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

1999 AMA US National Championship
Fast Fridays Speedway, Auburn, CA
Friday September 3, 1999
From Gary Roberts

Just got back from Fast Fridays' 1999 AMA National which was all it was expected to be. Full of good close racing, plenty of action, and with a normal helping of surprises. The winner, at the end of the night was Billy Hamill, which fulfilled one of his few remaining lifetime ambitions. But unlike Greg Hancock's win last year, he had to put on one hell of a fight. Greg depended last year on good gates and no mistakes. The competition this year was much stronger. There was a great show from all the overseas visitors and a great late spurt of brilliance from Bobby Schwartz. Of the Auburn regulars Faria and Venegas were right up there all evening, but some of the rest achieved probably less than they were hoping for. But as Mike Faria rightly start before the start of the meeting, this was a world class event.

Gary Roberts: "This is a picture I took after the 1999 AMA National at Auburn. Left to right, 5 ex-junior Speedway riders, Josh Larsen, Greg Hancock, Jessee Finch, Billy Hamill, Ryan Evans and Junior Speedway supervisor, Bill Hancock. Billy Hamill is looking happy cos he just won the National. But there is a large ice-pack on his left hand which kept him out of racing for a month after this night. "

Unofficial results:

Heat 1 Manchester, Bast, Larsen, Ferris
First surprise, Bast gated from the outside position, which proved for him and many others to be difficult.

Heat 2 Sisemore, Hicks, Hancock, Fisher
First real upset of the night for Greg Hancock.

Heat 3 Faria, Janniro, Venegas, McConnell
Venegas from the outside position.

Heat 4 Hamill, Schwartz, Bobby Hedden, Curry
This heat started with a bad case of first corner bunching. Hamill pushed on Schwarz, Schwartz pushed on Hedden, who found traction and whose bike wheelied straight into and through the wall. Bobby was fortunate to have bailed before impact. The force with which it hit the wall was sufficient to break through two thicknesses of plywood without even appearing to slow it down and finally coming to rest about 40 feet into the pit area. It looked horrendous. From where I was sitting it looked as if could have collected a dozen people. In the end, the only person to suffer any injury was Harlan Bast Senior, Bart's dad, who suffered a lacerated arm. It could have been much worse if it had hit 8 feet further on, where the reserves were waiting, sitting on their bikes. Not the most nimble stance to move quickly. Since Hedden's bike hit the fence with its back wheel and the underside of the frame, no damage was done and as soon as the crash wall was rebuilt, all four were out for the re-run.

Heat 5 Faria, Bobby Hedden, Ferris, Hicks
First race won from gate 4

Heat 6 Hamill, Janniro, Manchester, Sisemore

Heat 7 Hancock, Larsen, McConnell, Curry

Heat 8 Venegas, Bast, Felicio, Schwartz
First time out, Venegas was leading Bast with Ryan Fisher in third. Ryan started pushing Bart, found traction in turn one looped it, and came down horribly uncomfortably on this head and shoulder. He took no further part in the meeting, with Chad Felicio replacing him in the rerun.

Heat 9 Schwartz, Sisemore, McConnell, Ferris

Heat 10 Venegas, Hicks, Tommy Hedden, Manchester
Robert Curry jumped the tapes and was replaced with reserve Tommy Hedden.

Heat 11 Faria, Hamill, Larsen, Felicio (in for Fisher)

Heat 12 Hancock, Bobby Hedden, Janniro, Bast
Second race won from gate 4.

Heat 13 Hamill, Venegas, Tommy Hedden, Hancock
Ian Ferris fell awkwardly in turn two and the race was stopped. He was OK, but disqualified and replaced by Tommy Hedden in the rerun

Heat 14 Bobby Hedden, McConnell, Felicio, Tommy Hedden (reserves for Manchester and Fisher)

Heat 15 Larsen, Schwartz, Janniro, Hicks

Heat 16 Faria, Sisemore, Bast, Curry

Heat 17 Janniro, Felicio, Curry, Ferris

Heat 18 Hancock, Schwartz, Faria, Felicio (in for Manchester)

Heat 19 Larsen, Venegas, Bobby Hedden, Janniro

Heat 20 Hicks, Bast, Hamill, McConnell

Run off: Schwartz, Bobby Hedden, Janniro

B Main Hancock, Schwartz, Larsen, Bobby Hedden
A Main Hamill, Venegas, Faria, Hancock

Mike Faria 3 3 3 3 1 13
Billy Hamill 3 3 2 3 1 12
Charlie Venegas 1 3 3 2 2 11
Greg Hancock 1 3 3 1 3 10
Josh Larsen 1 2 1 3 3 10
Bobby Schwartz 2 0 3 2 2 9
Bobby Hedden 1 2 2 3 1 9
Billy Janniro 2 2 1 1 3 9
Gary Hicks 2 0 2 0 3 7
Jim Sisemore 3 0 2 2 0 7
Bart Bast 2 2 0 1 2 7
Chris Manchester 3 1 0 x x 4
Shawn McConnell 0 1 1 2 0 4
Robert Curry 0 0 0 0 1 1
Ian Ferris 0 1 0 0 0 1
Ryan Fisher 0 0 x x x 0

Chad Felicio 4 points from 4 rides
Tommy Hedden 2 points from 3 rides

The A Main was a difficult race. First time round Faria ran into Hamill, who went down, and was run into by Hancock. Billy was down for a while. For an awful moment it looked like he had back injuries, because that was where Greg appeared to hit him. But he was soon sitting up and eventually got up. What was not divulged until later was that he had a damaged right hand. As I left about 1 am he had a big ice pack on his left hand and a beer in his right and was talking about finding a hospital to get an X-ray. A couple of our amateur doctors diagnosed it as a broken thumb. In the rerun Hamill and Hancock made the first corner, but persistent Charlie Venegas forced his way through. Faria settled for third, leaving Hancock with fourth spot. Billy was in real pain afterwards. He must have been in real pain through the race, but agreed that adrenaline is a very successful anaesthetic.

In the opening heat Chris Manchester looked every bit as smooth and brilliant as he did 7 years ago when he won his National. Half way through that race, he felt his engine lose power. He managed to nurse it home to take the win from local man Bart Bast. After the race, what looked like a cylinder barrel gasket actually turned out to be a broken barrel. For his next two races he used Mike Faria's back up bike, until the ignition burnt out, and that was the end of Chris's National. This was a disappointment after his great third place in the Auburn Track Championship last week.

Billy Janniro probably did not score as many points as he would have probably liked, but this was his first race since breaking his leg at Cal Expo mid season. Billy's cast was due to come off mid September, but he talked the doctor into planning to remove it this week, to enable him to ride in the National. Last week the anticipation got too much for him so he removed the cast himself a few days early to start working on getting it back to shape in early preparation for the event.

Anyone who saw Gary Hicks ride in the Civil War was probably disappointed, after his great performances this year at Costa Mesa. Last night his lack of familiarity with the Auburn track cost him dearly. He admitted that in two of his races, his gearing was completely wrong. He did however get the satisfaction of being the only rider present to beat both Billy Hamill and Greg Hancock. He told me he intends to get a lot more racing in at Auburn next year.

Impressions? Quality of racing and riders last night was better than I have seen at a National for many years. As Sam Ermolenko found out in the 1999 American Final, the standard of racing and the spirit of competition is very high. The place was packed with spectators, probably Auburn's best ever.

It should be mentioned that Fast Fridays staff demonstrated true professionalism, in their running of this event. From the rider presentation to the awards session, everything went well. The track was well prepared and there were no gaps in the evening. Within 3 minutes of Bobby Hedden's bike shattering the crash wall, a new post was in, and a new wall was back up.

As always, there was a superb atmosphere of enjoyment in the crowd. The man responsible for that was Mike Rooney, the announcer. He did an outstanding job of entertaining the crowd, throughout the night. Even while the track was being dragged, he was sitting up on the roof of the tractor with his microphone, greeting people in the crowd in an amusing fashion, which was a show in itself. Everyone left the stadium with a great feeling of having been thoroughly entertained.

I am off to the UK for a couple of weeks, then back to catch the Costa Mesa National.

Gary Roberts - gary_rob@ix.netcom.com

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