Charlie "The Edge" Venegas took advantage of a second chance and captured the Scratch Main as speedway made its annual visit to Ventura Raceway in California. It was the second consecutive year that Venegas took top honors at this venue.
The original start of the six-rider main ended almost as soon as it began as first there was movement at the start, and then when the tapes went up, Venegas's front wheel did as well, throwing Charlie to his backside. Due to the movement at the tapes prior to the start, Venegas was granted a reprieve and he cashed in on his golden opportunity. Venegas, however, was forced to seek a new machine and Randy DiFrancesco was quick to oblige.
Venegas trapped the field from his outside starting position and held the lead as they came off turn two. Dukie Ermolenko and Bobby Schwartz began to challenge as they went down the back straight. At the close of lap one Venegas was the leader, Ermolenko second, Schwartz was out of the hunt but Gary Hicks was now contending. Ermolenko and Hicks remained within striking distance but weren't able to close ground on Venegas who took the victory. Ermolenko finished second, 16 year old Ryan Fisher finished third, Eddie Castro was fourth, Hicks, who began experiencing engine trouble on the last lap, finished fifth, with Schwartz coming in sixth.
The racing on the 1/5-mile banked oval was superb as the riders used the rare opportunity to compete on a European-sized track to provide many fast, action-packed races with a lot of passing and side-by-side duels. Castro was particularly impressive during the qualifying heats as he came from the back to earn victories in all three of his races. Ermolenko also won all three of his heats, but did so in different fashion as he was able to make the start in all three races and take comparatively easy victories. The riders competed in three rounds of scratch heats with the top 12 earning positions in two six-rider semi-finals with the top three in each semi qualifying for the six-rider main event.
In the first semi-final it was Hicks who took the lead at the outset but Ermolenko wasn't about to let his unbeaten streak end that easily. The two waged a battle for four laps with excellent side-by-side racing. Meanwhile DiFrancesco, sitting in the last transfer spot, was feeling the heat of Fisher. Hicks was able to hold off Ermolenko for the victory, but DiFrancesco couldn't hold off Fisher who took third place and a ticket to the main with a last lap pass.
Venegas got a great start in the second semi and Castro was put in the familiar position of coming from behind. The diminutive rider pressured Venegas all four laps, but he, too, was unable to remain unbeaten. Schwartz, despite pressure from Andy Northrup, was able to take the last spot in the main event with a third place.
Northrup and DiFrancesco gated together in the Consolation, but "The Enforcer" was the leader as they came off turn two. DiFrancesco gave Northrup everything he had but was unable to get by. Northrup took the victory, DiFrancesco was second, and Mark Adams was third.
The Support Main had to be restarted when Chad Newlee went down in turn four and Gerry Duttweiler had to lay the bike down to avoid him. Newlee was put on the penalty line for the restart. On the restart, Mark Hitchcock and Billy Lyons were battling for the lead on lap one when Lyons went down in turn three. The rest of the field managed to avoid him and the race continued. Hitchcock seemed destined for victory when "Gnarly" Bill McCarley, who had recovered from a bad start to get into second place, began to apply pressure. On the final bend Hitchcock drifted wide and McCarley kept his bike on the chalk and was able to steal a victory at the line.
Speedway was held at Ventura on Tuesday Nights from 1972 until 1987 and was known as the "Commotion by the Ocean". Harry Oxley was the original promoter of Ventura and the track was a carbon copy of Costa Mesa. He eventually turned over the reigns and the track went through more than one promoter before Jim Naylor took control. Over the years the track steadily got bigger and bigger until it reached its current 1/5-mile in length. The experience that some younger riders got on the bigger track provided a springboard for a jump to the British Leagues. Riders such as Lance King, Steve Lucero, Rick Miller, Robert Pfetzing, and Sam Ermolenko were just a few who used their big track experience to go to England. This was only the second speedway race at Ventura since the 1994 American Final, (won by Greg Hancock) and just the third speedway race held at the facility since regular speedway action ceased after the 1987 season.
RESULTS Qualifying Rounds 1 2 3 T 3 - Gary Hicks 1 3 4 8 6 - Shawn McConnell (scratch) 8 - Gary Ackroyd (scratch) 11 - Bobby Schwartz 4 3 3 10 12 - Randy DiFrancesco 3 4 1 8 14 - Eddie Castro 4 4 4 12 15 - Dukie Ermolenko 4 4 4 12 19 - Richard Jones 2 1 N 3 23 - Robbie Sauer 2 2 2 6 36 - Ryan Fisher 4 3 4 11 43 - Charlie Venegas E 4 3 7 47 - Johnny Walker 2 1 1 4 56 - Jim Estes 3 3 3 9 119 - Brad Sauer 1 2 2 5 130 - Chris Manchester E N N 0 166 - Andy Northrup 2 2 3 7 189 - Danny Perkins (scratch) 216 - Kitt Nay 1 1 1 3 223 - Mark Adams 3 2 2 7 243 - Sean McDougall 3 1 2 6 Race Results 1: Ermolenko, Adams, Northrup, B.Sauer (fell, remounted) 2: Schwartz, Estes, R.Sauer, Manchester (engine failure) 3: Castro, DiFrancesco, Jones, Nay, Venegas (engine failure) 4: Fisher, McDougall, Walker, Hicks (engine failure) 10: DiFrancesco, Fisher, R.Sauer, McDougall 11: Ermolenko, Schwartz, B.Sauer, Jones (fell) 12: Venegas, Estes, Northrup, Walker 13: Castro, Hicks, Adams, Nay (fell, remounted), Manchester (non-starter) 19: Castro, Northrup, McDougall, Jones (non-starter) 20: Fisher, Schwartz, B.Sauer, Walker, Manchester (non-starter) 21: Ermolenko, Venegas, Adams, DiFrancesco 22: Hicks, Estes, R.Sauer, Nay Semi-Final #1: Hicks, Ermolenko, Fisher, DiFrancesco, R.Sauer, Adams Semi-Final #2: Venegas, Castro, Schwartz, Northrup, Estes, McDougall Support Main Event (restart) 120 - Bill McCarley 177 - Mark Hitchcock 200 - Gerry Duttweiler 197 - Greg Starcevic 123 - Chad Newlee (penalty line) 321 - Billy Lyons (fell) Scratch Consolation 166 - Andy Northrup 12 - Randy DiFrancesco 223 - Mark Adams 23 - Robbie Sauer 243 - Sean McDougall 56 - Jim Estes (non-starter) Scratch Main (restart) 43 - Charlie Venegas 15 - Dukie Ermolenko 36 - Ryan Fisher 14 - Eddie Castro 3 - Gary Hicks 11 - Bobby Schwartz
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