civil War. The stands were packed. I would not be surprised if it was the biggest crowd Fast Fridays has ever had. Even after the last race was over, the track was absolutely perfect. The racing was superb, a lot of surprises, including the result.
South Charlie Venegas 2 2 2 3 9 Randy DiFrancesco 0 1 0 0 1 Bobby Schwartz 3 3 1 3 10 Chris Manchester 0 0 0 0 Josh Larsen 3 3 2 1 9 Eddie Castro 2 1 1 T 4 Gary Hicks 3 3 2 2 10 Dukie Ermolenko 2 2 0 3 7 Jim Estes 1 1 North Bart Bast 3 T 2 3 8 Robert Curry 1 1 Bobby Hedden 1 2 3 F 0 6 Bob Hicks 2 0 1 1 4 Mike Faria F 2 3 3 2 10 Ryan Fisher 1 1 1 1 4 Billy Janniro 1 3 1 3 2 2 12 Ian Ferris 0 0 - 0 0 1. Bast, Venegas, Curry, DiFrancesco 4-2 4-2 2. Schwartz, B. Hicks, B. Hedden, Manchester(ef) 3-3 7-5 3. Larsen, Castro, Fisher, Faria (fell) 1-5 8-10 4. G. Hicks, D. Ermolenko, Janniro, Ferris(ef) 1-5 9-15 5. Janniro, Venegas, DiFrancesco, Ferris 3-3 12-18 6. Schwartz, Faria, Fisher, Manchester 3-3 15-21 7. Larsen, B. Hedden, Castro, B. Hicks 2-4 17-25 8. G. Hicks, D. Ermolenko, Janniro, Bast(T) 1-5 18-30 9. B. Hedden, Venegas, B. Hicks, DiFrancesco 4-2 22-32 10. Faria, Bast, Schwartz, Manchester 5-1 27-33 11. Janniro, Larsen, Castro, B. Hedden (fell) 3-3 30-36 12. Faria, G. Hicks, Fisher, Ermolenko 4-2 34-38 13. Venegas, Faria, Fisher, DiFrancesco 3-3 37-41 14. Schwartz, Janniro, Estes, Ferris 2-4 39-45 15. Bast, Janniro, Larsen, Castro(T) 5-1 44-46 16. D. Ermolenko, G. Hicks, B. Hicks, B. Hedden 1-5 45-51 B-Main 1. Faria (6pts) 2. B. Hedden (4pts) 3. Larsen (2pts) 4. Venegas (1pt)
This added up to 10-3 to the North making the total 55-54, a great way to open the final race. With the final race carrying points 12, 8, 4, 2 it meant that who ever won the race, would determine the winning team.
Bart Bast and Billy Janniro lined up with Gary Hicks and Dukie Ermolenko Hicks got the gate and with Dukie close behind. All seemed lost for the North, but Bart Bast fought his way past Dukie. Gary Hicks rode with class, Bart tried his best, but made no impression on Gary.
So the points for the A main went 1. G. Hicks (12pts) 2. Bast (8pts) 3. Dukie Ermolenko (4pts) 4. Billy Janniro (2pts)
Heat points 10-16 bringing the final score to 65-70
A great win for the South. In fairness, few would disagree that the best team won. I am sure there are several riders today wondering if only . . . . . The North used 4 tactical substitutions, without which the gap would undoubtedly have been larger.
So what was the difference this year? Bobby Schwartz looked like his old self, getting great gates. Josh Larsen replaced Andy Northrup, who has never managed to shine at Auburn. Probably the biggest difference was Gary Hicks. Every time he comes to Auburn, he has demonstrated inconsistent fits of brilliance. At last year's National, in his heat he defeated both Hamill and Hancock. But last night he was in a class of his own. It will be interesting whether he can maintain the same form at this years National. For the North, Bob Hicks and Robert Curry replaced Tommy Hedden and Jim Sisemore.
After 8 heats the North were 12 points behind. Several points were thrown away. Ryan Fisher made a serious blunder in heat 3, hooking up and taking Mike Faria to the wall. Mike fell down, Ryan wobbled, but continued. If he had fallen down it would have forced a restart. Even if he had been disqualified, it would have given Mike a chance. Billy Janniro was the hero last year, with a maximum. Billy has never been a gater, but is a formidable opponent from behind. Last night was no exception. Bobby Hedden who is the Northern California points leader, had a reasonably good night, but lost what looked like a sure second place in heat 11, when he high sided and did a spectacular cartwheel around turn 3.
It will be interesting to see how the South riders do in the National this year. They certainly demonstrated their ability on the Auburn track last night.
Another very pleasant evening at Auburn.
Gary Roberts - firstname.lastname@example.org
Ryan Evans report
The South ended several years of frustration by defeating the North 70-65 following a clutch performance by the team of "Gorgeous" Gary Hicks and Dukie Ermolenko in the A Main of California's Annual Civil War at Auburn.
The North entered the all-important A Main with a one-point lead and the momentum of overcoming a 12-point deficit. The scoring for the A Main was 12-8-4-2 and forced the South into a situation in which it must have the race winner to have a chance at the match victory. Should the South have the heat winner, but have his partner finish last, the score would be tied. Should the South have the heat winner and his partner finish second or third, they would take the title. The North simply needed one of its riders to win the heat and the title was theirs.
Hicks and Ermolenko chose gates one and three, respectively, while Bart Bast and Billy Janniro were slotted into gates two and four. The four riders left the tapes evenly and as they entered turn one all four riders went wide. Hicks exited turn two with the lead followed by Bast while Ermolenko had done an excellent job sealing Janniro to the outside to take control of third. Hicks led down the back straight and Bast moved up to challenge as they entered turn three. As they exited turn four Bast was under Hicks but couldn't make the pass. It would prove to be Bast's best chance to gain the lead as Hicks sped away with the win. Janniro never mounted a challenge to Ermolenko who was able to hold onto third, which coupled with Hicks's heat win, secured victory for the South squad and silenced the partisan crowd.
The riders had struggled with the deep track and had to revert to two-wheeling into the corners throughout the first round. The meeting started with hometown hero Bast and Robert Curry leaving the gate first and second ahead of Charlie "The Edge" Venegas and Randy DiFrancesco. Venegas was able to pass Curry for second, but Bast was gone and the North began with a 4-2 lead after one race.
The North looked well on their way in race two when Bobby Hedden and Bob Hicks exited turn two first and second followed by Bobby "Boogaloo" Schwartz who was left without a partner when Chris Manchester suffered an engine failure in the first corner. The North looked primed for a 5-1 when Schwartz used his 27 years of speedway experience to cope with the track conditions and passed the Northern pair to salvage three points.
The efforts of Schwartz seemed to fire up the Southern squad as Josh Larsen and Eddie Castro roared to a 5-1 after teammates Mike Faria and Ryan Fisher came together forcing Faria down and Fisher looking for a restart that would never come. The Northern squad took exception, feeling that Larsen had unfairly taken Fisher wide and into Faria, but their complaints were to no avail. Gary Hicks and Ermolenko continued the momentum with a 5-1 of their own over Janniro and Ian Ferris to close round one.
The second round opened with a pair 3-3 heats with Janniro winning race five and Schwartz getting his second heat win in race six. Larsen took his second straight heat win in race seven while partner Castro finished third for a 4-2 heat result.
Race eight brought the first strategical move as Janniro came in as a tactical substitute for Curry. Bast touched the tapes and was excluded, but not before he adamantly denied any infraction. The tactical substitution proved fruitless as Gary Hicks and Ermolenko roared to the front and took their second consecutive 5-1 and a 30-18 South lead after two rounds.
The tide turned in race nine as Hedden and Bob Hicks were able to get a 4-2 over Venegas and DiFrancesco. Faria was brought in as a tactical substitute for Curry and combined with Bast for a 5-1 that cut the lead to six.
Race ten brought a bit of controversy. The field entered turn one and Hedden, in for Ferris as the third tactical substitute in four races, went down hard. The race continued until the field exited turn four when the referee, seeing that Hedden couldn't get up, stopped the race. Both squads were protesting separate issues. The North was complaining again that Larsen was unfairly riding into turn one and had forced Hedden off. The South, seeing Hedden readying himself for the restart, protested that he should've been excluded as the cause of the red flag. The South's argument fell on deaf ears while the North's protest prompted an admonishment from the referee toward Larsen. Larsen, in turn, let the referee know his feelings. On the restart Janniro and Hedden were heading for an easy 5-1 when Hedden fell hard in turn three and allowed the South to tie the heat. On the cool down lap, Larsen verbally let Janniro know what he thought about his team's complaining.
The North chose not to use a tactical substitute in race 12 and were rewarded as Faria beat Gary Hicks and Fisher held third over Ermolenko to become the only pair to get a race victory over the Southern duo.
The last round began with the North trailing by only four points, but neither side was able to gain ground as Venegas won race 13 but Faria and Fisher kept DiFrancesco back to keep their deficit at four. Jim Estes came in as a reserve for Manchester to partner with Schwartz in race 14. Schwartz took an easy victory, but Estes put in a solid performance to get third place and open the South's lead to 45-39.
Heat 15 began with Castro going through the tapes and was excluded. Castro, however, felt that he wasn't the only rider moving and returned to the track and attempted to line up at the tapes. This prompted Bast to kill Castro's bike by pulling his kill switch. Bast was first to turn one but went wide to nearly force Larsen into the fence and allow Janniro to assume the lead. Larsen was unable to recover and the North scored an easy 5-1. Hicks and Ermolenko stopped the bleeding by recording their third 5-1 of the evening to bring the South lead to 51-45 entering the B Main.
For the B Main the North selected Faria and Hedden while the South chose Venegas and Larsen. It was all Faria and Hedden as they easily took first and second, and the 6-4-2-1 scoring gave the North a 10-3 heat win and a one point lead entering the tension-packed A Main.
The superb performance from the pair of Hicks and Ermolenko and the overall depth and team racing experience of the South squad proved to be the decisive factor for a highly motivated team who were each presented with a beautiful trophy featuring a miner symbolic of the historic Gold Country area in which Auburn sits.
INDIVIDUAL SCORING North 1 - Bart Bast 3 T 2 3 8** 16 2 - Robert Curry 1 1 3 - Bobby Hedden 1 2 3 F 0 4* 10 4 - Bob Hicks 2 0 1 1 4 5 - Mike Faria 0 2 3 3 2 6* 16 6 - Ryan Fisher 1 1 1 1 4 7 - Billy Janniro 1 3 1 3 2 2 2** 14 8 - Ian Ferris 0 0 0 0 Res. Paul Orlandi Did not ride South 1 - Charlie Venegas 2 2 2 3 1* 10 2 - Randy DiFrancesco 0 1 0 0 1 3 - Bobby Schwartz 3 3 1 3 10 4 - Chris Manchester E 0 0 0 5 - Josh Larsen 3 3 2 1 2* 11 6 - Eddie Castro 2 1 1 T 4 7 - Gary Hicks 3 3 2 2 12** 22 8 - Dukie Ermolenko 2 2 0 3 4** 11 Res. Jim Estes 1 1 * = B Main ** = A Main RACE RESULTS 1: Bast, Venegas, Curry, DiFrancesco (North 4, South 2) 2: Schwartz, B. Hicks, Hedden, Manchester (engine failure) (7-5) 3: Larsen, Castro, Fisher, Faria [fell, remounted] (8-10) 4: G. Hicks, Ermolenko, Janniro, Ferris (9-15) 5: Janniro, Venegas, DiFrancesco, Ferris (12-18) 6: Schwartz, Faria, Fisher, Manchester (15-21) 7: Larsen, Hedden, Castro, B. Hicks (17-25) 8: G. Hicks, Ermolenko, Janniro [tactical sub], Bast (tape exclusion) (18-30) 9: Hedden, Venegas, B. Hicks, DiFrancesco (22-32) 10: Faria [tactical sub], Bast, Schwartz, Manchester (27-33) 11 (restart): Janniro, Larsen, Castro, Hedden [tactical sub] (fell) (30-36) 12: Faria, G. Hicks, Fisher, Ermolenko (34-38) 13: Venegas, Faria, Fisher, Faria (37-41) 14: Schwartz, Janniro, Estes, Ferris (39-45) 15: Bast, Janniro [tactical sub], Larsen, Castro (tape exclusion) (44-46) 16: Ermolenko, G. Hicks, B. Hicks, Hedden (45-51) B Main: Faria [6 pts.], Hedden , Larsen , Venegas  (55-54) A Main: G. Hicks , Bast , Ermolenko , Janniro  (65-70)
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