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2000 West Coast Results Page

Fast Fridays Speedway
Gold Country Fairgrounds - Auburn, CA

2000 AMA National Speedway Championship
Fast Fridays
September 8, 2000
From Gary Roberts and Ryan Evans

Greg Hancock wins the 2000 AMA National Speedway Championship

Greg Hancock - 1999

The AMA National Championship took place at Fast Fridays Speedway in Auburn, California, last night. America's best were all present! Unlike the track championship 4 weeks earlier the weather was fine, and the track was well prepared.

The event followed the same format that it has followed since the AMA first sanctioned Fast Fridays to hold the AMA National, with a 20 heat, 4 man, 5 race format, followed by B and A finals.

Before the racing started, I was of the opinion that Hamill and Hancock would take the first two places, having done just that to the world's best the week before, and either Gary Hicks or Mike Faria would take third.

In the actual results, Billy Hamill looked unbeatable for his first 5 races, Greg had a couple of disappointing results, but came back to win first the B main, then the A main. This made Greg the AMA National Champion. But it also made me wonder about the format.

The unofficial results for the event were as follows:
Billy Hamill         3 3 3 3 3   15
Mike Faria           2 2 3 3 2   12
Charlie Venegas      3 3 0 3 2   11
Bobby Hedden         2 1 3 2 3   11
Greg Hancock         2 0 3 2 3   10
Charles Ermolenko    2 2 2 2 1    9
Gary Hicks           3 3 2 0 0    8
Ryan Fisher          1 3 2 1 0    7
Billy Janniro        0 2 1 2 2    7
Bart Bast            0 2 1 1 3    7
Chris Manchester     3 1 0 1 1    6
Josh Larsen          1 1 1 3 0    6
Chad Felicio         1 0 0 1 1    3
Bobby Schwartz       0 1 0 0 2    3
Robert Curry         1 0 0 0 0    1
Ian Ferris           0 0 1 0 0    1
Tommy Hedden (reserve) 3 points from 2 rides

Heat by Heat Results

1.. Hamill, Ermolenko, Fisher, Ferris
Billy Hamill got the gate, with Ian Ferris, Ryan Fisher and Dukie Ermolenko following. Ferris took Fisher wide, allowing Ermolenko to move through to second, then Fisher got past Ferris. Meanwhile Hamill just kept increasing his lead until he won by over a quarter of a lap.

2.. Hicks, B. Hedden, Curry, Janniro
The first controversial race. Gary Hicks got the start with Hedden and Janniro. Janniro first got passed Hedden on turn two of the final lap, then coming out of turn four, he tried to get between Hicks and pole, into a gap that really wasn't there. Net result Hicks went down, and Bobby Hedden laid it down to avoid running into him. Referee, John Grant, disqualified Billy Janniro, giving Hicks first place and giving back second to Hedden. From where I was standing on the inside of turn 4, on the center green, the referee's decision looked right, although many of Janniro's fans thought this was harsh. Janniro himself was not happy and had further conversations with the referee.

3.. Manchester, Hancock, Felicio, Bast
Greg Hancock missed the gate. Chris Manchester looked like his former self, as he frequently does at Auburn, and sprang effortlessly into the lead. Going into turn four Bart Bast over slid and went down. Greg easily took second place from Chad but was unable to catch up with Chris Manchester.

4.. Venegas, Faria, Larsen, Schwartz
Bobby Schwartz was first out of the gate, but went wide and Larsen and Venegas grabbed the change and rode side by side through the gap. They circled for a lap, side by side, then Josh Larsen took the lead. Persistent Charlie Venegas found his way past. Meanwhile Mike Faria found his way past Bobby, then Josh.

5.. Hamill, Faria, B. Hedden, Hancock
On first reading the rider numbering, this looked like the race of the night. Billy again made a perfect gate, while Greg got left behind again.

6.. Hicks, Ermolenko, Schwartz, Felicio
Hicks from the gate, Ermolenko got left in third, but got past Bobby to take second.

7.. Venegas, Janniro, Manchester, Ferris
Little change from gate to finish.

8.. Fisher, Bast, Larsen, Curry
Little change from gate to finish, but no lack for trying on Bart Bast's behalf, to get around Ryan.

9.. Hamill, Hicks, Larsen, Manchester
Billy Hamill got the gate and half way round the first corner did a successful "park" which slowed everyone else. Billy went on to win by over a quarter of a lap.

10.. B. Hedden, Ermolenko, Bast, Venegas
Charlie Venegas's only real mistake of the night. He missed the gate. For some reason around this stage, most races became rather processional.

11.. Hancock, T. Hedden, Ferris
In the first attempt to run this race Robert Curry moved in the starting gate and Bobby Schwartz touched the tapes. He was disqualified. In the second attempt, Curry went through the tapes in spectacular fashion and was disqualified. So it became a three man race, which Greg easily won. Reserve Tommy Hedden took second place from Ian Ferris.

12.. Faria, Fisher, Janniro, Felicio
Another procession

13.. Hamill, Janniro, Bast, Schwartz
14.. Faria, Ermolenko, Manchester, Curry
15.. Larsen, B. Hedden, Felicio, Ferris
16.. Venegas, Hancock, Fisher, Hicks
Gary Hicks, who had been looking very promising up until this heat missed the gate and was struggling in third place. On the third lap his engine failed and he retired. This was his second engine failure of the night. His other machine seized while being warmed up in the pits.

17.. Hamill, Venegas, Felicio, Curry
18.. Hancock, Janniro, Ermolenko, Larsen
Josh Larsen's efforts to take second place from Billy Janniro lost his place to Dukie.

19.. Bast, Faria, T. Hedden, Ferris
Without a motorcycle, Gary Hicks was unable to ride, so reserve Tommy Hedden took his place. Bart Bast got the gate and Mike Faria spent 4 laps trying to get around him, unsuccessfully.

20.. B. Hedden, Schwartz, Manchester, Fisher
Since Bobby Hedden and Charlie Venegas tied for third place, a runoff was necessary to determine who would be in the A and who would be in the B mains. Charlie won this from the gate.


B Main:
Hancock, B. Hedden, Ermolenko, Hicks.
Gary Hicks's unfortunate mechanical luck was not over. Without his own machine he came out on Bobby Schwartz's, but doing a practice start noises appeared from the clutch followed by severe clutch problems. After the race, a torn out clutch stud was noticed. A very determined Bobby Hedden took the gate and it took Hancock a couple of laps to get around him. Not one to give up, Hedden continued to try to get past, unsuccessfully.

A Main:
The A main was spectacular. People will watch the video of this one for a while! Charlie Venegas got the gate followed by Hancock and Faria. Hamill missed it. So Hamill worked on Faria while Hancock worked on Venegas. Greg's approach was subtle, consistent and successful. Billy's approach was spectacular and included wheelies, bouncing off the wall and bouncing off Mike Faria. Miraculously he stayed on and got passed Mike. Once past Charlie, Greg rode flawlessly to take the title.

Personally, I came away with a certain feeling of disappointment. Although Greg Hancock rode well to qualify from the B, then win the A, Billy Hamill had conclusively beaten everyone in the qualifying heats. He missed the gate in heat A and fell victim to the format. Although the format was accepted by all before the start, and is supposedly meant to maintain interest until the last heat, I heard other mention that the result seemed unfair on Billy.

Bad luck for Billy. Congratulations to Greg on his third National Championship win. A great second place ride by Charlie.

In between races, Bill Amick, Vice President of the AMA's events and entertainment section, inducted 7 times Speedway National Champion, Mike Bast to the AMA's Motorcycle Hall of Fame. This rare honor is bestowed on few people. It had to be approved by 6 different committees! Mike was out there with his family and rode a couple of laps on the JAP on which he started racing at Whiteman Stadium (Los Angeles) in 1968. Its great to see a Speedway rider receive such acclaim.

Well that's it for Auburn's 2000 season. Somehow it seemed very short. Back into the cultural vacuum till next May.

What else is there this season?

October 28 and 29 Donovan Dorsey is holding his SECOND event up in Pasco, WA.

Costa Mesa has a few more events.

Charlie Venegas and Dukie Ermolenko (C&C productions) have events at San Bernardino on Nov 11, 18 and 25. See forthcoming news on SpeedwayBikes.Com for more details.

Gary Roberts - groberts@iee.org

After reading the discussion on the AMA format on the speedwaybikes.com distribution, I went back and re-read the report I sent out for the National. In all fairness, I really did not portray Greg as a worthy winner, which he absolutely was. The format let Billy down, but Greg rode the A and B finals with the prowess of a National Champion (not to mention former World Champion) and deserves hearty congratulations for it. (Well done, mate!) His battles with Bobby Hedden in the B then Charlie in the A were among the best seen at Auburn all year. This was not emphasized in my report (it was about 4 a.m. when I finished it), so I would like to emphasise it now.

Back to the format, I found it interesting to see two different perspectives from 2 different cultures.

Steve Brown, the Missouri Brit, was all for adding double or treble main event points, to be added to the heat points scored to keep spectators in their seats till the last race, to end up with a champion with the highest point score.

Eric Ryan, a local Californian, favoured the elimination process, through semi-finals, to a final, doing away with counting up point scores.

The British culture is to fill in the program, keep up with the scores, exercising that mental arithmetic we spent years learning, and work out all the permutations necessary for who to finish in which position. Announcers in British Speedway have the answer for who has to finish in which position in order to take 11th place in the totals, before the start of the race, that nobody here would ever consider. The American culture is to sit back and enjoy the race, and the winner of the last one is the champion. I thought that Kymber Estes's point is very valid that this format might be more interesting for the spectators, but the old format is easier on the riders.

For the first time, I am at last beginning to see the benefits of the GP format. It would prevent a situation like what happened last Friday, where a runaway point scorer plants a pre-conceived notion in the minds of the spectators, of who "deserves" to win. It allows a rider to make a mistake and recover, until the semi-finals and final. A little mentioned deficiency of this system however is that a rider who easily wins all his rides, has to take less rides than the rider who is struggling. It also has the benefit that every race counts. The old system was open to riders "helping" one another.

- Gary Roberts - groberts@iee.org groberts@iee.org

Ryan Evans' Report

Greg Hancock won the National Championship Final in spectacular fashion to capture his third U.S. National Championship at Auburn.

Defending A.M.A. National Champion and World Number Two Billy Hamill, fresh from his Grand Prix victory a week earlier, was dominant in the qualifying rounds by winning all his races in superb fashion, thus earning first gate choice for the Final. Hamill selected the second starting position. Mike Faria's 12 points earned him second choice and he took the pole. Charlie Venegas then chose gate three leaving Hancock with the outside. This created an interesting coincidence as the lineup for last year's Final was exactly the same and the riders were in the same gate positions.

When the tapes went up Venegas was first to turn one and secured the lead exiting turn two. Hancock immediately went to the outside and was closing the gap between he and Venegas as they entered turn three. Coming off turn four Hancock used his momentum to make a spectacular outside pass on the front straight and he took control of the lead in turn one. Hancock immediately opened up ground Venegas on the back straight.

Hamill, suffering from his only poor start of the night, tried desperately to get into the hunt but as he exited turn two the second time he brushed the wall and wheelied and miraculously stayed on his bike while nearly collecting Faria. Hamill's near mishap cost he and Faria any chance at contending for the lead.

At the front Hancock maintained a comfortable lead and rode flawlessly the rest of the race to capture his second title in three years and third overall. Venegas finished second, Hamill finished third, and Faria finished fourth.

To get to the Final Hancock had to win the Semi-Final as only the top three point scorers were seeded into the Final. The field for the Semi-Final wasn't complete, however, as Venegas and Northern California Champion Bobby Hedden tied for third overall and a runoff was required to determine who would be in the Final and who would have to qualify through the Semi Final. Apparently, Venegas was unaware that a tie would be settled by a runoff rather than by most heat wins and this led to a heated exchange between Venegas and some of the officials. Venegas quickly took the lead in the runoff and was never challenged, therefore, taking the guaranteed position in the Final and forcing Hedden to try again in the Semi-Final.

Hancock made the start in the Semi-Final but Hedden immediately battled him for the lead. Hedden took the lead at the end of lap one but Hancock struck back quickly in turn two to regain the lead. Hedden remained on Hancock's back tire but was unable to pass the former World Champion who earned the last spot in the Championship Final.

Prior to the meeting, many of the prognosticators had predicted that Hamill and Hancock would be the two riders to beat. Hamill quickly solidified those predictions by making a mockery of race one and winning it by large margin over Dukie Ermolenko and Ryan Fisher.

Gary Hicks started quickly from gate three and took the lead followed by Hedden. Billy Janniro passed Hedden for second and gave chase after Hicks. Hicks, riding conservatively to avoid a couple bumps in the middle of the race track, stuck to the low line but Janniro was closing fast. Janniro made one last attempt on the final corner, but lifted coming out of turn four and took Hicks down on the front straight. After a long discussion, which included lobbying from Janniro, the referee excluded Janniro and awarded the race to Hicks who was able to walk away after spending several minutes on the ground.

Former Overseas Champion Chris Manchester took the lead in race three with Hancock trying unsuccessfully to pass on the outside. Bart Bast went down in turn three and Hancock went too wide allowing Chad Felicio to take second. Hancock managed to pass Felicio but Manchester easily took his first three points of the evening.

Charlie Venegas closed out round one with a great start from the pole and a victory over Faria, Josh Larsen, and Bobby Schwartz.

Round two opened with Hamill getting the start ahead of Faria and another easy victory, but the real story was Hancock, who finished last and had a total of two points after two rounds and had struggled to earn those.

Hicks showed no effects from being taken down earlier by trapping from the outside and getting the victory over Ermolenko, Felicio, and Schwartz. Venegas made another great start and was victorious over Janniro, Manchester, and Ian Ferris. Fisher ended the second round by defeating Bast, Josh Larsen, and Robert Curry.

Two of the three unbeaten riders met in race nine as Hicks lined up on the pole and Hamill in gate three with Larsen in between and Manchester on the outside. All four riders converged on turn one simultaneously with Hamill coming out the best and Hicks in second. Hicks remained close but never really challenged Hamill who took the win to raise his total to 9 points. Despite finishing second, Hicks was satisfied with 8 points after three races.

Venegas, also entering the round unbeaten, would have his chance to match Hamill in the next race. There appeared to be movement at the line and Venegas was left behind as the tapes went up. The race was allowed to continue and Hedden was in the lead. Venegas angrily shook his fist at the starter as he passed the line the first time. Hedden held off Ermolenko for the win and Bast finished third. A frustrated Venegas stopped after the race to share his opinion about the start with the track officials.

Hancock was faced with a must-win situation in race eleven. Schwartz was disqualified for touching the tapes and Tommy Hedden was brought in as reserve. Curry went through the tapes on the next attempt. On the third try Hancock was an easy winner and was certainly hoping that he had himself on the right path.

Faria ended round three by earning his first victory over the young duo of Fisher and Janniro. At intermission, Hamill had a perfect nine points, Hicks had eight, Faria had seven, with Ermolenko, Fisher, Hedden, and Venegas each with six points.

Hamill began the fourth round the same way he began all the others as he trapped from gate four and easily defeated Janniro to keep his score perfect. Faria won his second consecutive race by beating Ermolenko and Manchester in race fourteen. Larsen used his pole position to get the start and win his first race of the evening ahead of Hedden.

Venegas got back on the winning track by beating Hancock to end round four, but Hicks suffered an engine failure while running third and causing serious damage to his championship hopes.

Hamill faced his last three challengers of the preliminary rounds in race 17, but made another perfect start and held off Venegas to take his place in the Championship Final.

All four riders in race 18 held hopes of getting to the Championship Round and all except Ermolenko needed a victory to secure their chance. Hancock ran away with the victory and put himself into the Semi-Final. Janniro's second place wouldn't be enough to continue his evening while Ermolenko's third put him in the Semi-Final.

Race 19 amazingly began without Hicks who had a chance to qualify directly to the Final. Bast earned the victory and earn the cheers of his partisan hometown crowd. Faria's second place gave him 12 points and the second gate choice for the Final.

The last race was important as Hedden needed a victory to force a runoff with Venegas to get into the Final, Manchester needed a victory to force a runoff with Hicks for the last chance in the Semi-Final, and Fisher needed second to bump Hicks or third to force a runoff. Hedden would be the only one to get his wish as he took an easy victory with Schwartz taking second, Manchester third, and Fisher finishing fourth.

After the qualifying rounds Hamill and Faria were seeded into the Final with 15 and 12 points, respectively, and Venegas and Hedden having a runoff for the last seed. Hancock, Ermolenko, and Hicks awaited the loser of the runoff to complete the field for the Semi-Final.

Hancock's victory places him in elite company as only the fourth rider to win 3 U.S. National Championships. He joins Rick Woods (1968, 1970, 1972), Mike Faria (1990-91, 1997), and Mike Bast (1971, 1973, 1975-79).

A special ceremony was held after the second round to honor Mike Bast. A.M.A. Officials presented the legendary 7-time U.S. Champion with a medal for his induction into the A.M.A. Hall of Fame.

SCORING                 1   2   3   4   5  Total
 1 - Billy Hamill       3   3   3   3   3  15
13 - Mike Faria         2   2   3   3   2  12
 5 - Bobby Hedden       2   1   3   2   3  11
15 - Charlie Venegas    3   3   0   3   2  11
 9 - Greg Hancock       2   0   3   2   3  10
 2 - Dukie Ermolenko    2   2   2   2   1   9
 6 - Gary Hicks         3   3   2   E   N   8
 4 - Ryan Fisher        1   3   2   1   0   7
 7 - Billy Janniro      Fx  2   1   2   2   7
12 - Bart Bast          0   2   1   1   3   7
11 - Chris Manchester   3   1   0   1   1   6
16 - Josh Larsen        1   1   1   3   0   6
14 - Bobby Schwartz     0   1   T   0   2   3
10 - Chad Felicio       1   0   0   1   1   3
(Res.) Tommy Hedden     2   1               3
 8 - Robert Curry       1   0   T   0   0   1
 3 - Ian Ferris         0   0   1   0   0   1

 1: Hamill, Ermolenko, Fisher, Ferris
 2: Hicks, B. Hedden, Curry, Janniro (fell, excluded)
 3: Manchester, Hancock, Felicio, Bast (fell, remounted)
 4: Venegas, Faria, Larsen, Schwartz
 5: Hamill, Faria, B. Hedden, Hancock
 6: Hicks, Ermolenko, Schwartz, Felicio
 7: Venegas, Janniro, Manchester, Ferris
 8: Fisher, Bast, Larsen, Curry
 9: Hamill, Hicks, Larsen, Manchester
10: B. Hedden, Ermolenko, Bast, Venegas
11: Hancock, T. Hedden, Ferris, Curry (tape exclusion), Schwartz (tape 
12: Faria, Fisher, Janniro, Felicio
13: Hamill, Janniro, Bast, Schwartz
14: Faria, Ermolenko, Manchester, Curry
15: Larsen, B. Hedden, Felicio, Ferris
16: Venegas, Hancock, Fisher, Hicks (engine failure)
17: Hamill, Venegas, Felicio, Curry
18: Hancock, Janniro, Ermolenko, Larsen
19: Bast, Faria, T. Hedden, Ferris, Hicks (non starter)
20: B. Hedden, Schwartz, Manchester, Fisher
Runoff for third seed into Final: Venegas, B. Hedden
Semi-Final: Hancock, B. Hedden, Ermolenko, Hicks
U.S. National Championship Final: Hancock, Venegas, Hamill, Faria

Ryan Evans sideways31@aol.com

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