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1998 Costa Mesa Speedway
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Costa Mesa Speedway
Orange County Fairgrounds
Costa Mesa, CA

1998 SRA National Championship
October 3, 1998 Costa Mesa Speedway
From Linda Love

(Also see reports from Ryan Evans and Gary Roberts for more details!)

What a night! A near sell out crowd gathered at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, Ca. on the night of Oct. 3rd 1998. The only section that did not fill was the Reserve seating section (go figure?).

The night started out with the Coors Ski Diving Team making a drop in appearance. There were 4 divers with the last two making a "stacked" entry. It was really cool!!! They also had some intermission entertainment lined up as well from "Medieval Times". A Band up in the stands at turn 3 played on and off throughout the program. The Coors "girls" were there riding around the track in the back of brand new Toyota trucks holding signs with the number of each event. Seemed like something you'd see at a boxing match. It was all nice but I have to admit, I was there for one reason and one reason only. That reason was to see speedway racing! I got what I wanted and then some!!

The night of racing that was ahead was some of the most (if not the most) exciting speedway racing I have ever seen. Well worth the ticket price and more. This was some of the most aggressive riding I have ever seen. These riders were hungry for this title and it showed. You get the idea, now for my report - 20 top riders (2 reserves), 20 events. 2 semi's, 1 last chance, and the Main Event. (A little different than I am used to but that was fine.) 5 of the riders that were there were from the North. You know I was stoked to see that, being from there originally. It was almost like a No. vs. So. rematch (hehe). Here is best I can remember it:

Bart Bast, Mike Faria, Charles "Dukie" Ermolenko, John Aden
Charlie Venegas, Jim Sisemore, Eddie Castro, Shawn McConnell
Josh Larson, Bobby Schwartz, Gary Ackroyd, Tommy Hedden
Chris Manchester, Brad Oxley, David Taylor, Robin Nicolaides
Bobby Hedden, Gary Hicks, Andy Northrup, Randy Difrancesco
Josh Larsen, Charlie Venegas, Kon Baur-R , David Taylor
Mike Faria, Jim Sisemore, Andy Northrup, Tommy Hedden
Charles Ermolenko, Bobby Hedden, Brad Oxley, Eddie Castro
Chris Manchester, Randy DiFrancesco, Gary Ackroyd, John Aden
Gary Hicks, Bobby Schwartz, Shawn McConnell, Robin Nicolaides
Chris Manchester, Josh Larsen, Jim Sisemore, Charles Ermolenko
Bart Bast, Brad Oxley, Bobby Schwartz, Randy D.
Charlie V., Bobby H., Mike F., Robin N.
Gary H., Tommy H., Eddie C., Cooley-R
Andy N, Shawn Mc, Kon Baur-R
Josh L, Eddie C, Randy D, Robin N
Bart Bast, Shawn Mc, Cooley -R, Kon Baur -R
Mike F, Gary H, Brad O, Gary A
Bobby S, Andy N, Charles E, Charlie V
Bobby H, Jim Sisemore, Cooley-R, David T

Event 5: Randy D. was battling hard at 2nd , going into the last lap his chain broke which gave him the Goose Egg for Round One.

Event 6: Venegas had a good start which put him out front in the first lap, but going into turn 4 he was rammed by Bart Bast and they both went down. I have never seem Bart race like that. He is aggressive but not usually reckless. Bast was DQ-ed and the race was restarted. Unfortunately for Charlie though, because Josh Larsen snaked in for the win.

Event 11: This was an exciting race! Going into this event (which I guess you could say was Round 3), there were only 2 riders that had perfect scores and that would end for one of them at the end of this race. Chris Manchester (who Mike Rooney refers to as "the Wizard") was working his magic tonight! He had three awesome starts and was racing flawlessly. He came out the victor over Josh Larsen to keep up his, so far, perfect score of the night. This was soon to change though!

Event 14: John Aden was DQ-ed for breaking the tape but then lined up for the restart. I missed what had happened but I heard that when they told him he was DQ-ed, he rode through the tapes after they had just fixed them. He was the DQ-ed for the rest of the night. He had not scored any points so far that night anyway.

Event 15: Gary A. was DQ-ed for touching the tape.

Event 17: This had to be the most heart breaking event of the night. I nearly cried! Manny was in rare form! I was so excited to think that maybe, just maybe, he was going to sweep this night and take home the title. But much to my disappointment, Chris got taken out by Tommy H. coming out of turn 4. Chris went into the wall and was down, but conscious, for a long time. Tommy was DQ-ed. Chris ended up having his leg splinted and was carried off on a stretcher and taken to the local hospital. A very sad end to such an awesome night for Chris.

Event 19: Another heart wrenching race. Charlie V. had a near perfect score going into this event. He has got to be one of the most tenacious riders out there. He had a bad gate but that did not stop him. He was working Bobby S. every lap. Then you could start to hear some backfiring coming from Charlie's bike and my heart sank. First Manny is out and now Charlie having engine trouble. This gave Bobby the 3 points he well needed to contend.

Intermission: Jousting Knights from "Medieval Times" (pretty cool)

Event 21: Bobby H, Brad O, Charlie V, Bobby S, Gary H. (first 2 trans. to the main, second 2 to the Last Chance) Charlie once again plagued with engine trouble but squeaked out a last chance slot. Event 22: Josh L, Bart B, Andy N, Mike F, Jim Sisemore. Jim went down and so did Faria, but Faria was able to finish to make the last chance. Event 23-Last Chance: One of these 4 will make it to the Main Event! Here are the riders in order as finished: Mike F, Schwartz, Venegas, Northrup.

I think I heard that Charlie borrowed a bike, not sure. He was showing the stuff that makes him the super rider that he is. Again, the word tenacious comes to my mind when I think of how he was riding tonight. Unfortunately though, tonight would not see him the Crown. Mike Faria will go on to the Main event along with B Hedden, Oxley, Larsen and Bast. And now for the moment you have been waiting for - who will be the 1998 US National Champion at Costa Mesa, Ca.???

Event 24: It was about as close as racing can get! Before I forget, 3 of the 5 riders in this main event were from the North!! Yeah baby, you got that right! ( hehe, ok, so I'm a little biased!) This battle for Number 1 would be like a dual to the death (which fit quite well with the entertainment at intermission!). This battle would be fought by two great warriors, Oxley and Bast. From the gate is when it began. It was quite evident that Bast was on fire this night and taste victory. Except for his DQ, he scored 3's in all his races for the night. Everyone was on their feet for this event. It was a fight all the way to the checkered flag and I mean a fight! It was a very close finish and the Victor that emerged was none other than a cousin to former National Champions Mike and Steve. You know it has to be Northern California's own Bart Bast!!! Bart got what he came for and went away with a National title under his belt. After the race, he was hoisted up in the air and tossed up several times by his crew and some of the other North riders. Truly a spectacular night of racing!!!

I don't really know too many of the south riders so that is why I didn't comment much on them. I do have to say that Randy fought hard but seemed to not have things go in his favor. Eddie Castro is always great to watch and these two guys really make it enjoyable for the fans. They are very fan friendly. Josh Larsen scored the most points for the night at 11. He had good starts and was very fast but I just think that Bart wanted the win more and his skill and experience earned him the title. My favorite riders of the night had to be Chris Manchester, Charlie Venegas, Bobby Hedden, Bart Bast, Brad Oxley, and Randy DiFrancesco. Josh Larsen showed that he has what it takes to be a contender for the Title next year if he continues like he did this night. They all fought hard and really gave the fans what they came to see. That is the night, as best I remember it.

Enjoy. Linda Love (coyotesgrrl@hotmail.com)

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