Arrowhead Motor Speedway
Orange Show Pavilion
San Bernardino, California
2002 AMA US National Championship - Round 1
August 14, 2002
From Ryan Evans
Billy "The Bullet" Hamill turned in an immaculate performance by winning all his races, including the A Final, to win round one of the AMA National Championship Series at Arrowhead Motor Speedway in San Bernardino on Wednesday.
Hamill's perfect score allowed him to have first choice of starting position in the A Final and the former World Champion chose gate two. 1997 World Champion Greg Hancock, Billy Janniro, and Eddie Castro each scored 12 points to get into the A Final, but Hancock had second choice because he defeated the other two riders and he selected gate three. Janniro picked next and he decided to start from gate one, leaving Castro with the outside.
When the tapes went up Hamill exploded into the lead and then clamped down on the pole in turn one, which held up Janniro, while Hancock went to the outside. Hamill pulled away exiting turn two and Janniro had his hands full with Hancock, who remained on the outside line. Hamill was comfortably in front after one lap while Janniro was doing everything he could to fight off Hancock. Hamill opened up ground with each lap while the battle for second continued. At the checkered flag it was Hamill with his sixth, and most important, victory of the night. Janniro held off Hancock for second and Castro had to settle for fourth.
The win gave Hamill a leg up on the competition as he is seeking his third US title and the first back-to-back winner since Kelly Moran in 1984. Hamill earned 20 series points for the A Final victory plus a bonus point for being the top scorer after five rounds for a total of 21 points. Janniro's second place gives him 18 series points, Hancock earned 16 points, and Castro received 14.
The B Final had 2001 Arrowhead Track Champion Ryan Fisher on the pole, two-time National Champion Chris Manchester in two, three-time champion "Flyin" Mike Faria in gate three, and current Arrowhead points leader Scott Brant on the outside.
Faria's race was over before it got started as he was excluded by referee Steve Lucero for touching the tapes. The three remaining riders re-staged and it was Manchester who took the lead at the start. Manchester ran a tight and fast inside line, but Brant was working the outside line and pulled alongside the leader on the second lap. Brant took the lead at the completion of the second lap and immediately went to the pole. Brant held on to the lead and won the B Final with a spectacular effort that was rewarded with a standing ovation. Manchester finished second, Fisher was third, and Faria was credited with fourth.
The lineup for the C Final from inside to outside was Gary Hicks, Josh Larsen, Bart Bast, and Tommy Hedden. Hicks was first to turn one followed by Larsen and then Bast. Larsen tried to get under Hicks on the back straight, but Hicks wouldn't have any of that. It was the closest that Larsen would get as Hicks opened up a comfortable lead and cruised to the victory. Larsen was second, Bast was third, and Hedden was fourth.
The D Final brought to the tapes, from inside to outside, Bobby Hedden, Eric Carrillo, Bobby Schwartz, and Randy DiFrancesco. The finishing order in the D Final is important because third and fourth would have to go through the dreaded qualifying races at the second round of the series while first and second would be seeded into the field.
With the pressure on, "Boogaloo" came up big as he took the lead. Hedden did a 360 degree turn and when he straightened up the field was gone. Carrillo stayed right on the back tire of Schwartz but the wily veteran would succumb to the pressure as he took the win followed by Carrillo. DiFrancesco and Hedden finished third and fourth, respectively, and will have to go through the qualifying races in round two.
The format for the evening had 14 riders seeded into the championship part of the program. Eight riders participated in a five-race qualifying round to determine the final two positions in the field and the two reserves.
Preliminary race one had Bryan Yarrow, Bobby Krips, Randy DiFrancesco, and Billy Hiles. To have a chance at being in the field, the riders had to finish first or second. Third and fourth would only give you a chance at being reserve. Yarrow jumped into the lead and rode four perfect laps to get the win. DiFrancesco finished second and would join Yarrow in preliminary race four, but he earned it by passing Krips on the second lap. Krips and Hiles would come back at race three for a chance at a reserve slot.
Preliminary race three had 1985 National Champion Alan "Crazy" Christian, back this year after a nine year retirement and making his first appearance at Arrowhead, on the pole, Chris Kerr in gate two, Tommy Hedden in gate three, and Ivan Sevart on the outside. Christian thrilled the crowd by taking the lead and running away with the win. Hedden fought past Kerr to get second, Kerr was third, and Sevart was fourth.
Preliminary race three was sudden-death as only the top two would move on for a chance at the reserve spot. It was Krips who took the lead and ran away with the win while Sevart finished second and would join in him in preliminary race five. Kerr and Hiles finished, third and fourth, respectively, and were done for the evening.
Preliminary race four was the most important race of the round as the top two joined the field while third and fourth would come right back out and could only earn for a reserve spot. Christian was first followed by Yarrow on lap one. The two riders had quite a battle going when they went down in turn one on the third lap. Yarrow was excluded as the cause of the red flag. The second start got as far as turn one as Christian and DiFrancesco tangled and went down. The third time had DiFrancesco take the lead and he ran away with the win and earned his spot in the field. Christian looked to be running a solid second place until he drifted off the pole on the third lap and allowed Hedden to take second. Christian and Yarrow would have to come right back for a chance at reserve.
The final preliminary race would determine the two reserves. Krips took the lead in turn one and never looked back as he ran away with the win. Christian was running second when Yarrow passed him on the inside on the second lap and held on to second for the final reserve slot. Christian and Sevart were done for the evening.
Round one began with Hancock adapting very quickly to a track he had never seen before with an easy victory over Janniro and Castro. Manchester's evening began well as he took the win in race two while Larsen's race ended early after suffering a cracked fuel tank while running second. His misfortune allowed Fisher to get second. Hicks took the lead in race three, but Brant roared by on the back straight and pulled away for the win. Hamill gave everyone a preview of the entire evening with a runaway win to close out the round.
Hamill began round two the same way he began round one, with an easy victory, Janniro finished second, while round one winner Manchester was third. Race six was eventful as Faria took the lead, only to lose it to Bast on the back straight. Bast handed the lead back to Faria after going straight into turn one the second time, then Fisher went past Faria on the back straight one lap later. That would prove to be the last lead change as Fisher took his first win of the evening followed by Faria and Hicks. Brant used gate one to take the lead and an easy victory over Larsen and Hancock in race seven. Castro earned his first win of the evening with a convincing win to end round two.
Fisher began round three with a victory to remain one point of the pace while Janniro was second for the third straight round, Tommy Hedden was third, and Brant saw his perfect score evaporate when he fell in turn three. Manchester regained his form as he was an easy winner in race 10. Hancock took his second win of the evening by defeating Faria, who passed had Schwartz for second. Hamill made it three for three by beating Castro and Larsen in the final race of the third round.
At intermission, Hamill sat at the top with a perfect nine points. Fisher was second with eight points. Hancock and Manchester were tied with seven, while Janniro, Castro, Brant, and Faria each had three.
Janniro was first out of the gate and first to the checkered flag as he won the first race of round four. Hamill's perfect evening continued with another dominating win in race 14. Hancock earned his third win of the night by defeating Hicks and Manchester in race 15. Castro used the outside line to pass Fisher on the first lap and pulled away for his second win of the evening to end round four.
With one round remaining, Hamill was still perfect and his 12 points had already earned him a berth in the A Final. Hancock and Fisher were tied for second with 10 points apiece. Janniro and Castro each had nine, while Manchester and Brant each had eight.
Janniro secured his spot in the A Final with an easy win to start the fifth round while Hicks finished second and was headed to the C Final. Larsen was the victor in race 18, but would have to wait to see what his fate would be regarding the championship rounds.
Race 19 brought the three high-point men to the tapes in Hamill, Hancock, and Fisher. Hamill was first to turn one and left everyone in his wake as raced to his fifth straight win. Hancock held off all of Fisher's challenges to finish second and transfer to the A Final, while Fisher would have to wait to see which race he was in.
Race 20 brought several scenarios. Manchester and Castro controlled their destiny as a victory by either rider was a ticket to the A Final. If Brant won and Castro was second, then there would be a three-rider runoff for the final spot in the A Final. A Brant victory and anyone else finishing second would send Fisher into the A Final. Castro ended all the drama by using the outside in turn two to get the lead and he ran away with the win and the final spot in the A Final.
Before the championship round could begin, there were two runoffs to determine some of the positions. A runoff between Bast and the Hedden Brothers was needed to determine the final two spots in the C Final, while third would go the D Final. A runoff with Larsen, Brant, and Faria would fill the final two spots in the B Final with third place going to the C Final.
In the first runoff, Bast jumped into the lead followed by Bobby Hedden. Bast ran away with the victory and although Bobby Hedden crossed the line second, he was disqualified because his silencer came apart, and his brother was credited with second. Faria took the lead in the second runoff and never looked back as he booked his spot in the B Final with a win. Brant finished second and got into the B Final as well while Larsen's third place put him in the C Final.
The overflow crowd witnessed an evening of spectacular racing as the importance of the event was evident in the performance and effort that the riders displayed all evening long. Round two of the AMA National Championship Series will be at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn on Friday and round three will be at Auburn as well on September 20.
1: Yarrow, DiFrancesco, Krips, Hiles (engine failure)
2: Christian, T.Hedden, Kerr, Sevart
3: Krips, Sevart, Kerr, Hiles
4: (restarted twice) DiFrancesco, T.Hedden, Christian, Yarrow (excluded)
5: Krips, Yarrow, Christian, Sevart
Scoring 1 2 3 4 5 T
1 - Billy Janniro 2 2 2 3 3 12
2 - Bart Bast 0 0 1 1 2 4
3 - Greg Hancock 3 1 3 3 2 12
4 - Eddie Castro 1 3 2 3 3 12
5 - Chris Manchester 3 1 3 1 1 9
6 - Ryan Fisher 2 3 3 2 1 11
7 - Josh Larsen R 2 1 2 3 8
8 - Eric Carrillo 1 1 0 0 1 3
9 - Bobby Schwartz 0 0 1 1 0 2
10 - Gary Hicks 2 1 T 2 2 7
11 - Scott Brant 3 3 F 2 0 8
12 - Bobby Hedden 1 0 2 1 0 4
13 - Billy Hamill 3 3 3 3 3 15*
14 - Mike Faria 2 2 2 E 2 8
15 - Randy DiFrancesco 1 0 T 0 0 1
16 - Tommy Hedden 0 2 1 0 1 4
17 - Bobby Krips (R) 0 - - - - 0
18 - Bryan Yarrow (R) 0 - - - - 0
*Billy Hamill earned one bonus series point as top scorer
1: Hancock, Janniro, Castro, Bast
2: Manchester, Fisher, Carrillo, Larsen (retired)
3: Brant, Hicks, B.Hedden, Schwartz
4: Hamill, Faria, DiFrancesco, T.Hedden
5: Hamill, Janniro, Manchester, Schwartz
6: Fisher, Faria, Hicks, Bast
7: Brant, Larsen, Hancock, DiFrancesco
8: Castro, T.Hedden, Carrillo, B.Hedden
9: Fisher, Janniro, T.Hedden, Brant (fell)
10: Manchester, B.Hedden, Bast, Krips, DiFrancesco (tape exclusion)
11: Hancock, Faria, Schwartz, Carrillo
12: Hamill, Castro, Larsen, Yarrow, Hicks (tape exclusion)
13: Janniro, Larsen, B.Hedden, Faria (engine failure)
14: Hamill, Brant, Bast, Carrillo
15: Hancock, Hicks, Manchester, T.Hedden
16: Castro, Fisher, Schwartz, DiFrancesco
17: Janniro, Hicks, Carrillo, DiFrancesco
18: Larsen, Bast, T.Hedden, Schwartz
19: Hamill, Hancock, Fisher, B.Hedden
20: Castro, Faria, Manchester, Brant
D Final: Schwartz, Carrillo, DiFrancesco, B.Hedden
C Final: Hicks, Larsen, Bast, T.Hedden (fell)
B Final: Brant, Manchester, Fisher, Faria (tape exclusion)
A Final: Hamill, Janniro, Hancock, Castro
Standings after Round 1
Billy Hamill 21
Billy Janniro 18
Greg Hancock 16
Eddie Castro 14
Scott Brant 12
Chris Manchester 11
Ryan Fisher 10
Mike Faria 9
Gary Hicks 8
Josh Larsen 7
Bart Bast 6
Tommy Hedden 5
Bobby Schwartz 4
Eric Carrillo 3
Randy DiFrancesco 2
Bobby Hedden 1