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1999 Fast Fridays Speedway
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Fast Fridays Speedway
Gold Country Fairgrounds
Auburn, California

1999 American Final
Fast Fridays Speedway, Auburn, CA
Friday May 21, 1999
From Gary Roberts

1999 Podium "This is the best opportunity to see some great Speedway racing. At which other event in this country will you see no less than 3 European based Americans, 4 ex European based Americans, 1 past World Champion, 4 past National Champions, one current National Champion (non-AMA), all at the same event!"

The 1999 was one of the most exciting Speedway events I've seen for many years. There was plenty of good racing, a lot of overtaking, a lot of surprises, and no foregone conclusions as to who would win, or even who would qualify, until the last race was over. That was before the runoffs.

The winner of the last race, who also ended up overall winner of the American Final, was Mike Faria. But Mike went into the last race having to finish first or second in order to qualify for a place at the Overseas Final. Anything less and he would have been out, such was the closeness of the competition. When all the points were counted,Mike had 13 points. Behind him on 12 points were Charlie Venegas, Bart Bast, Jim Sisemore and Josh Larsen. This result was brought about from an evening of very tight competition.

More drama was to follow with the runoffs, but first the scores and the heats.

Heat Results

Mike Faria3 3 2 2 313
Josh Larsen 0 3 3 3 312
Jim Sisemore2 3 2 3 212
Bart Bast 2 2 3 2 312
Charlie Venegas 3 2 2 3 212
Billy Janniro 2 1 2 2 2 9
Sam Ermolenko 0 2 3 1 1 7
Bobby Hedden 3 0 3 1 0 7
Bobby Schwartz 1 3 0 - 2 6
Robert Curry 1 0 0 3 1 5
Chris Manchester 0 1 0 1 3 5
Pat Linn 3 1 1 0 0 5
Chad Felicio 0 2 1 0 1 4
Bob Hicks 1 1 0 2 0 4
Randy DiFrancesco 2 0 1 0 0 3
Gary Hicks 1 0 1 0 1 3
Ian Ferris 1 1
Heat First Second Third Fourth
1 Pat Linn Randy DiFrancesco Robert Curry Sam Ermolenko

Ermolenko from the gate as far as turn 4, when he went wide, slowed, and the other 3 went under him before he could regain his composure. He rode round in 4th place, not gaining any ground. This was the first surprise of the night.

2 Mike Faria Jim Sisemore Bobby Schwartz Chris Manchester

Faria from Schwartz out of the gate, with Sisemore ahead of Manchester. Sisemore got past Schwartz.

3 Charlie Venegas Bart Bast Bob Hicks Josh Larsen

Second surprise of the night. As it turned out, Josh and Sam had both over geared. The track had a lot more grip than there was at the practice session and their set up was wrong.

4 Bobby Hedden Billy Janniro Gary Hicks Chad Felicio
5 Mike Faria Bart Bast Pat Linn Gary Hicks
6 Jim Sisemore Charlie Venegas Billy Janniro Robert Curry

A very determined Jim Sisemore got past Charlie.

7 Bobby Schwartz Chad Felicio Bob Hicks Randy DiFrancesco
8 Josh Larsen Sam Ermolenko Chris Manchester Bobby Hedden

Bobby Hedden was in third place, until he fell. This was one of several very close races, with Larsen and Ermolenko riding round side by side for most of the race. Josh won by a small margin.

9 Bobby Hedden Jim Sisemore Pat Linn Bob Hicks

Sisemore got the gate, but Bobby Hedden passed him.

10 Josh Larsen Mike Faria Chad Felicio Robert Curry
11 Bart Bast Billy Janniro Randy DiFrancesco Chris Manchester
12 Sam Ermolenko Charlie Venegas Gary Hicks Bobby Schwartz

Another close race with Charlie trying every thing he knew to try and get past Sam.

13 Josh Larsen Billy Janniro Ian Ferris Pat Linn

Pat Linn fell on the first corner and landed awkwardly. (He was still complaining of a sore neck on Saturday evening). Preparing for the restart, Larsen experienced mechanical troubles and sportsman Bobby Schwartz gave him his bike, hence reserve Ian Ferris replacing Schwartz.

14 Robert Curry Bob Hicks Chris Manchester Gary Hicks

Gary Hicks got it together by replacing his Kendo tyre with a Barum and led for 3 laps, until his engine failed.

15 Charlie Venegas Mike Faria Bobby Hedden Randy DiFrancesco
16 Jim Sisemore Bart Bast Sam Ermolenko Chad Felicio
17 Chris Manchester Charlie Venegas Chad Felicio Pat Linn

After a VERY disappointing evening thus far, Chris Manchester came to life! Again Venegas chased hard, but could not get past him.

18 Bart Bast Bobby Schwartz Robert Curry Bobby Hedden

Bobby Hedden relinquished second place, when he suffered a mechanical failure.

19 Josh Larsen Jim Sisemore Gary Hicks Randy DiFrancesco
20 Mike Faria Billy Janniro Sam Ermolenko Bob Hicks

Run off for places 2nd through 5th. Larsen, Sisemore, Bast, Venegas Over-enthusiasm got the better of Charlie and he left before the tapes went up and was disqualified.

In the rerun, going into turn three Bart Bast ran into Jim Sisemore's rear wheel and got launched through the air landing heavily just before the wall. It looked very serious and it took a while before Bart was back up. When he did get up, he walked slowly back to the pits, clearly in a lot of pain. It was surprising when he came back out for the next rerun. This time it was Larsen from the tapes with Bart and Jim battling it out for second, which Jim finally took.

So the qualifiers are Faria, Larsen, Bast and Sisemore. All four currently plan to contest the Overseas Final, assuming they can get sponsorship for the event. More on that subject in a separate note.1999 Rider Parade

All four rode well on the night. Charlie was unfortunate to end up as reserve, he rode with determination all evening.

Of the rest, it was clearly a surprise to see Sam not qualify. Particularly after his outstanding unbeaten performance at last year's American Final. I guess even a World Champion has an off night, every now and again.

Billy Janniro demonstrated the kind of performance that is going to take him to Europe. To score 9 points at this level of competition will hopefully get him noticed by the British League.

I personally was expecting to see Gary Hicks score more points after his great form at Costa Mesa this year and last year. Unfamiliarity with the track (his first appearance in 4 years), the wrong tyre and mechanical failure worked against him.

I am sure that a statistician could draw all sorts of conclusions from the facts that nobody scored less then 3 points from 5 rides and that 10 riders scored between 3 and 7 points. To me it meant that their abilities were well matched, which was confirmed by a lot of close racing. While every rider would probably have like to have done better, with the world class competition that was present, no single rider could have gone away from this event feeling disgraced.

Gary Roberts - gary_rob@ix.netcom.com

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