Costa Mesa Speedway
Orange County Fairgrounds
Costa Mesa, California
AMA Sports/USA Speedway National Round 1
August 5, 2006 - Costa Mesa
By: Ryan Evans
Charlie "The Edge" Venegas captured Round One of the AMA Sports/USA Speedway National Championship Series in front of a large crowd at Costa Mesa by winning an A Final that was filled with controversy.
Six-time and defending National Champion Greg Hancock entered the A Final with a perfect score and without a serious challenge all night. Hancock's top score allowed him the first selection of gate position. The 1997 World Champion surprisingly took gate two. 1996 World Champion Billy "The Bullet" Hamill then selected gate one. Venegas chose gate three, leaving "Flyin" Mike Faria with the outside starting position.
When the tapes went up Hancock was off the line first, but his lead wasn't enough to pull down to the inside. Hamill went deep into turn one forcing Hancock to the outside. Hamill gained a slight advantage in turn two, but his path took Hancock toward the wall. Hancock, squeezed between Hamill and the wall, was forced off his bike which tumbled down the back straight in wild fashion.
As Hancock was returning to the pit area to retrieve a spare machine, he was informed by the referee that he was excluded. Hancock was surprised, but graciously accepted the decision. The crowd, however, was not as forgiving and voiced their disapproval. Nevertheless, there would only be three riders coming to the tapes for the restart
On the restart, Hamill led into turn one and took the same wide path through the corner. Venegas, who also went wide into turn one, crossed underneath Hamill and took the lead on the back straight. Hamill stayed wide entering turn three and that allowed Faria to take second away from him. Hamill fought back to try and regain the position. The battle for second afforded Venegas the chance to extend his lead to a comfortable margin. Venegas was first to the checkered flag and couldn't contain his excitement. Faria finished second, Hamill settled for third, and Hancock was credited with fourth. It was the first time that neither Hancock or Hamill won the A Final since the National Championship Series began in 2002.
Eight riders had to do battle in the Elimination Round to fill the final two spots in the sixteen-rider championship field. Gary Hicks was an easy winner in Elimination Race One and transferred directly to Elimination Race Four with George Fox and Matt Browne moving into Elimination Race Three.
Shaun Harmatiuk won Elimination Race Two while T.J. Fowler and Ivan Sevart transferred to Elimination Race Three.
Browne was leading Elimination Race Three, but on the final corner he saw a yellow flag and laid his machine down assuming that the fallen rider was still lying on the track. Fox and Fowler were the beneficiaries and transferred to the all-important Elimination Race Four.
Hicks trapped from the outside in Elimination Race Four and easily took the victory. Harmatiuk ran second, but was under immense pressure from Fowler. The former Youth National Champion tried everything he could to take second, but couldn't get by. Harmatiuk filled the final spot in the field, while Fowler and Fox would be the reserves.
Venegas began the first round with a convincing win over Bryan Yarrow. Bobby "Boogaloo" Schwartz, who will be 50 years old on August 10, showed everyone that he meant business with a victory over Tommy Hedden in race two. Hicks was excluded from race three for touching the tapes, which gave Fowler an opportunity to come to the tapes. When tapes did go up, Hamill left everyone in his wake en route to his first win. Hancock, making his first appearance at Costa Mesa in nearly five years, announced his return with authority by defeating Faria and Josh Larsen in the final race of round one.
Round two began with Yarrow getting a good start, but Hamill used the outside to take the lead in turn two. Hamill went on to victory and Faria passed Yarrow on the outside for second. Hancock made it two in a row with a win over Venegas in race six. Schwartz matched the perfect scores of Hancock and Hamill by defeating Shawn McConnell in race nine. Larsen closed out the second round by trapping from the outside and taking his first win.
The third round began with Yarrow and Buck Blair battling through the first corner, but Larsen blazed up the inside to take the lead entering turn three. Larsen made it two straight victories with McConnell passing Blair and Yarrow for second. Venegas scored the victory in race ten ahead of Nate Perkins.
Race 11 was the heat that most had circled in their programs. It would pit the two World Champions against each other, Hamill in gate two and Hancock in gate four. Hamill appeared to hold a slight advantage in turn one, but Hancock roared around the outside to take the lead on the back straight. Hancock left no doubt as he pulled away to a resounding victory.
In the final race of round three, Schwartz had a chance to match Hancock's perfect score with the two meeting up in the next race. It wasn't to be as Faria made a great start while Schwartz got caught behind Harmatiuk and Hicks in turn one and was unable to gain any positions. Faria went on to his first win of the evening.
At intermission Hancock sat alone at the top with nine points; Hamill and Venegas were tied with eight; Faria and Larsen had seven apiece; and Schwartz and McConnell each had six.
Hancock kicked off the fourth round by leading Schwartz from start to finish for his fourth straight win. Venegas beat Faria to earn his third win of the night. Larsen was leading race 15 before Castro and Perkins went down and forced a restart. Castro took advantage of the second chance and took the win. Hamill completed round four with his third victory while Blair went around Harmatiuk to take second.
Yarrow began the final round with a win over Hedden.
Event 18 had huge implications as all four riders could make the A Final. Schwartz got the jump on Hamill, Venegas, and Larsen which pumped up the crowd. Hamill tried to chase down the legend, but couldn't force a mistake. Schwartz was first to the flag with Hamill second, and Venegas third. The latter two riders securing their places in the A Final while Schwartz would have to wait.
Faria, needing a first or second to make the A Final, was oblivious to the pressure and beat Castro to make the big race.
Hancock, came to the tapes with his A Final slot secure, but racing to ensure gate selection and the bonus series point to the top scorer in the heats. He easily led for two laps before McConnell went down and forced a restart. The second try was no different as Hancock completed his heats with a perfect score.
The D Final consisted of Blair, Hicks, Harmatiuk, and Wieslaw Oskiewicz, who qualified for the National Series via the Central States Qualifier Series. The main goal of the D Final quartet is to finish in the top two, otherwise the rider must go to the dreaded Elimination Round at the next National Round. Hicks got the best start with Blair behind him. Harmatiuk briefly challenged Blair, but faded back before falling on the final lap. Hicks won and Blair was second to lock themselves into the field at the next round while Oskiewicz and Harmatiuk were relegated to the Elimination Round.
The C Final had McConnell, Yarrow, Hedden, and Bart Bast, in his first meeting since breaking his ankle. McConnell used gate one to his advantage with a great start and hugged the inside line for the win. Hedden was second, Yarrow was third, and Bast was fourth.
In the B Final it was Schwartz, Castro, Larsen, and Perkins. Schwartz and Larsen gated together, but Larsen found enough speed on the back straight to pull down in front of Schwartz entering turn three. The red flag came out, though, when Perkins unloaded in turn four and couldn't leave the track safely. Perkins was excluded for the restart. Schwartz, given a reprieve, launched into the lead at the start and won handily ahead of Castro and Larsen, who was left to ponder being snakebitten by a red flag for the second time.
The meeting marked the debut for the National Series at Costa Mesa and the first AMA sanctioned event at the world famous venue since 1997. A lot of diplomacy and diligent work was involved in bringing the Series to Costa Mesa and fans are hopeful for a long-term relationship between International Speedway Inc., promoters of Costa Mesa, and AMA Sports and USA Speedway.
Rounds two and three of the AMA Sports/USA Speedway National Championship Series will both take place at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn on Friday, September 1 and Saturday, October 7.
Elimination Race 1: Hicks, Fox, Browne, Martynse (eliminated)
Elimination Race 2: Harmatiuk, Fowler, Sevart, Mabry (fell, remounted - eliminated)
Elimination Race 3: Fox, Fowler, Browne (fell - eliminated), Sevart (fell - eliminated)
Elimination Race 4: Hicks (Q1), Harmatiuk (Q2), Fowler (R1), Fox (R2)
Heat Scoring 1 2 3 4 5 T
1 - Greg Hancock 3 3 3 3 3 15 *Series Bonus Point*
2 - Billy Hamill 3 3 2 3 2 13
3 - Charlie Venegas 3 2 3 3 1 12
5 - Bart Bast 0 1 1 1 1 4
6 - Mike Faria 2 2 3 2 3 12
7 - Nate Perkins 1 0 2 2 2 7
8 - Tommy Hedden 2 2 0 0 2 6
9 - Bobby Schwartz 3 3 0 2 3 11
10 - Buck Blair E 0 1 2 0 3
11 - Bryan Yarrow 2 1 0 0 3 6
12 - Eddie Castro 1 1 1 3 2 8
14 - Shaun Harmatiuk 0 0 2 1 F 3
20 - Shawn McConnell 2 2 2 1 Fx 7
21 - Wieslaw Oskiewicz 0 0 0 0 0 0
22 - Josh Larsen 1 3 3 1 F 8
23 - Gary Hicks T 1 1 0 1 3
27 - T.J. Fowler (Res.) 1 - - - - 1
30 - George Fox 1 - - - - 1
1: Venegas, Yarrow, Castro, Harmatiuk
2: Schwartz, Hedden, Perkins, Blair (engine failure)
3: Hamill, McConnell, Fowler, Bast, Hicks (tape exclusion)
4: Hancock, Faria, Larsen, Oskiewicz (fell, remounted)
5: Hamill, Faria, Yarrow, Perkins
6: Hancock, Venegas, Hicks, Blair
7: Schwartz, McConnell, Castro, Oskiewicz
8: Larsen, Hedden, Bast, Harmatiuk
9: Larsen, McConnell, Blair, Yarrow
10: Venegas, Perkins, Bast, Oskiewicz
11: Hancock, Hamill, Castro, Hedden
12: Faria, Harmatiuk, Hicks, Schwartz
13: Hancock, Schwartz, Bast, Yarrow
14: Venegas, Faria, McConnell, Hedden (fell, remounted)
15: (restarted) Castro, Perkins, Larsen, Hicks
16: Hamill, Blair, Harmatiuk, Oskiewicz
17: Yarrow, Hedden, Hicks, Oskiewicz
18: Schwartz, Hamill, Venegas, Larsen (fell)
19: Faria, Castro, Bast, Blair
20: (restarted) Hancock, Perkins, Fox, Harmatiuk (fell), McConnell (fell, excluded)
23 - Gary Hicks
10 - Buck Blair
21 - Wieslaw Oskiewicz
14 - Shaun Harmatiuk (fell)
20 - Shawn McConnell
8 - Tommy Hedden
11 - Bryan Yarrow
5 - Bart Bast
B Final (restarted)
9 - Bobby Schwartz
12 - Eddie Castro
22 - Josh Larsen
7 - Nate Perkins (fell, excluded)
A Final (restarted)
3 - Charlie Venegas
6 - Mike Faria
2 - Billy Hamill
1 - Greg Hancock (fell, excluded)
Series Standings (After 1 of 3 Rounds)
Charlie Venegas 20
Mike Faria 18
Billy Hamill 16
Greg Hancock 15 *includes bonus point*
Bobby Schwartz 12
Eddie Castro 11
Josh Larsen 10
Nate Perkins 9
Shawn McConnell 8
Tommy Hedden 7
Bryan Yarrow 6
Bart Bast 5
Gary Hicks 4
Buck Blair 3
Wieslaw Oskiewicz 2
Shaun Harmatiuk 1