1996 Costa Mesa Speedway
September 28, 1996 - USA Speedway National Championship Costa Mesa Speedway
From: Gary Roberts
We have the luxury of three reports on the nights racing.
Also see: National Heats and Predictions From Tom Simrak
and National Press Conference From: Gary Roberts and Press Conference Photos
From: Tom Simrak
Tonight was the biggest race of the year for all who raced. For Steve Lucero it was the second biggest night of his racing career. For the second time
Lucero is the National Champion. Lucero, Who in 1988 won the title with the
lowest point total ever, scored an almost perfect 14 points forcing a 4 lap
runoff with "Flyin" Mike Faria. Lucero scored 2 points in his opening ride
after taking second place to Bobby Schwartz. Lucero won his remaining four rides for the night. In event 9, Lucero was up against Faria, Defending champ Greg Hancock and northern California's Pat Linn. Hancock went down in turn one, leaving the race up for grabs between
Lucero and Faria. Lucero won the race and Faria dropped his only point of he night.
After two rounds of racing Bobby Schwartz was one of two to have a clean score.
However in round three Bobby got a goose egg , Losing to Gary Hicks, Shawn McConnell, and Bart Bast.
The racing went mostly as expected with a few exceptions. Donny Odom crashed hard in his first ride and sat out the rest of the night. Greg Hancock
got shut out in round three ending his hopes of a repeat and John Aden finished the night with 4 second place rides and a fourth for a 8 point total.
Northern California's Louis Kossuth had a great showing tonight scoring 11 points and
finishing third for the night. I'm not sure, but this may be the first North Cal rider
to make the podium. At least it's the first in many years. Bart Bast got the "Bad break
of the night" award. In his final ride of the night, all the riders pulled their bikes
on to the track. For unknown reasons Bast did not make the call. A reserve rider came on
the track and fired up. As the bikes were getting ready to stage Bast pulled to the pit
gate and tried to get on the track. People were waving and yelling but the race got under
way without him. Bast finished with 6 points for the night. His replacement in that race
scored 2 points in that race. Assuming Bast could have scored the same points he would
have had an 8 point total. Because Bast beat both Aden and Brad Oxley in earlier racing he would have finished the night 6th instead he finished in 8th or 9th.
From: Gary Roberts
Steve Lucero is the new US National Champion, for the second time. Last time was 1988.
Several surprises happened along the way, but few will disagree that Lucero was the best
man on the night.
The track was a little wet to start with, but after half a dozen heats was in absolutely
perfect condition, and stayed that way for the rest of the night. The only thing that
seemed a bit strange was the shape of it. The pole had been brought out quite a long way,
making a very tight turn for the inside line, which proved to be the fastest line. This
was also a very different shape from the Thursday practice session. A combination of shape,
along with the excess of water made the early heats quite a challenge, as will be explained
Scores as follows:
1st Steve Lucero 14
2nd Mike Faria 14
( Lucero won the run - off against Faria to break tie for first )
3rd Louis Kossuth 11
4th Greg Hancock 10 (3 1sts, 1 3rd)
5th Bobby Schwartz 10 (2 1sts, 2 2nds, 1 3rd)
(tie for 4th broken by Hancock having more first place finishes )
6th Brad Oxley 8 (2 1sts, 2 3rd)
7th John Aden 8 ( 4 2nds )
(tie for 6th broken by Oxley having more first place finishes )
8th Eddie Castro 7
9th Gary Hicks 6 (1 1st , 1 2nd , 1 3rd)
10th Shawn McConnell 6 (1 1st , 3 3rd)
(4 way tie for 9th - broken by Hicks having more 2nd place finishes )
11th Jake Zemke 6 ( 2 2nds, 2 3rd) reserve, 5 rides
11th Bart Bast 6 ( 2 2nds, 2 3rd)
(tie for 11th - they never met in a heat !)
13th Robert Pfetzing 4
14th Jesse Finch 3 ( 1 2nd , 1 3rd)
15th Andy Northrup 3 ( 1 2nd , 1 3rd)
(tie for 14th broken by Linn beating Northrup in heat 16)
16th Pat Linn 3 ( 3 3rd) reserve, 5 rides
17th Jim Sisemore 0
17th Don Odom 0
Results by Heat
1. Schwartz, Lucero, Kossuth, Northrup. Lucero, from the pole made the best gate, but
two riders went down behind him. In the re-start again, Lucero made the best gate,
and again, two riders went down behind him. In the next re-start, Schwartz got the
gate ahead of Lucero and held the lead to the finish. This was the only point Lucero
dropped all night.
2. Oxley, Zemke (for Hicks) non finishers Odom, Sisemore, Linn. Don Odom got pushed
outside and bailed before hitting the wall, but his bike bounced off the wall onto
him. It looked like he was hit by the back wheel, and he was hurt. He did not come
back for the re-start, or for any of his later heats. I understand he suffered
shoulder and/or elbow injuries and went to hospital after the meeting. His place
was taken in this heat by reserve Pat Linn. Drama not over yet. In the re-start
Hicks touched the tape and was disqualified, replaced by reserve Jake Zemke. Oxley
got the gate, followed by Zemke. Both Sisemore and Linn fell independently and did
not continue, so no third place was awarded.
3. Faria, Castro, McConnell, Pfetzing. Faria got the gate, with Eddie Castro in
pursuit. Castro, who is renowned for his budget equipment was riding a Weslake
in this heat. On Thursdays practice he rode a two valve with blue frame, yellow
wheel disc, pink plastic and green wheels, a most distasteful looking machine.
McConnell took time out to do a 360, staying on and holding third place.
4. Bast, Aden, Hancock, Finch. In the first run of this heat, Aden fell, taking
down Finch, but the referee allowed a complete re-start. Then came the first real
shocker of the evening. Reigning Champion Hancock was beaten from the gate by
Bart Bast, then as Hancock tried to ride round the outside of Bast, Aden got
underneath, taking second.
5. Lucero, Hicks, Finch, Pfetzing. The first race with no drama. Lucero from the
tapes to the finish. Pfetzing slowed to clean the mud from his goggles.
6. Schwartz, Castro, Linn (for Odom), Aden. Schwartz from the gate was followed
by Jawa-mounted Castro. Aden fell on the first corner, re-mounted, but lost too
much ground to catch up.
7. Faria, Kossuth, Bast, Oxley. Faria got the gate, followed by Bast. Kossuth,
riding extremely fast got past Bast, but made little ground on Faria.
8. Hancock, Northrup, McConnell, Sisemore. Hancock got a great gate from gate 4,
the first race to be won from this position. His lead increased each lap.
Sisemore retired with engine problems.
9. Lucero, Faria, Zemke (for Hancock), Linn (for Odom). This was to be the big
tie breaker with Faria, Hancock and Lucero. Faria got a bad gate, but Hancock
fell and the race was stopped. To the unhappiness of Hancock and the crowd, he
was disqualified. In the re-run again Faria got a bad gate but came back up to
second, making no impression on Lucero. This was the end of Hancock's hope for
regaining his title and was the only point that Faria dropped.
10. Hicks, McConnell, Bast, Schwartz. Another surprise. Previously unbeaten,
Schwartz had a bad start from gate 4 and stayed in 4th position. Gary Hicks,
made a good gate and held the lead to the finish.
11. Kossuth, Aden, Pfetzing, Sisemore. Louis Kossuth had a good start from gate
3, John Aden, who rode really well but had only 2 points from 2 rides, had a
bad start from gate 4. Sisemore fell. Aden got past Pfetzing.
12. Oxley Castro, Northrup, Finch. Oxley got the gate, followed closely by Finch.
Finch fell, and looked most unhappy. After the race, he had heated words with the
referee, to no avail. He had been voted best personality of 1995, I wonder if
he'll keep that title? Meanwhile Eddie Castro plugged away to get another second,
this time on his Jawa.
So after 3 rides, Faria and Lucero had 8, and Castro, Schwartz, Kossuth and Oxley
tied with 6.
13. Lucero, Aden, Oxley, McConnell. Lucero's dominance was again demonstrated when
he took the lead from gate 4, to an unchallenged finish. John Aden battled his was
past Oxley. McConnell stopped with engine failure.
14. Faria, Schwartz, Finch, Sisemore. Faria's last real challenge of the evening was
to beat Schwartz to maintain his tie for first place. This he did without difficulty.
15. Hancock, Kossuth, Zemke (for Castro), Hicks. More re-runs. First time Castro
and Kossuth went down, second time Hicks and Kossuth went down, both times Hancock
was ahead. The third attempt at running this race lasted till the third or fourth
lap, when last place, Weslake-mounted Castro's oil catcher fell off under his back
wheel, putting him in the wall. He did not get up and the referee stopped the race
for safety reasons. All riders were sufficiently far apart and the race was so far
along, that we were surprised that the referee ordered a re-run without Castro. We,
the armchair referees, would have called that the race. It was incidently the only
referee's decision we did not agree with all evening. So Hicks, Kossuth and Hancock
had to go out for a fourth time, now against a freshly invigorated Zemke, who we
thought might win! For the fourth time Hancock got the gate, but the number of
restarts showed on Hicks. Hancock was riding a GM that had been smoking a little
in practice and by this stage in the evening was putting out so much smoke that
the front straight was opaque after his starts. It would be interesting to know
whether he put in additional oil between re-runs.
16. Pfetzing, Linn (for Odom), Bast, Northrup. Rob Pfetzing made up for an otherwise
disappointing evening with a good gate from the pole, unchallenged. Around this time
someone pointed out that Bast was using a 22" rear wheel, not that it gave him a
By this stage, after 4 rides, Lucero or Faria, both had 11 points and relatively
easy last rides. Unless one of them made a grave error, or had an engine failure,
a run off between them was a foregone conclusion. Kossuth and Schwartz were behind
them with 8 points.
17. Lucero, Zemke (for Bast), Castro, Sisemore. Lucero who had the added fortune of
starting from the pole twice in the evening, continued his consistent performance
and won this from the tapes. Zemke appeared for Bart Bast, came second, Sisemore
fell again, remounted, then fell off the other side of the bike. Castro did a 360
stayed on and took third. This was a disappointing evening for Jim Sisemore, who
rode well in Southern California several years ago. He had an evening of bad starts,
engine troubles and falls, but otherwise he looked fine. After this race was over an
unhappy looking Mr. Bast came along and talked to the referee. From information I
heard later from someone who witnessed the incident, the pit gate was shut down in
front of him while he was waiting to come out for the race. Not much the referee can
about it after the race.
18. Hancock, Schwartz, Oxley, Pfetzing. This could have been the 1995 US National
run-off all over again, but with Brad Oxley and Rob Pfetzing thrown in! We still
felt bad for Bobby, who was leading the run-off last year, when Greg ran into him
from behind, and was not disqualified. Moving on . . . . Unlikely to get a podium
position, Greg Hancock made an outstandingly fast and incredibly smoky start from
gate 4, while Bobby Schwartz from gate 2 got trapped behind Pfetzing. Schwartz got
past Pfetzing, for second, and Oxley pipped him at the post for third.
19. Kossuth McConnell, Finch, Linn (for Odom). Louis Kossuth won this race from
the gate, to end up a well deserved third place. He also used to race in Southern
California, and left 3 or 4 years ago. While he was good then, his experience up
north has clearly helped him improve to a new level.
20. Faria, Aden, Hicks, Northrup. This was expected to be a straight forward win
for Mike to qualify for the run off with Lucero. However Mike got a terrible gate
from position 3, behind Hicks and Aden in 1 and 2. While Hicks and Aden went fast
into turn 3, Mike quite a way behind stayed low on the pole and pulled off the move
of the night, underneath both of them. He then went on to take his win. This was the
kind of move that we have watched Mike make here for many years, and have not witnessed
such brilliance, since his departure to Scotland.
So with all 20 heats over, Faria and Lucero had a run off. Lucero won the toss
for the pole position out of the gate. He got the best gate, Mike followed him
on the outside, I believe they touched and Mike went down. Restart. Again, Steve
got the best gate, this time Mike tried to get inside him on the exit of turn 2,
however when he applied the power, he span out. Good brave risk to take, but it
didn't come off. By the time he was facing the right direction, Steve was half
a lap ahead. So Steve Lucero won a well deserved second National title.
It was a great evening of racing, I saw lost of old friends, heard many British
accents, even drank a Coors, and had an enjoyable evening. I ran into Steve Wright,
from Wolverhampton, a member of the speedway internet distribution, who I met at
Paris Speedway in Ontario, Canada, earlier in the year. But one of the more amusing
stories was of an English gentleman, who stopped on the freeway to help Eddie Castro
change a wheel on Eddie's truck. Eddie told him that he was going to the US National,
and this unnamed Brit, who had lived in the San Fernando valley for six years, and
didn't know we had speedway in Los Angeles, decided to come and watch it and
thoroughly enjoyed it. There must be something we can learn from this in promoting
So speedway is over in Costa Mesa till next spring, unless they can put together
a match with the Europeans travelling to Australia, in November. I spoke to Brad
Oxley about this and its not certain yet, he's still working on it. However all
is not yet lost for 96. Santa Maria is running on October 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th.
It was a great night of racing. I figured Hancock to repeat as Champion
but it was not the case. His first round ride was not good. After 2
restarts (which he looked to win) he got a bad start and took third.
Second match he caused a re-start and was sent to the pits. His final
three rides he totally dominated the field. No doubt he was the FASTEST
rider on the track. But those two mistakes cost his the gold. Mike
Faria, who rides for a Scottish team, was down only a point going into
the final race of the night. He was looking really good. A bad start
put him in third going into bend #3, but the 1 and 2 riders went a
little to wide and Faria passed them on the inside lane coming out of
bend 4. It was a FANTASTIC race. Best of the night. Former National
Champ Steve Lucero, (Whom I do not like) and Faria faced each other in a
showdown. First start Faria was pushed wide and crashed. A restart saw
Faria again getting a bad start and Lucero had an easy ride to win it
all. The disappointing thing about this years championship was that
most of our best riders stayed in Europe. Even Billy Hamill cancelled
and did not show up. I was hoping he would. Also, my personal favorite
Chris Manchester was not invited to race. If you get a chance to watch
him ride, don't miss it. He is excellent. Great form, FAST! Very
----- Score sheet -------------
Gates: A (inside), B, C, D (outside)
dnf -did not finish
------------------ Heats 1 to 8 -------------------
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Total
Steve Lucero A2 B3 5
Bobby Schwartz B3 C3 6
Louis Kossuth C1 D2 3
Andy Northrup D0 A2 2
Gary Hicks A2 C 2 (Zemke replaced Hicks in heat 2)
Brad Oxley B3 C0 3
Donnie Odom Cdnf D 0 (Linn replaced Odom due to injuries in heat 2)
Jim Sisemore Ddnf B0 0
Eddie Castro A2 B2 4
Mike Faria B3 A3 6
Robert Pfetzing C0 D0 0
Shawn McConnell D1 C1 2
Bart Bast A3 B1 4
John Aden B2 A0 2
Greg Hancock C1 D3 4
Jessie Finch D0 A1 1
-- Reserves --
Jake Zemke C2 2
Pat Linn Cdnf D1 1
------------------ Heats 9 to 16 -------------------
9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Total
5 Steve Lucero C3 D3 11
6 Bobby Schwartz D0 A2 8
3 Louis Kossuth C3 B2 8
2 Andy Northrup B1 C0 3
2 Gary Hicks B3 D0 5
3 Brad Oxley D3 A1 7
0 Donnie Odom A B 0 (Linn replaced Odom heat 9, 16)
0 Jim Sisemore A0f C0 0
4 Eddie Castro C2 C 6 (Zemke replaced Castro in heat 15)
6 Mike Faria D2 D3 11
0 Robert Pfetzing B1 A3 4
2 Shawn McConnell A2 Bdnf 4
4 Bart Bast C1 D1 6
2 John Aden D2 C2 6
4 Greg Hancock Bdis A3 7 (Zemke replaced Hancock in heat 9)
1 Jessie Finch A0f B1 2
-- Reserves --
2 Jake Zemke B1 C1 4
1 Pat Linn A0 B2 3
------------------ Heats 17 to 20 -------------------
17 18 19 20 Totals
11 Steve Lucero A3 14
8 Bobby Schwartz B2 10
8 Louis Kossuth A3 11
3 Andy Northrup D0 3
5 Gary Hicks A1 6
7 Brad Oxley C1 8
0 Donnie Odom D 0
0 Jim Sisemore B0 0
6 Eddie Castro D1 7
11 Mike Faria C3 14
4 Robert Pfetzing A0 4
4 Shawn McConnell B2 6
6 Bart Bast Cf 6 (correction Gary!)
6 John Aden B2 8
7 Greg Hancock D3 10
2 Jessie Finch C1 3
-- Reserves --
4 Jake Zemke C2 6
3 Pat Linn D0 3