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1997 Costa Mesa Speedway
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Costa Mesa Speedway
Orange County Fairgrounds
Costa Mesa, California

1997 US Nationals
Costa Mesa Speedway
October 4, 1997
From: Gary Roberts

Mike Faria won the National for the third time. He didn't put a wheel wrong all evening. The format was changed somewhat from the norm. The regular 20 heat championship was used as a qualifier to select the highest 3 point scorers for the A main and the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th for the B main. The winner of the B main transferred to the A main.

Mike scored a perfect 15 points in the qualifying heats. Billy Hamill scored 14, Charlie Venegas 13 and Greg Hancock 12. So Greg Hancock had to battle it out with Bart Bast, Shawn McConnell and Bobby Schwartz. He won and joined the other three in the main. After two abortive attempts, the race finally got away and the finishing order was :

1st Mike Faria ( USA Champ '90,'91, second in '96 )
2nd Greg Hancock ( 1997 World Champion )
3rd Charlie Venegas ( 1997 California State Champion )
4th Billy Hamill ( 1996 World Champion, Second in World '97 )

Mike not only beat the other three twice, he was also leading both times the A Main was stopped. So another outstanding performance by Mike Faria. He fairly beat numbers one and two in the world and goes down in the history book as only the second rider to win over two Nationals and the first 40 year old to do it!

The US National took place at Costa Mesa last Saturday on a warm and pleasant evening. The track was quite wet for the first half dozen laps but was perfect after that, right through to the end. There was not a lot of overtaking, very few mistakes were made.

For the first time A and B finals were introduced after the regular 20 heat championship format. The 4th through 7th highest point scorers from heats contested the B final with the winner joining the 1st, 2nd and 3rd highest point scorers for an A final.

Points scored as follows:

Total              1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
15 Mike Faria               3        3        3                 3  3
14 Billy Hamill    3              3           2           3           3
13 Charlie Venegas    3              2              3  3              2
12 Greg Hancock_____________2___________3__3_________________3________1______
10 Bart Bast       2                 0           3           2           3
 7 Bobby Schwartz  0           2           1           2           2
 7 Shawn McConnell       2              2     1        0                 2
 6 Steve Lucero_____________0__3____________________2_____1______________-___
 6 Chris Manchester1                    0           0           2           3
 6 Andy Northrup            1     2              0     1                    2
 5 Eddie Castro       0                 1        1        2        1
 4 Bob Hicks_____________3___________1_____0______________0_________________0
 4 Bobby Hedden          0     1                 2              1     0
 4 John Aden          2           0        2                    -        0
 3 Chad Felicio       1        0              0              1              1
 3 Brad Oxley____________1________1_________________1________0_____0_________
 1 Matt_Becker  Reserve Rider                                   0        1

Results by heat:
1.  Hamill, Bast, Manchester, Schwartz
2.  Venegas, Aden, Felicio, Castro
3.  Hick, McConnell, Oxley, Hedden
4.  Faria, Hancock, Northrup, Lucero
5.  Lucero, Schwartz, Hedden, Felicio
6.  Hamill, Northrup, Oxley, Aden
7.  Faria, Venegas, Hicks, Bast
8.  Hancock McConnell, Castro, Manchester
9.  Hancock, Aden, Schwartz, Hicks
10. Faria, Hamill, McConnell, Felicio
11. Bast, Hedden, Castro, Northrup
12. Venegas, Lucero, Oxley, Manchester
13. Venegas, Schwartz, Northrup, McConnell
14. Hamill, Castro, Lucero, Hicks
15. Hancock, Bast, Felicio, Oxley
16. Faria, Manchester, Hedden, Becker (Aden Dqd - tapes)
17. Faria, Schwartz, Castro, Oxley
18. Hamill, Venegas, Hancock, Hedden
19. Bast, McConnell, Becker, Aden (Lucero Dqd)
20. Manchester, Northrup, Felicio, Hicks

A final:
Faria, Hancock, Venegas, Hamill

B final:
Hancock, Bast, McConnell, Schwartz

It is fair to say that the A final riders were in a separate class. All were untouchable by the other 12 riders. All got good gates most of the time, but when they didn't they were able to come from behind. Greg Hancock did this 3 times during the evening. The results were fairly predictable, but a few riders scored lower than expected.

Although Bobby Schwartz qualified for the B main, it was only just. He didn't look up to his normal standard. The northern riders had done well in the qualifying rounds but as has become a pattern over the years, Bart Bast was really the only Northern Californian to be a serious contender. Bobby Hedden who has been looking superb at Auburn did not make the expected impression. Like the '97 State Championship, Steve Lucero had another bad night. An engine failure and a disqualification gave him two zeros, but he was not able to display anything like the performance that gave him the title last year.

There was less drama and suspense than in most Nationals. Everything went very much to plan for Mike Faria. He scored a 15 point maximum in the qualifying heats, and then went on to win the A main. He was leading in both abortive attempts to run the A main too. What an achievement by Mike, at the age of 40, to beat numbers 1 and 2 in the world effectively 4 times. How did the British Elite League manage to let him slip through their fingers?

Mike's name goes down in Speedway history as the oldest National winner and only the second rider to ever win more than two Nationals.

Gary Roberts - gary_rob@ix.netcom.com

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