Costa Mesa Speedway
Orange County Fairgrounds
Costa Mesa, CA
Costa Mesa Speedway
November 2, 2002
By: Ryan Evans
Billy "The Bullet" Hamill showed why he is the newly crowned National Champion with a near-perfect performance and a Scratch Main victory at the Fall Classic in Costa Mesa Saturday.
The lineup for the final race at Costa Mesa in 2002 had Bobby "Boogaloo" Schwartz on the pole, Hamill in gate two, Ryan Fisher in three, Josh Larsen in gate four, and Chris Manchester on the outside. Manchester got a little antsy on the first attempt and jumped into the tapes, thus earning a 20 yard penalty.
On the restart, Hamill and Larsen entered turn one together but Hamill secured the lead exiting turn two. Larsen was able to pull down into second before Schwartz could get underneath him. Hamill held the lead after the first lap, but Larsen wasn’t letting him get away easily. Larsen was right on Hamill’s back tire and trying to force a mistake. Larsen maintained the pressure throught the race, but Hamill showed his big race experience and never succumbed to the pressure. Hamill was first to the checkered flag, Larsen had to settle for second, Schwartz was third, Manchester was fourth, and Fisher finished fifth. As always, Hamill was gracious in crediting his pit crew which consists of his two lifelong friends, Mike Lord and Carlos Cardona.
The format for the Fall Classic was three rounds of scratch heats with the top 10 scorers qualifying for two semis. The top two from each semi transfered directly to the Scratch Main while third and fourth transfered to the Last Chance. The winner of the Last Chance completed the five-man Scratch Main field.
National number three Gary Hicks began the evening by jumping into the lead in race one. Hicks was on cruise control and on his way to an easy victory when mechanical gremlins struck and he had to pull off the track. Bobby Krips was the beneficiary and he went on to the win. Schwartz scored an impressive win over the Fisher in the second race for his first win of the evening. Larsen used the pole to his advantage by getting the best start and then holding off Eddie Castro for the win. The round ended with Manchester gating Hamill from the outside and holding off the champion for the win.
Round two began with Hamill getting his first win ahead of his Coventry Bees teammate Fisher while Hicks suffered his second mechanical failure of the evening. Manchester made it two for two by defeating John Cook in race eight. Charlie Venegas showed that he is close to regaining his pre-injury form by getting a lightning-quick start and holding off Schwartz for the win in race nine. Larsen closed out the second round with a convincing win over Castro.
Schwartz earned his second win of the night with an easy win over Hicks to begin the third round. Fisher, making his first appearance at Costa Mesa in 2002, stalked Venegas for three laps before going by on the inside and getting the win while Bryan Yarrow snuck past Venegas as well to get second. Race 15 was a big race as it pitted Hamill, Larsen, and Manchester against each other. Larsen and Manchester were the only riders left who were undefeated. Hamill took the lead in turn one and Larsen cut under Manchester in turn two to get into second. Hamill pulled away and the order remained unchanged from there. Castro won the final heat by defeating McConnell.
The ten qualifiers for the semis were Hamill, Larsen, and Schwartz with eleven points; Castro, Fisher, and Manchester each had ten; Venegas and Cook were tied with eight; McConnell had seven points; and Yarrow was the final qualifier with six.
In the first semi, Schwartz made a great start from gate five and used the outside line to take the lead exiting turn two. Manchester, who had started in gate four, followed the trail blazed by Schwartz to get into second. Schwartz cruised to the victory and Manchester joined him in the main by holding on to second. Hamill duplicated the efforts of Schwartz by getting a good start from gate five and getting the win. He was followed by Fisher. Larsen got the start and ran away with the Last Chance to earn the final spot in the main event.
John Stunkard showed why he won the Support Points Championship by riding four perfectly smooth laps en route to victory in the Support Main Event. Billy Braden finished second, Scott Tidwell was third, Eloy Medellin finished fourth, and Ed Martinez was fifth.
Shane Kump cruised to an easy victory in the final Support B Main of the year. Finishing second was Bryan Baichtal, third was Phil Harmatiuk, and Steve Dziadus was fourth.
One notable participant was former Swedish Junior Champion Lennart Bengtsson. Bengtsson was not completely unfamiliar with Costa Mesa because he spent a season competing in Southern California in the 80s. However, Bengtsson struggled to reacquaint himself with the tiny oval and only scored two points.
Several notable guests were in attendance. Former British Champion Andy Smith made the trip to Costa Mesa after racing in Auburn the previous night, former World Pairs Champion Dennis Sigalos was watching from the stands, and two-time National Champion Kelly Moran attended as well.
The Fall Classic marked the end of the 2002 season at the world famous Costa Mesa "bullring" oval. The racing was excellent as promoter Brad Oxley did an outstanding job of preparing a track with two distinct racing lines. The 2003 schedule begins on April 12 with the Spring Classic.
Support B Main Event
228 - Shane Kump
112 - Bryan Baichtal
100 - Phil Harmatiuk
212 - Steve Dziadus
138 - Rich Brock
338 - Dave Delbridge
115 - Mark Baldwin
239 - Phil Williams
182 - Rudy Laurer
181 - Michael Novratil
107 - Monte McKeon
214 - Steve Murray
Support Last Chance
178 - Eloy Medellin
165 - Randy Kreps
106 - Robert Fiesler
161 - Hector Quevedo
Support Main Event (restarted)
249 - John Stunkard
117 - Billy Braden
118 - Scott Tidwell
178 - Eloy Medellin
269 - Ed Martinez
Denim Doctor Challenge
1 - Billy Hamill
2 - Josh Larsen
14 - Eddie Castro
130 - Chris Manchester
Scratch Heat Scoring 1 2 3 T
1 - Billy Hamill 3 4 4 11
2 - Josh Larsen 4 4 3 11
3 - Gary Hicks E E 3 3
6 - Shawn McConnell 2 2 3 7
8n - Bryan Yarrow 1 2 3 6
11 - Bobby Schwartz 4 3 4 11
14 - Eddie Castro 3 3 4 10
15 - Dukie Ermolenko 2 2 E 4
23 - Mark Adams 1 0 1 2
24 -Bobby Krips 4 1 0 5
36 - Ryan Fisher 3 3 4 10
43 - Charlie Venegas 2 4 2 8
66 - Lennart Bengtsson 0 2 0 2
89 - Danny Perkins 1 0 1 2
94 - John Cook 3 3 2 8
130 - Chris Manchester 4 4 2 10
139 - Shaun Harmatiuk 2 0 2 4
173 - Jeff Blaydes 0 1 0 1
316 - John DeFries 1 1 1 3
321 - Billy Lyons 0 1 1 2
1: Krips, Cook, Harmatiuk, Perkins, Hicks (engine failure)
2: Schwartz, Fisher, Venegas, Adams, Lyons
3: Larsen, Castro, McConnell, DeFries, Blaydes
4: Manchester, Hamill, Ermolenko, Yarrow, Bengtsson (fell, remounted)
7: Hamill, Fisher, Bengtsson, Lyons, Hicks (engine failure)
8: Manchester, Cook, Yarrow, DeFries, Harmatiuk
9: Venegas, Schwartz, McConnell, Krips, Perkins
10: Larsen, Castro, Ermolenko, Blaydes, Adams
13: Schwartz, Hicks, Harmatiuk, Lyons, Ermolenko (engine failure)
14: Fisher, Yarrow, Venegas, DeFries, Blaydes
15: Hamill, Larsen, Manchester, Perkins, Krips
16: Castro, McConnell, Cook, Adams, Bengtsson
Semi #1: Schwartz, Manchester, Larsen, Venegas, Yarrow
Semi #2: Hamill, Fisher, McConnell, Cook, Castro (fell)
Last Chance: Larsen, McConnell, Venegas, Cook (non starter)
Scratch Main Event
1 - Billy Hamill
2 - Josh Larsen
11 - Bobby Schwartz
130 - Chris Manchester (penalty line)
36 - Ryan Fisher