National Championship Qualifier Series Round 1 - Costa Mesa, CA, USA - June 8
Former National Champion Billy "The Kid" Janniro took the first step toward regaining his crown by capturing the first round of the United States National Championship Qualifier on an incredible night of racing at the world famous Costa Mesa Speedway.
An action-packed night that already staged 24 heats, four runoffs, and three finals. The A Final would bring Janniro, Tyson Burmeister, Max Ruml, and Gino Manzares out to the track. Janniro, the only undefeated rider in the heats, pondered whether or not to take gate one or two as his starting position. After some deliberation he picked gate one. Burmeister quickly chose gate two. Max Ruml selected gate four which left Manzares with gate three.
Janniro took the lead from the start with Burmeister and Manzares right behind him through the first turn and held the lead on the back straight. Manzares tried to get inside of Burmeister on the back straight but got into the former National runner-up as they entered turn three and brought both of them down. Burmeister was up quickly and raised his arms in frustration toward the Under 21 National Champion but calmer heads prevailed. Manzares was deemed the cause of the stoppage and was penalized for the restart.
Janniro led the restart into turn one but Burmeister charged up the inside on the back straight and took the lead as they entered turn three. Janniro went to the outside and made it work well enough to pull even at the end of lap one and then dropped in front of his MXRC Racing teammate to retake the lead as they entered turn one the second time. Burmeister drifted wide exiting turn two and relinquished second to Max Ruml who immediately set his sights on the leader. Janniro led through lap three and rode a wide line that allowed the 16 year old to draw closer, but not close enough to pose a serious threat. Janniro was first to the checkered flag, Max Ruml settled for a very impressive second, Burmeister was third, and Manzares finished fourth.
32 riders with hopes of earning a spot in the 45th Monster Energy United States National Speedway Championship began the evening competing in three rounds of heats to determine who would compete in each of the four finals. The result of the finals would earn the riders National Qualifier Series points ranging from 25 points to seven points that would carry on to the subsequent rounds at Big Time Speedway in Rancho Cordova, Industry Racing in the City of Industry, and Pirate Speedway in San Bernardino. Riders who didn't make any of the finals would earn five Series points.
"Fast" Eddie Castro began the evening with a win over Manzares while former National Champion Charlie "The Edge" Venegas suffered an engine failure. "Battling" Buck Blair beat Josh Larsen in the second heat. Janniro opened his evening with a victory over National number three Bryan Yarrow. Former National Champion "Flyin" Mike Faria beat former Under 21 National Champion Austin Novratil in event four. Aaron Fox defeated Bobby "Boogaloo" Schwartz in event five. Bryce Starks was leading his first ever race at Costa Mesa Speedway but pulled up on lap two when he thought the race was being stopped and handed the lead and win to Shawn "Mad Dog" McConnell. Max Ruml beat "Nasty" Nate Perkins in event seven. Burmeister ended the first round with a win over Michael Raines.
Faria started the second round by beating Castro for his second straight win. Larsen defeated former Junior National Champion Jason Ramirez for his first win. Janniro made it two wins in a row with a win over Starks. Novratil defeated Perkins in event 12. Raines beat Tim Gomez for his first win. Manzares defeated McConnell for his first win of the night. Max Ruml used the outside to score his second straight win. Yarrow finished round two with a win over Burmeister.
The final round of heats commenced with Yarrow beating Talkington for his second straight win. The next heat had Faria, Larsen, and Blair all swapping the lead on the first lap before they all came together in turn one on the second lap and went down. The referee ordered a complete restart with nobody penalized. Blair won the restart with Larsen getting second. Venegas, who suffered a second engine failure in round two, got the jump on Janniro in event 19. He led for three laps before Janniro took the lead and the win to remain perfect on the evening. Ramirez, Starks, and Novratil fought three abreast for an exciting first lap before Ramirez secured the lead and held on for the win. Schwartz beat Perkins in event 21. Raines held off McConnell for his second straight win to tie Yarrow with eight points, just one behind Janniro.
Event 23 is the race that will leave the longest impression in speedway fans' memories. Max Ruml needed a victory to secure a place in the A Final while Manzares could force at least a three-way tie on eight points and potentially a five-rider tie. Manzares made the start but Max Ruml stormed up the inside on the back straight to take the lead entering turn three. Manzares returned the favor with the same move the next lap. Max Ruml tried charged up the inside of Manzares again but bumped into him entering turn three and slid off while Manzares's evasive action caused him to loop over backward just before completing the third lap and the red light came on. Max Ruml was banished to the penalty line for the restart. Manzares led the second attempt through the first corner but Rohn Zellner spun around behind him which forced Max Ruml on a path toward the turn two wall. He scrubbed some of his speed, hit the wall with his rear tire first, rode with his rear tire against the wall while his front tire was airborne, peeled away with the front wheel still in the air, then landed it and managed to stay upright to the amazement of the crowd who promptly gave him a raucous ovation. The move drew comparisons to the legendary Danny "Berzerko" Becker. A third attempt to complete the race was ordered with Zellner joining Max Ruml on the penalty line. Manzares won easily to get eight points while Max Ruml got past Gomez to get second and match the eight points of Raines, Yarrow, and Manzares.
Burmeister came to the tapes in the last heat knowing a victory was force a five-rider tie on eight points. He was cool under pressure and won handily with Steve Russell getting second.
After the heats only Janniro knew which Final he would participate in. Four runoffs involving a total of 17 riders would fill the other 15 positions in the four Finals.
The first runoff would pit the five riders tied on eight points. The first three would meet Janniro in the A Final with the other two going to the B Final. Manzares got antsy, touched the tapes, and was penalized. Burmeister then made the best start and cruised to the win with Max Ruml right behind him. Manzares slipped past Raines and Yarrow to get the last spot in the A Final.
Larsen, McConnell, Faria, and Blair were tied with seven points apiece and vying for the remaining two spots in the B Final. Larsen was untested on his way to the win with Blair getting second to join him in the B Final.
The third runoff had Schwartz, Perkins, Castro, and Starks tied on six points with the hopes of filling the two open places in the C Final. The runoff required three attempts and when the dust settled it was Schwartz followed by Castro going to the C Final while Perkins and Starks would go to the D Final.
The final runoff was a battle among five-point scorers for the final two places in the D Final. Novratil was victorious with Fox finishing second to book the final places in the D Final while Talkington and Ramirez had there evenings come to an end.
Fox led the D Final from start to finish and won convincingly. Novratil was second, Starks finished third, and Perkins was fourth.
The C Final was a battle of quinquagenarians with McConnell, Faria, Schwartz, and Castro coming to tapes and each past a half-century in age. Faria emerged from the battle of veterans with the victory, his third of the night, followed by McConnell, Schwartz, and Castro.
Former World Finalist Larsen led all four laps en route to victory in the B Final. Yarrow finished second, Raines was third, and Blair finished fourth.
Three divisions of future stars also competed in addition to the National Championship Qualifier and the youngsters relished the chance to perform on the big stage.
Dillon Ruml wasn't about to be outperformed by his older brother and he took home the hardware for winning the Junior 250 Main Event. Junior National Champion Broc Nicol finished second, Kurtis Hamill was third, Hayley Perrault finished fourth, and Dalton Leedy was fifth.
Sebastian "Big Daddy" Palmese got into the tapes on the first attempt of the Mini 150 First Division Main Event and was penalized. Courtney Crone put together four perfect laps on the restart and was victorious. Maverick Molloy finished second, Michael Wells was third, and Palmese finished fourth.
This particular round of the National Qualifier Series was originally scheduled as the second round but rain forced the postponement of the first round at Big Time Speedway. The rescheduled event is now round two and will be held on Saturday, July 6. The third round is Saturday, August 3 at Industry Racing with the Series concluding at Pirate Speedway on the following Friday, August 9. The riders are competing for a much-desired spot in the 45th Monster Energy United States National Speedway Championship at Costa Mesa Speedway on Saturday, October 5.
National Qualifier Heat Scoring 1 2 3 T
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