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

Coors Light Spring Classic
March 7, 1998 - Costa Mesa Speedway
From Gary Roberts

A great season opener at Costa Mesa took place on Saturday, with probably the biggest star packed event for years. Only Sam Ermolenko and Ronnie Correy's absence prevented it being billed as the top 20 Southern Californians, along with the Hedden brothers from Northern California. This resulted in some great races.

25 riders competed in 5 men per race, qualifying heats. The top 10 went to 2 semi-finals. The track started off a bit inconsistent. 1 and 2 looked a bit slippery, bringing Charlie Venegas down in heat 5. Turns 3 and 4 were definitely grippy. Nobody could get it to turn in the first four heats, then Billy Hamill came out in heat 5 made it look easy. The level of competition resulted in much anticipation at the start gate, with significantly more disqualifications for tape touching that normal. The first one was by World Champion, Greg Hancock.

Mike Faria followed his US National win with another perfect performance, being unbeaten all night. Billy Hamill fought hard, as did Charlie Venegas. Greg Hancock was unlucky a couple of times. In the last chance he was lying second and catching up leader Schwartz, when Eddie Castro collided with him. Both stayed aboard, but it killed Greg's chances of making the main. Bobby Schwartz looked exhausted by the end of the evening, falling on turn 3 in the main.

Qualifying points:
Mike Faria       12
Billy Hamill     12
Dukie Ermolenko  11
Eddie Castro     10
Brad Oxley        9
Greg Hancock      8
Charlie Venegas   8
Bobby Hedden      8
Bobby Schwartz    7
Josh Larsen       7
Steve Furman      7
Gary Ackroyd      7
Andy Northrup     6
Chris Manchester  6
Shawn McConnell   5
Dave Taylor       4
Gary Hicks        4
Randy DiFrancesco 4
Brian Pappalardo  4
Paul Binnquist    3
Tommy Hedden      3
Richard Jones     2
Rick Pearce       1
Ronny Kemp       1
Kon Baur          1

Semi 1
Faria, Oxley, Larsen, Castro, B. Hedden

Semi 2
Venegas, Hamill, Schwartz, Hancock, Ermolenko

Last chance
Schwartz, Castro, Larsen, Hancock

Main event
1.  Mike Faria 
2.  Billy Hamill 
3.  Charlie Venegas 
4.  Brad Oxley 
5.  Bobby Schwartz

8 riders survived some fairly brutal qualifying heats to reach the support class main. This was lead by Sean Larned for most of the way by a quarter lap until near the end when he parked it in turn 4 causing chaos.

Support Main

1.  ? Upton
2.  Charlie Cooley 
3.  Brian Thompson 
4.  John DeVries 
5.  Rick Bishop 
6.  Mark Adams
7.  Sean Larned 

One general observation, there were a lot of riders on laydowns, in both first division and support classes.

Costa Mesa's regular weekly program starts on April 18. The return of Josh Larsen, Chris Manchester and Dukie Ermolenko will undoubtably result in some great Speedway this year. As yet, as far as I am aware, Costa Mesa is the only track that is running in Southern California. Auburn and Dixon start up in May, up north.

Gary Roberts

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