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Fast Fridays Speedway
Gold Country Fairgrounds
Auburn, California

1998 AMA National Championships
Friday September 25, 1998 - Fast Fridays Speedway
By: Gary Roberts

Greg Hancock wins it!

The AMA National took place on Friday night in front of a super large crowd. The track and the weather were perfect. Despite the threat of rain, which actually fell the day before and later on during the night. Less fortunate was the Sacramento Mile Flat Track race on Saturday, which had a two hour delay in the middle because of the rain

1998 Greg Hancock

The format for the National was the regular championship format with 20 heats of 4 man races, followed by a 4 man 5th through 8th point scorers B final, with the winner joining the 1st through 4th point scorers in the A final. Its interesting that none of the riders that I talked to like the A and B final format, but it does produce a climatic crowd pleaser

The undisputed winner was Greg Hancock (photo), who produced lightning fast gates all evening. Behind Greg there was a lot of good racing, plenty of overtaking, and a lot of surprises. But at the end of the night, there was little surprise in the actual finishing order

Points scored:

Greg Hancock 14
Bart Bast 12
Mike Faria 12
Charlie Venegas 12
Josh Larsen 11
Bobby Hedden 9
Tommy Hedden 9
Billy Janniro 8
Jim Sisemore 8
Bob Hicks 6
Chris Manchester 6
Shawn McConnell 4
Robert Curry 2
Warren Diem 2
Bobby Schwartz 2
Pat Linn 1
Ian Ferris 1 reserve, 1 ride
Chad Felicio 0 reserve, 1 ride

What happened to the rest of them? 

Chris Manchester had a night he would prefer to forget. He fell in his first race, had engine failure in his second race, won his third, finished last behind Venegas, Bast and Josh Larsen in his fourth, then won his fifth

Billy Janniro had similar inconsistencies. He fell in his first, came third in his second, won his third, taking a point from previously unbeaten Bart Bast, won his fourth, beating Bobby Hedden, then getting a third in his last race

Tommy Hedden had an up and down night. He started the evening joining Bart Bast in taking points from Mike Faria. In his next ride he was the first person to take a point from Charlie Venegas. But in the end he scraped into the B final only after getting a point from Pat Linn's disqualification for parking in turn 4, causing Tommy to fall, in his last ride

Bobby Schwartz had a disastrous night. In the past he has gone well at Auburn. Last year he was second behind Bast in the National Qualifier round and he rode well in the recent Civil War events. He was making fast gates, but just didn't show his usual form

East Coast qualifier, Warren Diem suffered bad luck at the Thursday night practice, blowing an engine, and being left to ride a back up bike that arrived the day of the race. He started out with a good second place, but that was all he scored. Being one who remembered him ride in Southern California back in the mid eighties, I was expecting him to do better, despite this being his first visit to Auburn. Most importantly he succeeded in demonstrating to the crowd that there is competitive Speedway in the US, outside California

I missed the practice session. I heard several reports of how seven times ex- National Champion Mike Bast came out and put in several perfect laps, making it look as if he had never been away from the sport. But what really ticked people off is that he fitted straight into the same leathers that he used 15 years ago!

Back to the races, Jim Sisemore and Billy Janniro tied on 8 points and Jim won the run off, qualifying him for the B final

B Final
1. Bobby Hedden
2. Jim Sisemore
3. Josh Larsen
4. Tommy Hedden

A Final
1. Greg Hancock
2. Bart Bast
3. Mike Faria
4. Bobby Hedden
5. Charlie Venegas

Bart Bast told me last year that he had no ambitions of going to race in the British League, but he would like to win a National. Since he has been the most successful rider at Auburn in recent years, this would have been the ideal time to do it. But nobody could match Greg's gates. Mike and Bart had a good race for second place. They have enjoyed some good scraps all season at Auburn, and beating current National Champion Mike, to get a second behind Greg must go down as a great achievement. Charlie Venegas got a bad start and despite a good battle with Bobby Hedden, just couldn't recover

Congratulations to Greg, who showed his ability as a true champion in putting on a great show. This was only Greg's second ride at Auburn since riding here as a junior, over a decade ago. This, and his World Team Championship win, go down as another outstanding season for him. He lost only one point all night to an extremely determined Josh Larsen. Josh gated with him and managed to hold him off for four laps

For those who have not been following what's going on here, an explanation about the National is probably useful. The US National Championship is the highest internal Speedway event in the US. By internal, I mean that the winner of the National does not go on to transfer to the World Championship, or anything else. Winning the National is the end of the process. Its greatest significance is that the winner gets to ride as number 1 the following year. In the past it has always taken place at Costa Mesa. This year, Costa Mesa have chosen not to run AMA so the AMA sanctioned Fast Fridays of Auburn to run the National. Next weekend Costa Mesa is running a Costa Mesa National. Greg won the AMA National but won't be able to complete in next weekend's National, because his FIM sanctioned commitments prevent him competing in a non-AMA sanctioned event. Next weekend, a second National Champion will be proclaimed. Who will the history books say was the 1998 National Champion? Will we have 2 versions of the history book?

There are some positive sides to this sorry situation. To my knowledge, few if any of the riders are making a fuss about it. They are supporting both tracks and taking both championships seriously. But I wonder in years to come if they wont feel their achievements somewhat devalued. Let's not overlook the fact either that this year the spectators are enjoying two Nationals, not just one

Politics aside, this is a mess. If our sport is to maintain the high esteem with which we have been associated in the past, a long term resolution should be sought.

Gary Roberts - gary_rob@ix.netcom.com

From Tom Simrak

As you know, Warren Diem is racing the Nationals out here this week. My guess is people will be checking your site for the Auburn results. I was hoping maybe you could put a note letting the people back east know that the Costa Mesa results will be posted on the same night as the race, Saturday October 3rd. I would guess the eastern crowd would love to know as soon as possible how their guy did. The only setback is the Speedway From Turn Two on the RAZ VIDEO site will not be updated until Monday or Tuesday so you would need to use my old address.

Also, as usual I have my Nationals preview and predictions posted on the site. Howie did want me to mention that both the Costa Mesa and Auburn race are on video and are on sale now at RAZ Video.

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