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1996 Costa Mesa Speedway
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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.
Tom Simrak
Gary Roberts
Richard Douglas
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 later.

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 visible advantage.

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 the sport!

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.

Richard Douglas

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 exciting.

----- Score sheet -------------
Gates: A (inside), B, C, D (outside)
dnf -did not finish
dis -disqualified
f   -fell
------------------ 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
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