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Fast Fridays Speedway

Gold Country Fairgrounds - Auburn, CA

2001 AMA National Championship
Fast Fridays Speedway
September 21, 2001
From Gary Roberts

Fast Fridays hosted the 2001 AMA National Championship in Auburn, California on Friday night.

The list of riders suggested that this would be probably the best National Championship for many years.  In the event, there were a couple of major disappointments in riders unable to attend, but the racing itself went on to be first class.  Reigning champion Greg Hancock got delayed in Sweden and Josh Larsen had work commitments, so were replaced with reserves Bryan Yarrow and Chris Kerr.

The evening had a few surprises, but the winner was no surprise.  1999 AMA National Champion Billy Hamill recaptured his title, but second and third places Billy Janniro and Ryan Fisher deservedly took their places for the first time, on the AMA National Championship rostrum.

The format was the same as the last couple of years with a 20 heat 16 man standard championship format, with 4th to 7th places going to the semi-final and the semi-final winner joining the first to third highest point scorers in the Final.

Points scored were as follows:
Billy Hamill                 3 3 3 3 2   14
Ryan Fisher               3 3 3 1 3    13
Chris Manchester    2 3 3 2 3    13
Billy Janniro               2 2 3 2 2    11
Mike Faria                 1 1 2 3 3     10
Bart Bast                   3 1 2 1 3     10
Bobby Hedden         3 2 1 3 1      10
John Cook                 1 3 1 2 2      9
Charlie Venegas      1 0 2 3 0      6
Eric Carrillo               0 2 1 0 2      5
Chad Felicio             2 0 1 0 1      4
Bobby Schwartz       1 0 2 1 0     4
Tommy Hedden        2 1 0 1 0    4
Charles Ermolenko   0 1 0 2 0    3
Bryan Yarrow             0 2 0 0 0    2
Chris Kerr                    0 0 0 0 1    1
Billy Hiles (reserve)    1 from 1 ride
Ivan Sevart (reserve)    0 from 1 ride

Heat Results:
1. Fisher, T Hedden, Faria, Yarrow
Fisher from the gate. Faria made a poor gate and spent the race unsuccessfully trying to get past Tommy Hedden.

2. Bast, Manchester, Schwartz, Ermolenko
First time out, Bast got a great start, while Manchester and Schwartz got tangled in turn one. In the rerun Bast again got the start followed by Manchester and Ermolenko.  In his effort get past Chris, Dukie found traction coming out of turn two, ran into the back of Chris and high sided.  It looked painful, but he was able to get up.  He told me afterwards he was sore.  He was excluded from the second restart, and replaced by reserve Ivan Sevart. Bart, for the third time took the lead and held it for 4 laps.

3. Hamill, Janniro, Cook, Kerr
John Cook was first into turn one, but found Hamill and Janniro getting past either side of him coming out of turn two.  Hamill quickly established a safe lead, which he maintained effortlessly.

4. B. Hedden, Felicio, Venegas, Carrillo
Bobby Hedden took the gate and stayed in front.  Charlie Venegas, who has many times demonstrated his gating expertise at Auburn was riding here for the first time since his January ice racing accident.  Charlie still has a rod in the leg he broke, and in only his second event this season, did not look like his former self.  He followed Chad closely waiting for a mistake, which didn't happen.

5. Fisher, Janniro, Bast, Venegas
Ryan Fisher made it clear that his first race win was the way he meant to continue for the evening.  Janniro got a terrible start, but worked his way to second.  This was probably the most hard fought race of the night.

6. Cook, Carrillo, T. Hedden, Schwartz
Cook got the gate, followed by Bobby Schwartz.  Over the next 4 laps the race was for the back 3 places.  Eric Carrillo got past Bobby, and on the last lap overshot turn two and in pulling back closed Bobby's path, letting Tom Hedden into third.

7. Manchester, B. Hedden, Faria, Kerr
Manchester got the gate, Faria and Hedden fought for second, Kerr found traction which put him the wall.

8. Hamill, Yarrow, Ermolenko, Felicio
Hamill won this one by over a quarter of a lap.  Bryan Yarrow was in second and Dukie and Chad spend the race trying unsuccessfully to get past him.  Dukie got past Chad for third.

9. Fisher, Schwartz, Felicio, Kerr
This was an interesting race.  Bobby Schwarz got the gate and Ryan struggled to get past him for three laps, till Bobby went very wide, leaving the door wide open for Ryan to take the win.

10. Hamill, Bast, B. Hedden, T. Hedden
Again, Billy Hamill from the gate.  Bast and Hedden had a good race, with Bast eventually taking second.

11. Janniro, Faria, Carrillo, Ermolenko
Coming out the gate Janniro bounced off Faria, onto Ermolenko.  Dukie expected a restart, but non-nonsense-referee Steve Lucero let it go.  Janniro won with Faria close behind in second.  So after three races Faria had 4 points.  Mike has been a consistent finalist in the Auburn AMA National events, as well as being highly placed in most Costa Mesa National Championship events for the last two decades, but at this stage it really did not look good for him.

12. Manchester, Venegas, Cook, Yarrow
Chris Manchester took the gate and was gone.  John Cook was last out of turn two and spent most of the race getting past Bryan Yarrow.

13. Hamill, Manchester, Fisher, Carrillo
Ryan Fisher's one mediocre race.  Hamill took the gate, followed by Manchester.   Ryan was left to battle with Eric Carrillo for third.

14. Venegas, Ermolenko, T. Hedden, Kerr
At last, a Charlie Venegas gate job!  But he was followed all race by Dukie.

15. Faria, Cook, Bast, Felicio
Cook got the gate and for the first two laps battled with Faria and Bast, before settling in the finishing order.

16. B. Hedden, Janniro, Schwartz, Yarrow
Janniro got the gate and was pursued by Bobby Hedden.  On the third lap Hedden got past and on turn four Janniro pulled one of his mid-corner wheelie spectacles, that I think everyone is still wondering how he managed to survive without taking out at least some wall.

17. Fisher, Cook, B. Hedden, Ermolenko
Fisher got the gate, but the race was between Cook and Hedden for second.

18. Manchester, Janniro, Felicio, T. Hedden
Another great race, again with Janniro.  He and Manchester fought side by side for 4 laps then went past the gate in the same way.  Very, very close, the decision went to Manchester.

19. Faria, Hamill, Hiles, Schwartz
A most peculiar race.  Venegas got disqualified for a tape infringement and was replaced by reserve Billy Hiles.  Faria and Hiles gated and Hamill in gate 3 took Schwartz in gate 4 so wide, both nearly hit the Auburn corner wall. Schwartz clearly expected a restart, but it did not happen.  Hamill was so far behind it took a couple of laps to catch Hiles, by which time Faria was gone.

20. Bast, Carrillo, Kerr, Yarrow.
Bart lead with a rerun of the 1999 Junior Speedway Division One race behind him, with the three competitors in the usual finishing order, at that time doing the same now.

Janniro, Faria, Bast, B. Hedden
More drama.  Bobby Hedden on the outside fell down in turn one, in what looked like a classic case of first corner bunching.  The race was stopped and Hedden disqualified.   He was most unhappy, but referee Lucero's mind was made up.  In the rerun Janniro got the gate and built a good lead, while Faria and Bast battled hard behind him.   On the third lap, Janniro parked in the turn 4, very nearly collecting Faria, but in his typical style managed to recover and went on for the win.

Hamill, Janniro, Fisher, Manchester
The main was comparatively uneventful.  Hamill took the gate but Janniro pushed hard at some times only inches behind him.  Chris Manchester put pressure on Ryan Fisher, but made no impression.

So Billy Hamill is AMA National Champion again.  He never looked seriously threatened all evening and for the fourth year in succession, the AMA National title goes to a European based rider.  To me, the breakthrough this year was the fact that America's youngsters have made it into the results for this major event.  To many at Auburn this might have come as a surprise, since they have barely seen any of the rostrum placed riders this year. Janniro was in Europe this season and Fisher has focused on riding in Southern California.  Local regulars, Hedden, Bast and Faria's were the most likely finalists in the eyes of many Auburn spectators.  For all three, their event finished at the semi-final.

How about the future?  In the next couple of years, I would expect to see Carrillo, Yarrow and Kerr move up the points scale.  Wishful thinking? No really, when one considers that two years ago, in this event Ryan Fisher scored zero, then last year scored 7. The kids are moving up and taking over! Although Auburn has at times this year struggled for lack of division 1 riders, I believe the long term future looks rosy.   An army of Junior Speedway riders will be invading over the next 5 years.

Normally the AMA National would wind up the season but this year there is an additional event, a USA verses the World, on November 2. Further details to follow.

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