Inland Motorcycle Speedway
National Orange Show
San Bernardino, California
Grand Reopening / John LaDouceur Championship
June 19, 2009 - IMS, San Bernardino
By: Ryan Evans
Speedway fans witnessed an evening of resurrection at the National Orange Show in San Bernardino on Friday, June 19, 2009. The date marked the resurrection of speedway at the Inland Empire venue and the resurrection of the speedway career of Josh Larsen at the Grand Reopening/John LaDouceur Championship at Inland Motorsport Speedway.
Promoters Jason Bonsignore and Shawn McConnell and many volunteers worked feverishly to ensure that the facility was ready on time. Their hard work paid off as the event was sold out 30 minutes prior to the first race and the fans were entertained by fantastic racing throughout the evening. The riders were very pleased with the track, especially the ample supply of dirt that produced a lot of outside passing.
Larsen, who hasn’t raced since an injury suffered two seasons ago, and Mike Faria both entered the main event undefeated, but Larsen won the right to pick first and chose gate one. It proved to be a wise choice because he launched into the lead at the start. “Fast” Eddie Castro and Faria battled side-by-side behind Larsen through the first corner and down the back straight. Castro drifted wide exiting turn four and pinched Faria’s line and slowed the former National Champion dramatically. Castro then turned his attention toward the leader. Castro chased the former World Finalist for two laps but was unable to gain any ground. Larsen seemed to have the race under control when he entered the final corner but found extra traction in the middle of the turn and got off his line. Castro pounced on the opportunity but Larsen recovered in time to beat him to the checkered flag and complete his perfect evening amid a loud ovation from the appreciative crowd. Buck Blair was third, Jason Ramirez finished fourth, and Faria was fifth.
The 24-rider First Division field competed in an all-scratch format similar to one that was used for the National Championship Qualifiers in the 1980s and 1990s. There were three rounds of heats with the top 16 scorers transferring to the four semi-finals. The winner of each semi transferred directly to the main with second place going to the Last Chance Race. The winner of the Last Chance transferred to the main.
Castro kicked off the evening by defeating McConnell in the long-awaited first heat. Northern California’s Tommy Hedden led the second heat before Ramirez charged through to take the win. Dukie Ermolenko led the third heat for three laps before Blair got by for the win. Brad Sauer was leading Larsen for two laps before the former World Team Cup Champion got by for his first win. Faria discovered that he was still a crowd favorite when he received a standing ovation for his easy win in event five. Jimmy Fishback, the son of San Bernardino legend Jim “The Animal” Fishback, was awarded the victory in the final race of round one after Dale Facchini and Robbie Sauer went down and brought out the red flag.
Shaun Harmatiuk started the second round with a win over Castro. Ramirez beat Brad Pappalardo for his second straight win. McConnell earned his first win on his race track by beating Justin Boyle. Hedden scored his first victory ahead of Neil Facchini in event 16. In the next race, Faria brought the crowd to its feet by racing on the outside of Buck Blair the entire race and it paid off as he charged to the finish line just ahead of the Colorado native for his second straight win. Larsen made a bold outside move in turn one to go around Fishback and on to his second consecutive win to complete round two.
Castro was victorious over Perkins to begin the third round with his second win. Fishback scored his second win in the next heat. Hedden beat Tyson Burmeister for his second straight win. Faria cruised to his third consecutive victory ahead of Tim Gomez. Larsen matched Faria’s perfect score in the very next heat by beating Blair. Ramirez closed out the heats and kept pace with Larsen and Faria with his third win.
A four-rider runoff was needed to fill the final two spots in the semis. Dale Facchini and Justin Boyle finished one-two ahead of Pappalardo and Brad Sauer and moved into the semis.
Castro won the first semi to earn his way into the main event. Blair handed Ramirez his first defeat and put himself into the main event with his victory in the second semi.
Faria and Hedden waged an intense inside-outside battle reminiscent of the glory days in the third semi. Hedden was relentless in his pursuit of the leader but his bid ended on lap three when he ran out of room on the back straight, bounced off the wall, and was wobbled before finally going down in turn three. Faria went on to the victory.
Larsen cruised to victory in the final semi but the action behind him was wild. McConnell was in second before finding enough traction to through him onto his backside. Harmatiuk assumed second but cost himself a spot in the Last Chance when he fell in the final corner.
Ramirez won the Last Chance to earn the final spot in the main-event field.
Larsen and Ermolenko were featured in a special best-of-three match race. Ermolenko won the first race after the riders swapped the lead several times. Larsen came back to win the second race which also featured several lead changes. The third race didn’t have as much drama as Larsen jumped into the lead and held off Ermolenko for the victory.
Steve “Rattlesnake” Bowen and Joey Holt entered turn one together in the Second Division Main Event, but both went wide and Billy Braden cut underneath for the lead. Braden led for three laps while Holt made his way into second and closed ground on the leader. Holt was within striking distance as they entered the final corner, but Braden kept his composure and held on for the win. Holt settled for second, Bowen finished third, and Frank Pecce was fourth.
Bubba Vazzana jumped into the lead at the start of the Third Division Main Event. Tim McGrath patiently pursued Vazzana for three laps and waited for an opportunity. As they entered the final corner McGrath made his move on the inside of the leader. McGrath straightened up in the middle of the corner which pushed both riders very wide. McGrath won the drag race to the finish to take the victory. Butch Waymire finished third and DeWayne Stark was fourth.
River McDougall started 20 yards back but passed Dillon Ruml and Jacob Wondolowski for the lead on lap one of the Youth Main Event. McDougall then rode a flawless race to get the victory. Samuel Ramirez finished second, Nicky Reimer was third, Maxwell Ruml finished fourth, Dillon Ruml was fifth, and Wondolowski finished sixth.
Reimer was victorious in the Pee Wee Main Event with Wondolowski finishing second and Dakota Shockley coming in third.
The John LaDouceur Championship was named for the original promoter of speedway at the National Orange Show (NOS). Inland Motor Speedway (IMS) was immensely popular and was known as “The Only Reason for Wednesday Nights” from 1975 to 1987 before the promotion moved to Glen Helen. Although the racing was great at Glen Helen it never garnered the fan support that IMS had and, after going through several promoters, speedway ended there after the 1995 season. Charlie Venegas promoted several events inside the NOS stock car stadium in 2000 and at Arrowhead Motor Speedway in 2001 and 2002 (Larsen coincidentally won Arrowhead’s first main event). International Speedway Inc. promoted a handful of events inside the stock car stadium in 2003, but there has been nary a speedway bike on the property since. Bonsignore and McConnell are hoping that their IMS will be the Friday Night happening in the Inland Empire much the same as what the original IMS was on Wednesday nights.
The fans were greeted by the voice of legendary announcer Bruce Flanders, who was the announcer of the original IMS and remains immensely popular with speedway fans. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was performed at the starting tapes prior to the races as well. Many speedway dignitaries were in attendance including iconic two-time World Champion Bruce Penhall, former World Under 21 Champion Ron Preston, former National Champion Kelly Moran, and AMA Hall of Fame announcer Larry Huffman.
The next event at IMS is Speedway Racers Remembrance Night. The evening will honor Ernie Roccio, Ken Berry, and Randy Evans, three American speedway racers who lost their lives in competition. The program will have scratch and handicap racing and will include the first Last of the Mohicans Last Man Out Challenge of the season.
Pee Wee Main Event
41 – Nicky Reimer
251 – Jacob Wondolowski
34 – Dakota Shockley
Youth Main Event
5 – River McDougall 20
22 – Samuel Ramirez 20
41 – Nicky Reimer 20
356 – Maxwell Ruml 20
111 – Dillon Ruml 0
251 – Jacob Wondolowski 0
Third Division Consolation
189 – Chris Thomas
308 – Hugh Randolph
226 – Rick Huspek
Third Division Consolation
101 – Mike Wiley
362 – Ralph Chudy
157 – Tony DeAlmeida
368 – Scott Rousseau (non starter)
Third Division Main Event
186 – Tim McGrath
274 – Bubba Vazzana
363 – Butch Waymire
268 – DeWayne Stark
Second Division Consolation
357 – Aimiris Santana
136 – Kim Stevens
150 – Damon Barry
Second Division Consolation
293 – Rick Valdez
141 – Josh Abbott
309 – Vince Giamformaggio (retired)
178 – Eloy Medellin (non starter)
Second Division Main Event (restarted)
117 – Billy Braden
244 – Joey Holt
177 – Steve Bowen
234 – Frank Pecce (penalty line)
Best of Three Match Race
2 – Josh Larsen (two victories)
15 – Dukie Ermolenko (one victory)
First Division Scoring 1 2 3 T
2 – Josh Larsen 3 3 3 9
6 – Shawn McConnell 2 3 1 6
9 – Mike Faria 3 3 3 9
11 – Bobby Schwartz 1 0 0 1
13 – Nate Perkins 2 1 2 5
14 – Eddie Castro 3 2 3 8
15 – Dukie Ermolenko 2 1 2 5
16 – John DeFries 0 1 1 2
17 – Robbie Sauer Fx 0 R 0
18 – Justin Boyle 1 2 0 3
19 – Dale Facchini 2 F 1 3
21 – Brad Sauer 2 1 0 3
22 – Mike Bloom 0 0 N 0
25 – Jimmy Fishback 3 2 3 8
30 – Tim Gomez 1 1 2 4
39 – Buck Blair 3 2 2 7
41 – John Marquez 0 0 1 1
66 – Jason Ramirez 3 3 3 9
86 – Neil Facchini 1 2 1 4
105 – Daniel Faria 0 0 0 0
139 – Shaun Harmatiuk 2 3 2 7
145 – Brad Pappalardo 0 2 1 3
184 – Tyson Burmeister 1 1 2 4
1: Castro, McConnell, Gomez, D.Faria
2: Ramirez, Perkins, Hedden, Bloom
3: Blair, Ermolenko, N.Facchini, Marquez
4: Larsen, B.Sauer, Burmeister, DeFries (fell, remounted)
5: M.Faria, Harmatiuk, Boyle, Pappalardo
6: (awarded) Fishback, D.Facchini, Schwartz, R.Sauer
13: Harmatiuk, Castro, Ermolenko, R.Sauer
14: Ramirez, Pappalardo, Gomez, Schwartz
15: McConnell, Boyle, B.Sauer, D.Facchini (fell)
16: Hedden, N.Facchini, DeFries, D.Faria (fell, remounted)
17: M.Faria, Blair, Burmeister, Bloom
18: Larsen, Fishback, Perkins, Marquez
25: Castro, Perkins, Pappalardo, Schwartz
26: Fishback, Harmatiuk, McConnell, B.Sauer
27: Hedden, Burmeister, Marquez, Boyle
28: M.Faria, Gomez, DeFries, R.Sauer (retired)
29: Larsen, Blair, D.Facchini, D.Faria
30: (restarted) Ramirez, Ermolenko, N.Facchini (fell, remounted), Bloom (non starter)
Runoff: D.Facchini, Boyle, Pappalardo, B.Sauer
Semi #1: Castro, Fishback, N.Facchini, Gomez
Semi #2: Blair, Ramirez, Burmeister, Ermolenko (retired)
Semi #3: M.Faria, Perkins, Hedden (fell, remounted), D.Facchini (fell)
Semi #4: Larsen, Boyle, Harmatiuk (fell, remounted), McConnell (fell)
First Division Last Chance (restarted)
66 – Jason Ramirez
25 – Jimmy Fishback
18 – Justin Boyle (fell, remounted)
13 – Nate Perkins (penalty line) (fell)
First Division Main Event
2 – Josh Larsen
14 – Eddie Castro
39 – Buck Blair
66 – Jason Ramirez
9 – Mike Faria (fell)