Costa Mesa Speedway
Orange County Fairgrounds
Costa Mesa, California
36th U.S. National Championship
October 16, 2004 - Costa Mesa
By: Ryan Evans
Billy Janniro turned in a brilliant performance to win the 36th Annual United States National Championship at Costa Mesa on Saturday.
After 21 races there were four riders left with a shot at the title. Janniro, Chris Manchester, Mike Faria, and Charlie Venegas were the competitors in the National Championship Final. Janniro was the only rider who had not won the National Championship before. Janniro had the first choice of starting position and he surprisingly took gate two. Manchester then took the pole. Faria followed by taking gate four, which left Venegas with gate three.
The first attempt was immediately brought to a halt after movement just prior to the start prompted the referee to bring out the red flag. All four riders were allowed to restart. Everyone got away clean the second time and Janniro held a slight advantage entering the first turn, but went wide in turn two. Manchester also went wide which left a gaping hole on the inside that Venegas exploited by blasting through and into the lead on the back straight. Janniro attacked the new leader on the outside while Manchester chose to go down low in turn three. As he exited turn four Venegas tried his best to cover both riders, but it was to no avail as Janniro raced around the outside and Manchester went by on the low line. Janniro's wider line gave him the momentum to beat Manchester to turn one. Once in the lead, Janniro stuck to the inside and pulled away to secure his first National Championship. Manchester had to settle for second and Faria passed Venegas on the second lap to get third.
The format reverted back to one last used at Costa Mesa in 1997. Sixteen riders competed for five rounds to determine the final seven riders in the championship round. The top three scorers qualified directly to the National Championship Final and the fourth through seventh scorers competed in the B Final with the winner transferring to the Final.
Anyone who looked at the program prior to the event knew that the first event would be pivotal. Manchester, Venegas, Bobby Schwartz, and Dukie Ermolenko all came to the tapes in race one. Manchester pushed his way past Schwartz in turn one, but contact between he and Venegas in turn four left Manchester on the ground and no red flag. Schwartz reclaimed the lead and held the lead for two laps while Manchester remained prone on the outside of turn four. The red light eventually came on and Manchester was excluded from the restart. The second attempt was over before it started because Venegas touched the tapes and was penalized. On the third try, Ermolenko trapped from gate four and held off Schwartz to get his first win of the night while Venegas fell at the back allowing reserve Justin Boyle to get third.
Ryan Fisher, just back from England and making his first appearance at Costa Mesa in 2004, took the lead in race two, but East Coast representative Jeremy Parsons went down and caused a restart. The second start also belonged to Fisher and he three-time Junior National Champion scored an easy victory.
Race three continued the trend of restarts after an incident in turn three brought out the red flag. Bryan Yarrow made a great start from the outside on the restart to take the lead in turn one. Janniro set out after Yarrow and tried every possible line on the track to get by, but Yarrow was up to the task and fought off every challenge for a hard-earned victory.
The final race of the first round was uneventful as Faria scored a dominant win for his initial victory of the evening.
The second round began the same way the first round ended, a runaway victory for Faria. Manchester recovered from his first round disappointment by getting the win ahead of 1998 National Champion Bart Bast. Janniro scored his first victory of the evening by defeating Fisher and Andy Northrup after Venegas lost a chain at the starting line and surely left him pondering when his bad luck would change. The final race of round two saw Buck Blair get a fantastic start from the outside and get an upset victory over Eddie Castro, Ermolenko, and Yarrow. After two rounds Faria was the only undefeated rider.
Round three began with Blair making another great start, but Janniro dashed his hopes of a second straight victory when he went by on the outside and left the field in his wake for his second win. Manchester made it two wins in a row by defeating 1985 National Champion Alan Christian in race 10.
Randy DiFrancesco made the outside work in turns one and two and grabbed the lead in race 11. Behind him, Venegas and Castro battled for second for two laps before Venegas was able to dispatch Castro and turn his attention toward the leader. Venegas tried the outside, but couldn't find enough traction to get past DiFrancesco, who never gave into the pressure and held on for the win.Faria maintained his perfect score in the final race of the third round with his third consecutive win. After three rounds,
Faria's nine points put him atop the standings. Janniro had eight points, and Manchester and Ermolenko were tied with six points each.
The fourth round began with DiFrancesco making another good start, but Fisher relieved him of the lead on the back straight. Yarrow also went by DiFrancesco and went after Fisher. Yarrow chased him for two laps and turned up the head on lap three. Fisher left the inside open and Yarrow made him pay by taking the lead at the end of lap three. Yarrow went on to victory and Fisher had to settle for second.
Event 14 featured three of the top four scorers as Faria, Janniro, and Manchester met in a showdown that would set the tone for the rest of the evening. Janniro left the line first and swept around the outside in the first corner while Manchester beat Faria to the inside line. Janniro found plenty of grip on the outside and took the lead on the back straight. Manchester chased him unsuccessfully for all four laps while Faria came in third.
Venegas won his first race of the night over Bast in event 15 and Ermolenko earned his second win to finish the fourth round. With one round left, Janniro was the new overall leader with 11 points, Faria was second with 10, Ermolenko had nine, Manchester had eight, and Yarrow had seven.
Castro began the final round by using the outside in the second bend to take the lead and run away with his only win. Manchester was victorious for the third time and put himself in a good position for the Final. Fisher's third place meant that he would have to go the B Final.
Faria entered race 19 needing a second to secure a spot in the Final and a win to keep the pressure on Janniro. Venegas and Yarrow both needed a good finish to get into the B Final. Venegas used the pole to his advantage as the three riders gated together, but Venegas was already on the best line and he took the lead and cruised to victory and a place in the B Final. Yarrow showed a lot of poise by holding off Faria for second place and a B Final spot as well while Faria would have to wait for event 20 to know his fate.
Janniro made it four straight wins with another dominant win and secured the first gate selection for the Final. Ermolenko was second and forced a three-rider runoff with himself, Manchester, and Faria for the final two guaranteed spots in the Final.
Manchester jumped into the lead in the runoff and was tailed by Ermolenko and Faria. Manchester left little drama regarding the lead as he established a comfortable margin. Ermolenko was second for two laps and had the other berth in his pocket until the third lap. Faria tried to pass Ermolenko on the inside entering turn one, but made contact and brought him down. Despite Ermolenko's demonstrative protests, the race was allowed to continue and the order didn't change. Manchester and Faria were in the Final, while Ermolenko would have to try again in the B Final.
In the B Final, Venegas trapped from the outside and took the lead on the first lap. Fisher challenged on the inside for two laps, but couldn't rattle the 2000 National Champion. Venegas, who had overcome a disastrous first two rounds, was able to get some breathing room the final two laps and completed the dramatic turnaround to his evening with a win to claim the last spot in the National Championship Final.
The National Championship is not the final event on the calendar at the world famous bullring oval. The 2004 Costa Mesa season will conclude with the Fall Classic on Saturday, November 6.
Scoring 1 2 3 4 5 T
2n - Alan Christian 2 0 2 0 0 4
6 - Shawn McConnell 1 2 E 2 2 7
8n - Bryan Yarrow 3 0 1 3 2 9
9 - Mike Faria 3 3 3 1 1 11
11 - Bobby Schwartz 2 1 1 1 0 5
12 - Randy DiFrancesco 1 1 3 0 1 6
14 - Eddie Castro F 2 1 0 3 6
14n - Billy Janniro 2 3 3 3 3 14
15 - Dukie Ermolenko 3 1 2 3 2 11
16e - Jeremy Parsons 1 0 0 0 0 1
36 - Ryan Fisher 3 2 R 2 1 8
39 - Buck Blair 0 3 2 1 0 6
43 - Charlie Venegas F E 2 3 3 8
87n - Bart Bast E 2 1 2 2 7
130 - Chris Manchester Fx 3 3 2 3 11
166 - Andy Northrup 2 1 0 1 1 5
18 - Justin Boyle (R) 1 - - - - 1
145 - Dario Galvin (R) Did Not Ride
37 - Denny Scopellite (R) Did Not Ride
1:(restarted) Ermolenko, Schwartz, Boyle, Venegas (tape penalty) (fell), Manchester (fell, excluded)
2:(restarted) Fisher, Christian, Parsons (penalty line), Castro
3:(restarted) Yarrow, Janniro, McConnell, Bast (engine failure)
4: Faria, Northrup, DiFrancesco, Blair
5: Faria, McConnell, Schwartz, Christian (fell, remounted)
6: Manchester, Bast, DiFrancesco, Parsons (fell, remounted)
7: Janniro, Fisher, Northrup, Venegas (engine failure)
8: Blair, Castro, Ermolenko, Yarrow
9: Janniro, Blair, Schwartz, Parsons
10: Manchester, Christian, Yarrow, Northrup
11: DiFrancesco, Venegas, Castro, McConnell (engine failure)
12: Faria, Ermolenko, Bast, Fisher (retired)
13: Yarrow, Fisher, Schwartz, DiFrancesco
14: Janniro, Manchester, Faria, Castro
15: Venegas, Bast, Blair, Christian (fell, remounted)
16: Ermolenko, McConnell, Northrup, Parsons
17: Castro, Bast, Northrup, Schwartz
18:(restarted) Manchester, McConnell, Fisher, Blair
19: Venegas, Yarrow, Faria, Parsons
20:(restarted) Janniro, Ermolenko, DiFrancesco, Christian (penalty line)
Runoff: Manchester, Faria, Ermolenko (fell)
B Final: Venegas, Fisher, Yarrow, Ermolenko
National Championship Final (restarted)
14n - Billy Janniro
130 - Chris Manchester
9 - Mike Faria
43 - Charlie Venegas