Costa Mesa Speedway
Orange County Fairgrounds
Costa Mesa, CA
25 Lap Classic
Costa Mesa Speedway
June 29, 2002
By: Ryan Evans
Josh Larsen overcame a 70 yard handicap and 11 other competitors as he capped a perfect night by winning the Costa Mesa Speedway 25 Lap Classic for the second consecutive year.
12 riders took their places for the longest race of the season with defending champion Larsen starting in the back, 70 yards away from the tapes. The first start never got past turn one as Kitt Nay and Brad Sauer went down and brought out the red flag. On the second attempt, Bryan Thompson took the lead. "Fast" Eddie Castro, certainly one of the favorites to lift the title, had his race end in turn one when he spun out. Thompson calmly held off Shaun Harmatiuk and Kitt Nay for the lead. Larsen, meanwhile, was charging through the field and defied the conventional strategy of this race by passing riders on the outside. After battling Andy Northrup for two laps, Larsen passed him for fourth on lap six. On the seventh lap, Harmatiuk got into the back of Thompson, fell down, and forced several riders to lay their machines down. Harmatiuk was excluded from the restart. At this time, several riders decided to retire for the evening as well.
The restart had Thompson lining up on the 10 yard line, which was the front of the field, Nay was on the 20 yard line, Larsen was on the 30, and Northrup was on the 40 and their was still 19 laps to go. Thompson held the lead for just one lap before Nay took over the lead. Larsen had lined up against the wall for the restart and again defied the conventional strategy by riding the outside line. Larsen stayed on the wide line for four laps before crossing under the impressive Nay for the lead on the front straight on lap 11. Larsen immediately opened up a wide margin on the field and his lead had reached 40 yards on second-placed Randy DiFrancesco when a crash on the 21st lap brought out the red flag. Kitt Nay was excluded for causing the restart and Danny Perkins was sent to the pits because he was one lap down.
The final five laps would only have four riders as Larsen lined up on the 10, with DiFrancesco on the 20, Northrup on the 30, and former 25 Lap Champion Shawn McConnell on the 40. When the tapes went up Larsen quickly began putting distance between the field and himself. McConnell went down on the 24th lap which left just three riders on the track. Larsen never showed signs of fatigue and pulled away for the win. DiFrancesco finished second, Northrup was third, and McConnell was credited with fourth.
The format for the 25 Lap Classic had 16 riders competing in three rounds of scratch heats with the top 12 riders qualifying for the main event. The handicaps for the main event were predetermined.
Bobby Schwartz, who won America's first long-distance speedway race in 1990 at Glen Helen, opened the evening with a win over Scott Brant. Larsen began his title defense by defeating DiFrancesco in race two. Northrup beat McConnell in the third race. Castro closed out the opening round with an easy victory.
Castro began the second round the same way he ended the first, with an easy victory. Larsen rode the outside on the first lap to take the lead and pulled away from Schwartz for the win in the next race. DiFrancesco scored an impressive victory over McConnell in race 11, and Northrup took his second straight win to finish round two.
Larsen started round three with an easy victory to enter the main event with a perfect nine points. Castro kept pace with Larsen by winning race 18 and also enter the main event perfect. McConnell was an easy winner in race 19 and brought his total to seven points. Northrup made it three-for-three by winning the final qualifying race and also made it a trio of riders with perfect scores entering the main event.
First Division wasn't the only group who had a long-distance main event as 10 riders lined up for the 12 Lap Support Main Event. Japanese rider Hideaki Ota took the lead at the start but a crash on the first lap brought out the red flag. There would be a complete restart with no laps in the books. Ota grabbed the lead again and held it until the third lap when another crash brought out the red flag. Rick Valdez was excluded for being the cause of the restart. Season points leader John Stunkard found himself on the infield as well after falling on the first lap.
The third start would begin with eight laps remaining and Ota quickly opened up a comfortable margin. Ota wasn't pressured until the eighth lap when Defending Support 12 Lap Champion Jeff Blaydes, who had fought through traffic from the 40 yard line, had caught the leader. Blaydes put the pressure on Ota and made a bold attempt for the lead in turn one on lap eleven. Blaydes made a charge on the inside, but Ota didn't flinch and actually extended his lead on the back straight. Ota took the white flag and looked as if he would cruise to the win, but drifted wide exiting turn four the final time. Blaydes made a desperate attempt to catch Ota at the line, but Ota was there first. Blaydes had to settle for second, Scott Tidwell was third, David Lynch was fourth, and Rudy Laurer finished fifth. The ecstatic Ota received a rousing applause and he waved and bowed in return.
The Support B Main Event was a scratch race and Michael "No Throttle" Novratil continued his domination of the division by capturing the main event following a battle with Carl Gazafy. Gazafy was second, Craig Collier finished third, and Rusty Hall was fourth.
Skyler Greyson jumped into the early lead and rode four perfect laps to capture the Junior Main Event. Troy McConnell, son of Shawn, finished second, and Krystal Cramer, back after a nasty crash at Victorville on Sunday, finished third.
There will be no racing at Costa Mesa on Saturday, July 6 because of the Independence Day Holiday. The next event will be FRIDAY, July 12 for the annual Fair Derby. Costa Mesa Speedway will return to its roots with a Friday night for the event that most riders consider second only to the National Championship. Last year's winner, Josh Larsen, will defend the coveted championship against four-time winners Bobby Schwartz and Mike Faria, two-time winner Shawn McConnell, as well as National Champion Chris Manchester and all the top riders.
2 - Skyler Greyson
39 - Troy McConnell
27 - Krystal Cramer
Support B Main Event
181 - Michael Novratil
176 - Carl Gazafy
133 - Craig Collier
164 - Rusty Hall
12 Lap Support Main Event
240 - Hideaki Ota 10
173 - Jeff Blaydes 40
118 - Scott Tidwell 10
131 - David Lynch 50
182 - Rudy Laurer 40
165 - Randy Kreps 20
196 - Rod Lenz 10
128 - Doug Benjamin 30 (fell)
293 - Rick Valdez 20 (fell, excluded)
249 - John Stunkard 30 (fell)
Qualifying Scores 1 2 3 T
2 - Josh Larsen 3 3 3 9
6 - Shawn McConnell 2 2 3 7
8 - Gary Ackroyd F 2 0 2
10 - Scott Brant 2 2 2 6
11 - Bobby Schwartz 3 2 2 7
12 - Randy DiFrancesco 2 3 1 6
13 - Kitt Nay 1 1 2 4
14 - Eddie Castro 3 3 3 9
17 - Robbie Sauer 1 0 F 1
21 - Brad Sauer 0 1 1 2
23 - Mark Adams 1 Fx 1 2
57 - Bryan Thompson 0 0 2 2
89 - Danny Perkins 2 1 0 3
139 - Shaun Harmatiuk 1 1 1 3
166 - Andy Northrup 3 3 3 9
316 - John DeFries 0 E N 0
1: Schwartz, Brant, Harmatiuk, B.Sauer (fell, remounted)
2: Larsen, DiFrancesco, Adams, Thompson
3: Northrup, McConnell, Nay, DeFries
4: Castro, Perkins, R.Sauer, Ackroyd (fell)
9: Castro, Brant, Nay, Thompson
10: Larsen, Schwartz, Perkins, DeFries (engine failure)
11: DiFrancesco, McConnell, Harmatiuk, R.Sauer (tape penalty)
12: Northrup, Ackroyd, B.Sauer (penalty line), Adams (fell, excluded)
17: Larsen, Brant, Harmatiuk, DeFries (non starter)
18: Castro, Schwartz, Adams, R.Sauer (fell)
19: McConnell, Nay, B.Sauer, Ackroyd
20: Northrup, Thompson, DiFrancesco, Perkins
Runoff: Thompson, B.Sauer, Adams, Ackroyd
25 Lap Main Event
2 - Josh Larsen 70
12 - Randy DiFrancesco 30
166 - Andy Northrup 40
6 - Shawn McConnell 60 (fell)
13 - Kitt Nay 20 (fell, excluded)
89 - Danny Perkins 0
57 - Bryan Thompson 0 (retired)
11 - Bobby Schwartz 40 (retired)
10 - Scott Brant 60 (retired)
21 - Brad Sauer 10 (retired)
139 - Shaun Harmatiuk 20 (fell, excluded)
14 - Eddie Castro 50 (fell)
1990 - Bobby Schwartz (16 laps @ Glen Helen)
1991 - Chris Manchester (20 laps)
1992 - Chris Manchester
1993 - Lance King
1994 - Gary Hicks
1995 - Brad Oxley
1996 - Brad Oxley
1997 - Brad Oxley
1998 - Shawn McConnell
1999 - Brad Oxley
2000 - Charlie Venegas
2001 - Josh Larsen