Arrowhead Motor Speedway
San Bernardino, California
2001 Arrowhead Track Championship
September 12, 2001
From Ryan Evans
President George W. Bush asked for the people of our nation to return things to normal, and nothing has been more normal than speedway in San Bernardino on Wednesday Nights. The day after one of the darkest days in American history, Charlie Venegas, promoter of Arrowhead Motor Speedway, made the decision that the races should go on, and the riders gave an overflow crowd something to cheer about. After an emotional tribute to the victims of Tuesday's tragedy in New York, which included the riders and fans singing the national anthem in unison, the riders took to the track and provided the most exciting evening of racing the track saw all year as the Track Championship wasn't decided until the final race of the season.
The program featured 35 speedway races, two quad races, two Harley races, and a junior exhibition with Justin Boyle. The Track Championship would be decided with the standard championship-style format. The Second Division and Second Division B Championships were decided with an all-scratch format that had heats, semis, and then the main events.
The first race pitted the top two in track points, Ryan Fisher and Dukie Ermolenko, as well as Shawn McConnell. Ermolenko was first into turn one, but lifted badly exiting turn two allowing Fisher and McConnell to go past. Fisher went on to collect his first three points of the night. Eddie Castro was leading the second race when he experienced engine troubles which allowed Bobby Krips to get the victory. This would prove to be a recurring theme on what would be a miserable night for Castro. Bobby Schwartz tallied his first three points with a victory over Jim Estes in the third race. Scott Brant was an easy winner to close out round one.
Brant started off round two with his second victory of the evening with Estes getting second place again. Ermolenko earned his first victory of the evening in the second race of the round. Schwartz held off McConnell to match Brant at six points, while Castro suffered another mechanical problem. Fisher kept pace with Brant and Schwartz with a victory over Krips to close out the second round.
Schwartz made it three for three by opening round three with a victory. The next race saw Ermolenko get his second straight victory. McConnell earned his first victory of the evening by defeating Estes.
The final race before intermission would be the first major showdown of the evening. Brant and Fisher both came in with perfect scores and were looking to match Schwartz at nine points. Brant beat Fisher into turn one and held the lead coming out of turn two. Fisher tried to go around Brant on the back straight while Castro, trying to play spoiler, tried to pass both on the outside. Castro brushed the fence and ended up on the ground. Brant led after the first lap, but Castro was still prone on the track and the red flag came out and Castro was excluded. Fisher took advantage of the second chance by getting the gate over Brant and holding him off the entire way to maintain his perfect score.
At intermission it was Schwartz and Fisher tied at the top with nine points, Brant had eight points, McConnell and Ermolenko each had seven points, while Estes and Krips had six apiece.
John DeFries opened the fourth round with a win over Mark Adams. The next race would be the toughest challenge to the perfect score of Schwartz, who would have to face Brant and Ermolenko. Schwartz got the start from gate four and took the lead with Brant breathing down his neck. Brant, hoping to only remain a point behind Fisher, kept the pressure on Schwartz before passing him and taking the victory and bringing the crowd to its feet. McConnell collected his second straight win and Fisher officially assumed the points lead by taking the last race and pushing his total to 12.
Krips and DeFries put on a great battle to open the final round with Krips taking the win and receiving a great ovation from the crowd. Ermolenko won the next race to close his evening with 11 points. Estes was remarkably consistent by finishing second in every race of the night and finishing with 10 points. Brant finished his fifth race with a victory over McConnell, a total of 14 points, and the hope that Schwartz would defeat Fisher to force a runoff.
The final race of the evening, and of the Arrowhead season, provided all the drama of something produced in Hollywood. Schwartz, needing a victory to force a three-way runoff with himself, Fisher, and Brant, lined up in gate three. Fisher, hoping to complete a perfect evening with a victory, lined up in gate four. Adams, hoping to play spoiler in somebody's evening, was in gate two. With Brant watching with vested interest from the pits, Schwartz was away first with Fisher right behind him. Schwartz, thinking Fisher would go wide in turn two, moved up the track, but Fisher exited the corner low and went to the inside on the back straight. Fisher pushed Schwartz as they entered turn three and took the lead while simultaneously bringing the crowd to its feet. Schwartz went after the 18 year old rider and was on his back tire at the end of the second lap. Schwartz kept the heat on his younger adversary, but couldn't supplant him for the lead. Fisher closed out his dominant season at Arrowhead with a victory, a perfect score, and the Track Championship.
The Second Division Championship began with Eloy Medellin on the pole, Rick Valdez in gate two, Billy Braden in three, and Tomasz Hampel on the outside. At the start, Valdez, Medellin, and Hampel were together and ran three abreast on the back straight. Valdez assumed the lead as they completed the first lap. Hampel wasn't about to let Valdez run away with the victory as the Polish rider kept the pressure on Valdez. Hampel took the lead from Valdez and held on for the victory. Valdez finished second, Medellin was third, and Braden was fourth.
The race that arguably drew the loudest ovation of the evening was the Second Division B Championship. It had Kim Stevens on the pole, Steve Nelsons in gate two, Mike Lewisin three, and Robert Fiesler, Jr. on the outside. The race was a battle of attrition as Lewis was the first to fall. Fiesler and Nelson battled for the lead until Fiesler's race ended on the back straight on the second lap when he made contact with the fence and went down. Nelson took the lead and then fell on the next lap, leaving Stevens as the only rider upright. Nelson was able to get up and continue, but not before Stevens had taken the victory in front of a standing ovation.
The exciting racing provided a bright spot to the dark week that people in America have experienced. Perhaps it is poetic that in a time where the world is coming together to support the United States, the victorious trio of riders included a young American with a bright future, a rider who is a Polish immigrant, and a woman who is a native of New Zealand.
Overshadowed by the mood from this week's tragedy in New York, was the fact that this was the last race of the very successful inaugural season for Arrowhead Motor Speedway. Venegas put in a lot of time and hard work leading up to, and during the 2001 season and it paid off with great support from both fans and riders. It looks as though the future is bright for speedway in San Bernardino.
Second Division B Championship
197 - Kim Stevens
202 - Steve Nelsons (fell, remounted)
225 - Robert Fiesler Jr. (fell)
205 - Mike Lewis (fell)
Second Division Championship
174 - Tomasz Hampel
293 - Rick Valdez
178 - Eloy Medellin (fell, remounted)
117 - Billy Braden (engine failure)
First Division Scoring 1 2 3 4 5 T
6 - Shawn McConnell 2 2 3 3 2 12
10 - Scott Brant 3 3 2 3 3 14
11 - Bobby Schwartz 3 3 3 2 2 13
14 - Eddie Castro E E Fx E N 0
15 - Dukie Ermolenko 1 3 3 1 3 11
23 - Mark Adams 2 2 0 2 1 7
36 - Ryan Fisher 3 3 3 3 3 15
56 - Jim Estes 2 2 2 2 2 10
123 - Chad Newlee 2 - - - - 2
131 - David Lynch 0 0 1 2 1 4
139 - Shaun Harmatiuk 0 1 E 1 1 3
173 - Jeff Blaydes 1 1 2 1 1 6
182 - Rudy Laurer 1 1 F 1 F 3
223 - Bobby Krips 3 2 1 0 3 9
316 - John DeFries 0 1 2 3 2 8
1: Fisher, McConnell, Ermolenko, DeFries
2: Krips, Newlee, Castro (engine failure)
3: Schwartz, Estes, Laurer, Harmatiuk (fell, remounted)
4: Brant, Adams, Blaydes, Lynch
7: Brant, Estes, DeFries
8: Ermolenko, Adams, Laurer
9: Schwartz, McConnell, Blaydes, Castro (engine failure)
10: Fisher, Krips, Harmatiuk, Lynch
17: Schwartz, DeFries, Lynch
18: Ermolenko, Blaydes, Harmatiuk (engine failure)
19: McConnell, Estes, Krips, Adams (fell, remounted)
20: (restarted) Fisher, Brant, Laurer (fell), Castro (fell, excluded)
26: DeFries, Adams, Harmatiuk, Castro (engine failure)
27: Brant, Schwartz, Ermolenko, Krips
28: McConnell, Lynch, Laurer
29: Fisher, Estes, Blaydes
32: Krips, DeFries, Blaydes, Laurer (fell)
33: Ermolenko, Estes, Lynch, Castro (non starter)
34: Brant, McConnell, Harmatiuk
35: Fisher, Schwartz, Adams