Costa Mesa Speedway
Orange County Fairgrounds
Costa Mesa, California
2007 AMA Sports/USA Speedway National Championship Series - Round 1
June 2, 2007 - Costa Mesa
By: Ryan Evans
Greg Hancock began his march toward a record eighth U.S. National Championship with a dominant unbeaten performance to win Round 1 of the AMA Sports/USA Speedway National Championship Series at the world famous Costa Mesa Speedway.
Hancock's perfect 15 points earned him first choice of gate selection in the A Final. It was the second straight year that Hancock won all of his heat races at the Costa Mesa round. However, last year he surprised most by selecting gate two and in a controversial clash with Billy Hamill in turn two, he found himself on the ground and excluded.
Hancock never looked at another gate this time and quickly selected gate one. Three-time National Champion Mike Faria used the second selection to pick gate two. Two-time National Champion chose gate three, and three-time AMA National Champion Hamill was left with gate four. The tension was high in anticipation of a colossal battle between last season's top four riders who collectively owned 15 national championships.
Hancock was first into turn one and sought out the cushion in turn two. Hamill cut back underneath Hancock and pulled alongside on the back straight. Both riders leaned on each other and went deep into turn three while the crowd roared with approval. Hancock rode a breathtaking outside line to emerge from turn four with the lead which drove up the crowd's decibel level even more. Hamill tried the same cutback move in turn two on the second lap, but Hancock found sufficient traction to deny Hamill's inside charge. Hamill tried desperately to close ground on the defending champion, but Hancock stretched his lead on the final two laps and was first to the checkered flag. Hamill had to settle for second, Faria finished third, and Venegas was fourth.
Hancock, one day shy of his 37th birthday, derived a lot of satisfaction in gaining redemption from the disappointment of last year's controversial end of the Costa Mesa round. Hancock began his career at Costa Mesa as a junior in 1980 and his busy European schedule has made it difficult for him to make many appearances at his home track in recent years. Thus, it was his first major victory at there since capturing his first National Championship there in 1995.
Fourteen riders were seeded into the field and a round of four elimination races were held to fill the final two spots. Jimmy Fishback won the Elimination Race One to transfer to the all-important Elimination Race Four with Tim Gomez and Josh West transferring to Elimination Race Three. Shaun Harmatiuk won the second elimination race to join Fishback while Dale Facchini finished second. Ricky Wells's machine came to a halt and appeared to finish fourth which would've eliminated him. However, Kenny Ingalls was excluded for putting both wheels onto the infield and Wells was handed a reprieve. In the third elimination race, Gomez and Wells transferred into Elimination Race Four while Facchini and West were eliminated.
Wells took the lead in Elimination Race Four and was followed by Gomez. Fishback fell in turn four and eliminated himself from any chance at making the field. Wells took the win and Gomez held on to second and both teenagers moved into the sixteen-rider field.
Gary Hicks got the best start in race one and led Bobby Schwartz the entire distance to score his first three points of the evening.
Race two was the heat everyone had anticipated when the draw was made public. Hancock, Hamill, and Faria, last season's top three riders came to the tapes with Eddie Castro. Hancock got the best start from the outside, stayed wide in the first corner, and pulled ahead on the backstraight. Hamill didn't get close enough to mount a challenge and Hancock scored his first win.
Josh Larsen used the outside to get the lead from Buck Blair on the first lap and took the win in race three. Venegas closed out the opening round with his first win of the night.
Round two began with Venegas beating Hamill to turn one and as they exited turn two Hamill lifted and then coasted to a stop with a broken chain. Venegas cruised to his second win ahead of Larsen, while Hamill would have to face an uphill battle to make the A Final.
Faria trapped from the outside and led race six the entire distance for his first win.
Hicks got the best start and was leading race seven when Tommy Hedden ran into the back of him in turn three. Hicks crashed hard over the highside and was down for several minutes before getting up nursing his ribs. Hicks made the restart, but Hedden was excluded. Blair was a comfortable winner in the restart and Hicks finished second.
Hancock and Yarrow left the line simultaneously in race eight, but Hancock was first to turn one and left little doubt after that en route to his second straight win.
Faria began round three with his second straight win ahead of Yarrow. Hamill finally found his stride with a win over Hedden in race ten. Hancock made it three wins in a row with a victory over Larsen and Perkins with Hicks pulling to the infield, undoubtedly feeling the effects of his earlier crash. Venegas beat Bast to conclude the third round with a victory.
At intermission, Hancock and Venegas were atop the scorechart with perfect nine-point scores and an upcoming meeting in round four. Faria, Larsen, Blair each had seven points, and Hamill and Bast were tied with five points apiece.
Castro began round four with a victory over Nate Perkins and Wells.
Race fourteen was the showdown between the two remaining unbeaten riders, Hancock and Venegas. Hancock made the battle anticlimactic with a fast start and a runaway victory ahead of Venegas and Blair.
Hamill trapped from the outside in race fifteen with Yarrow taking second.
Faria, Larsen, and Hedden battled into turn one in race sixteen with Faria leading on the exit of turn two with Hedden squeezing past Larsen on the outside for second. Hedden wasn't satisfield with his position and hunted the leader on the outside. Hedden overtook Faria and led the rest of the way for the win.
Entering the final round Hancock was the only rider with a perfect score, Venegas had 11 points, and Faria was next with nine points. Hamill, Larsen, and Blair were each tied with eight points and all three had designs on the A Final.
Hancock began the final round with his fifth victory in as many rides and cruised into the A Final with the bonus series point as top scorer in hand and Wells passed Hedden on the last lap to steal second. Yarrow trapped Larsen from the outside and held the former World Finalist at bay for the win. Larsen's defeat would eventually cost him a place in the A Final.
Venegas and Faria entered race nineteen with second choice in the A Final on the line, but Venegas was excluded for touching the tapes. Venegas's pleas proved fruitless and he was irate as he left the track. However, he could find solace in knowing that his place in the A Final was secure. Faria locked up second choice in the A Final with an easy win over McConnell.
Hamill and Blair entered race twenty knowing that a victory would put either rider into the A Final. Hamill completed his comeback from his disastrous second ride by winning easily to get into the A Final and Blair's second place put him into the B Final.
A four-rider runoff would've been necessary to determine who would join Bast in the C Final, but Hicks's withdrawal from the meeting automatically put Castro, Perkins, and Wells into the C Final and left just three riders to contest the D Final.
Schwartz, still suffering from a crash at Industry on Wednesday, defeated McConnell and Gomez for the victory in the D Final. Bast led all four laps of the C Final and Wells passed Perkins for an impressive second. Blair defeated Hedden and Yarrow in the B Final while Larsen's race ended at the tapes where he broke a chain.
Youth races were added to the program this year with six riders split into two divisions. Jason Ramirez cruised to victory in the Youth First Division Main Event with Chad Hoyt finishing second and Joey Holt finishing third.
Greg wasn't the only member of the Hancock family to earn a victory during the evening. Brad Pappalardo matched his uncle's victory with one of his own in the Youth Second Division Main Event. Braydan Galvin finished second and Rocco Scopellite was third.
This marked the second consecutive year that Costa Mesa has hosted a round of the National Series after many years of an acrimonious relationship with the AMA. The détente between International Speedway and the AMA/USA Speedway benefited the fans as they were treated to fast and spectacular racing on a well-prepared track throughout the evening.
Round two of the AMA Sports/USA Speedway National Championship Series is scheduled for Friday, June 15 in Auburn with round three, also in Auburn, on Friday, August 31.
Youth Second Division Main Event
611 - Brad Pappalardo
2 - Braydan Galvin
9 - Rocco Scopellite
Youth First Division Main Event
66 - Jason Ramirez
154 - Chad Hoyt
4 - Joey Holt
Elimination Race 1:
Elimination Race 2:
Ricky Wells (retired)
Kenny Ingalls (excluded)
Elimination Race 3:
Elimination Race 4:
Jimmy Fishback (fell)
Scoring 1 2 3 4 5 T
1 - Greg Hancock 3 3 3 3 3 15
2 - Billy Hamill 2 R 3 3 3 11
3 - Mike Faria 1 3 3 2 3 12
4 - Charlie Venegas 3 3 3 2 T 11
5 - Tommy Hedden 2 Fx 2 3 1 8
6 - Eddie Castro 0 1 1 3 0 5
7 - Bryan Yarrow 1 2 1 2 3 9
8 - Nate Perkins 0 1 1 2 1 5
9 - Bart Bast 1 2 2 1 0 6
10 - Shawn McConnell 0 R 1 0 2 3
11 - Bobby Schwartz 2 1 F 0 0 3
13 - Josh Larsen 3 2 2 1 2 10
14 - Buck Blair 2 3 2 1 2 10
15 - Gary Hicks 3 2 R N N 5
24 - Tim Gomez T R 0 0 1 1
26 - Ricky Wells 1 1 0 1 2 5
12 - Shaun Harmatiuk (R) 0 1 - - - 1
25 - Jimmy Fishback (R) Did Not Ride
Race Results 1: Hicks, Schwartz, Wells, Gomez (tape exclusion)
2: Hancock, Hamill, Faria, Castro
3: Larsen, Blair, Bast, McConnell (fell, remounted)
4: Venegas, Hedden, Yarrow, Perkins (fell, remounted)
5: Venegas, Larsen, Wells, Hamill (retired)
6: Faria, Bast, Perkins, Gomez (retired)
7: (restarted) Blair, Hicks, Castro, Hedden (fell, excluded)
8: Hancock, Yarrow, Schwartz, McConnell (retired)
9: Faria, Blair, Yarrow, Wells
10: Hamill, Hedden, McConnell, Gomez
11: Hancock, Larsen, Perkins (fell, remounted), Hicks (retired)
12: Veengas, Bast, Castro, Schwartz (fell)
13: Castro, Perkins, Wells, McConnell
14: Hancock, Venegas, Blair, Gomez
15: Hamill, Yarrow, Bast, Harmatiuk, Hicks (non starter)
16: Hedden, Faria, Larsen, Schwartz
17: Hancock, Wells, Hedden, Bast
18: Yarrow, Larsen, Gomez, Castro
19: Faria, McConnell, Harmatiuk, Venegas (tape exclusion)
20: Hamill, Blair, Perkins, Schwartz
11 - Bobby Schwartz
10 - Shawn McConnell
24 - Tim Gomez (fell, remounted)
15 - Gary Hicks (non starter)
9 - Bart Bast
26 - Ricky Wells
8 - Nate Perkins
6 - Eddie Castro
B Final 14 - Buck Blair
5 - Tommy Hedden
7 - Bryan Yarrow
13 - Josh Larsen (retired)
1 - Greg Hancock
2 - Billy Hamill
3 - Mike Faria
4 - Charlie Venegas
U.S. National Championship Series (After Round 1 of 3)
1 - Greg Hancock 21**includes bonus point earned as top scorer in the heats
2 - Billy Hamill 18
3 - Mike Faria 16
4 - Charlie Venegas 14
14 - Buck Blair 12
5 - Tommy Hedden 11
7 - Bryan Yarrow 10
13 - Josh Larsen 9
9 - Bart Bast 8
26 - Ricky Wells 7
8 - Nate Perkins 6
6 - Eddie Castro 5
11 - Bobby Schwartz 4
10 - Shawn McConnell 3
24 - Tim Gomez 2
15 - Gary Hicks 1