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Fast Fridays Speedway

Gold Country Fairgrounds - Auburn, CA

2001 American Speedway's Civil War Challenge
Fast Fridays Speedway
July 27, 2001
From Gary Roberts and Eric Ryan

Last night Fast Fridays hosted American Speedway's Civil War Challenge, Northern California verses Southern California. This was probably the best Civil War event to date that I have witnessed, in that the teams were well matched. This was the result of a couple of changes of team membership.  Chris Manchester, who lives in the North, has for some reason always ridden for the South.  Ryan Fisher at one time was only allowed to ride in the North and has ridden for us in previous years in this event, even though he has always lived in the South. This year he rode for the South. The South were without Charlie Venegas, a guaranteed top scorer in previous years. The North pulled in heavy duty help from European based Northerners Billy Janniro and the Space Cowboy, John Cook.

The South 43
Josh Larsen       1 0 3 0     4
Chris Manchester  3 3 1 3     10
Bobby Schwartz    1 1 1 3      6
Shawn McConnell     l 1 0 0 0 1  1
Ryan Fisher       3 1 1 1      6
Ed Castro         0 T N 0      0
Gary Hicks        3 3 3 2 0   11+1
Dukie Ermolenko   1 0 3 1      5
Jim Estes         0            0  from one ride

The North 53
Mike Faria        2 2 3 3    10
John Cook         0 1 2 2     5+3
Bart Bast         3 3 2 3 1   13
Billy Janniro     2 2 0 2      6+3
Bobby Hedden      2 3 0 1      6+1
Tommy Hedden      1 2 1 2     6+2
Chad Felicio      2 1 0 0      3+1
Eric Carrillo     0 2 2 2      6
Bryan Yarrow      (reserve) did not ride

The track started off somewhat deep, but after the first round settled down and there were many excellent races. The score at the end of the first round was an even 12-12, but the North pulled ahead in the second round.  By the start of heat 11 there was a 10 point gap in the North's favor, so Gary Hicks came in a tactical substitute for Ed Castro, bringing a 4-2 to the South. In heat 12 Bobby Hedden hit the wall coming out of turn 2 and was disqualified by "no nonsense" referee Steve Lucero.  This left Hicks and Ermolenko to get a 5-1 in the re-run, closing the third round at 38-34. Heat 14 was great race, in which Bobby Schwartz got an outstanding gate and pulled away, with Shawn McConnell in second place.  An extremely determined Eric Carrillo started working on McConnell and soon got past him then tried to hold him for team mate Chad Felicio to get past too. Chad and Shawn had a great battle for the rest of the race, swapping places, several times. After 4 laps Eric took second with Shawn third.  This closed the gap down to 2 points.  But good team riding, first by Faria and Cook, then by Bast and Janniro allowed the North to end the fourth round at 53-43.

For the South, Chris Manchester rode extremely well.  Chris is hot and cold at Auburn.  This year he has won main events, but scored 4 points in the North American World Championship qualifier.  Last year he scored zero in the North verses South.   Gary Hicks always goes well at Auburn, and was the biggest single reason the South won last year.  This year, he was top scorer again, with fortunately and sometimes unusual for Gary, no mechanical gremlins haunting him.  Ryan Fisher started well, then faded.  Josh Larsen was not able to find the form that won him the North American WC qualifier.

For the North, Bart Bast was the man.  Losing only a single point, to Larsen, he rode brilliantly in every race.  The only thing to go wrong was squeezing team mate Janniro into the wall in heat 9!  "Team Geritol" (as John Cook referred to himself and Mike Faria) rode well and got better as the track improved.  "Team Hedden" had a mixed night, but racked up a worthy points contribution. Eric Carrillo fell in the heavy dirt in the first race, but rode brilliantly after that.

After this there were A and B main events, with hyper-scores, which could so easily have turned the final score around.  The format gives scores in the B main of 6, 4, 2, 1 and in the A main of 12, 8, 4, 2.  A comment here: Maybe I am a bit of a traditionalist here, but I think the heavy weighted scores in these last 2 races turns the scoring for the event into a lottery.  After close battling and lots of great team work from all 8 team members for the entire 16 races, it would have been sad to see the event win turned around by the results of only 4 team members.  As another example of how this non-standard scoring complicates things, I was on the infield at the prize presentations and knowing I am one of the few who keeps score, announcer Mike Rooney asked me if I knew the final score (Could that happen in Europe!!!) Unfortunately I didn't have my glasses, so was unable to help, but it did demonstrate that there were others who found it difficult to keep up with the hyper-scores!  A cultural difference here between US and European Speedway. I don't think anyone really cared how the points system worked, who scored how many points, or even who won.  Everyone came to see a great night of racing, which we all got.

As it happened, the South took first and third in the B and the North took first and third in the A, bringing the final score to 78 - 62.

B Main: Larsen, Cook, Ermolenko, Faria

Faria missed the gate and never recovered.  John Cook put in a valiant effort holding off Dukie, but looked unlikely to catch Josh.

A Main: Janniro, Hicks, Bast, Manchester.

Bast's worst race of the night and Janniro's best. Bart missed out at the start and took a couple of laps to get past Manchester.  After that team mate Janniro spent most of the rest of the race looking back, trying to hold Gary Hicks, to enable Bart through, but it didn't happen.

The Division 1 Junior Speedway riders had a couple of heat races and a main event and demonstrated how, once again, we have a troop of outstanding riders coming up for the future.  Jeff Butler rode in both heats but fell in the second and burnt fingers kept him out of the main.  Alex Marcucci was missing, but Justin Boyle made his first Northern California appearance of the year on a new Jawa Laydown.  Justin easily won the first heat, so got moved back from the zero yard line for the rest of the night.  The finishing order in the main event was as follows:

Juniors Main Event
     1 Danny Easley
     2 TJ Fowler
     3 Mark Carrillo
     4 JT Mabry
     5 Justin Boyle
     6 Greg Hooten

Once again, it showed that the Junior Division 1 title is wide open this year.  The name to go on the trophy could be any one of at least four, promising a very exciting Junior National Championship on August 31.  It also gives a hint at which team will be walking away with the Civil War Challenge in 5 - 10 years time!

By Eric Ryan

Hey Gang,

What a night for Speedway Motorcycle Racing at the Gold County Fairgrounds in Auburn California. It was North vs. South -- annual meeting between the best nine racers each from Northern and Southern California. With sixteen heats and two bonus main events, it is the only Team meeting in the United States. There was no individual rider who was the winner--AND THE NORTH WON.

At the beginning of the match I felt that the North was going to have a difficult time overcoming the ominous southern team. Boy was I wrong. Initially I thought that the North had too many young and inexperienced riders with only Faria, Cook, and Bast as our strong points. But Billy Janniro really pulled his weight by winning the final A-Main for the North.

Looking over my notes, I am finding that it is difficult to put into words the fierce and shear determination some of these riders exhibited to win their heats.

The first heat saw a very thick track which Chris Manchester took the first corner racing a very fast third division line--two wheels in, slide the rear out of the corner. Faria tried several lines first chopping down on the inside then jumping to the outside trying to pass Manchester and also block Larson so that Cook could make a point. But it was Manchester, Faria, Larson, and Cook at the line. Four to two South.

The second heat saw a big five points for the North. Bast gets the gate and soon after McConnell falls. Billy makes a great pass on the inside of turn one by the third lap to take second from Schwartz. Seven to Five North.

Third heat is B. Hedden with the gate but Fisher over takes him for the victory. Castro goes wide in turn four and gives third place to T. Hedden. Great race.

Fourth heat sees Hicks with the gate and the victory, Felicio gets second, Ermolenko third and Carrillo falls down in turn three DNF.

Junior racing at the intermission saw staggered start of a handicap race. Justin Boyle from SoCal takes it.

Fifth heat was the best race so far. Seeing Manchester fight hard to take First from third. Carrillo, Felicio, and Larson.

Sixth heat sees some good team racing from the Heddens. Bobby lets his brother by at the tapes for a big five points for the north. This is a turning point for the North as far as points go.

Seventh heat Castro breaks the tapes causing a restart and substitution of Estes for Castro and another big five points for Bast and Janniro who held back Fisher and Estes.

Unfortunately my notes are getting thin (two beers now) from here on so here are some highlights:

Janniro falls in turn two of heat nine on the first lap. Racing continues despite small protest from Billy.

The intermission after the twelfth heat saw some rules discussion from David Joiner and Mike Rooney for the crowd. They explained the fact that if a team was down by ten points, they were allowed a technical substitution in every heat that they were down by ten or more points. This is why the South was allowed to use Gary Hicks for so many heats. We also were treated by the beaming presence of Charlie Venegas who seems to be walking without a limp and says he will be back this year for a race after recovering from his broken leg due to Ice racing.

The Fifteenth heat showed flawless synchronicity with Faria and Cook flying in formation for at least the last three laps for another big five points for the North.

Sixteenth heat sees a mean Bart Bast take the gate from the pole and forcing Hicks wide in the apex of three and four so that Janniro can get second place. Bast and Janniro show off with Twin Yellow Seco Wheelies down the back straight.

Mike Rooney starts an audience wave before the B-Main boasting: "It's unstoppable!" and "After the races were gonna take over the 7-11!" Mike has to be the best announcer in any venue. Cracks me up every Friday.

B-Main is worth two heats in points, and the South takes it with Larson, Cook, Ermolenko, and Faria in fourth. This leaves the South down by nine points going into the A-Main. They had to get first and second to win the night, but they still have a chance.

A-Main Janniro saves his best for last taking the gate from the wall on a "righteous track". Victory Wheelies down the back straight with checkered flag in hand into a 360 broady and three heaves into the air by the North team.

Victory was ours. Whatta night.

Eric Ryan

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