World Championship ICE Racing Series
Round 5: Save Mart Center
By Brent Densford
Photos by YourRacePhotos.net
FRESNO, CA, DEC. 10, 2010
The 35th annual World Championship ICE Racing Series slipped in and out of California for its fifth round. This round was circled on most racers’ calendars for more than one reason. Aside from the great weather, the huge pit area at the beautiful Save Mart Center, and the great competition that seems to come out of the woodwork at this Golden State round, the racers and crews sprint straight from the airport to the nearest In and Out Burger. California rounds make referee Robert Arms the happiest man on the planet, thanks to the famous In and Out Burger joints. After exciting and wild back-to-back rounds of racing in Portland, Oregon, and Kent, Washington, round five was destined to be a knockout punch for this year’s West Coast swing.
Kicking things off was the Manufacturers Cup Bikes, with four four-man heats. The first heat saw the 2008 and defending World Champion “Jammin’ Jared” Mees from Clio, Michigan, put a good ol’ tail-whuppin’ on “Slammin’ Sammy” Wiggins from Pomeroy, Pennsylvania; “Flyin’ Bryan” McKenna from Boston, Massachusetts; and Jimmy Wood from Redlands, California. Mees also set the fast time in this heat, setting himself up nicely to secure the pole in the main event with another heat win.
The second heat was won by 2009 World Champion Kevin “The Viking” Anderson from Cambridge, Minnesota, and heat number three was won by Rookie Of The Year front-runner Adam Beldyga from Chesaning, Michigan.
The second round of heats were ready to go. Out first was the two past World Champions in a heat together, with Anderson on the pole and Mees to his right. As Anderson is the only other event winner this year (he topped the season opener in Des Moines, Iowa), it looked like this was going to be a good race. However, once Mees got out front, he was gone and uncatchable. The next two heats were won by Adam Beldyga and Tom “Freight Train” McGrane from Gapp, Pennsylvania. That finished off the heats for the Cup Bikes.
Some excellent competition ended up in the last-chance qualifier, as usual. On the pole for this race was Wiggins; next to him were “Captain Kirk” Cheney from Hastings, Michigan; Eric Rickman from Bonny Lake, Washington; and McKenna. The inside back row had Fresno, California’s own “Krazy Kris” Bunch; next to him was Wood; next to Wood was Jeff Eklund from Livermore, California; and on the outside front row was Clovis, California’s Chris Podergois. When the tapes went up, the field made a beeline to turn one, with everyone barely making it through on both wheels. Cheney, doing what he does best, got the holeshot – and, to everyone’s surprise, he kept the lead for the win. By lap three, Podergois pushed his way from his eighth-place start through the field, eventually moving Rickman out of the way to take over the fourth and final transfer position. After holding off the rest of the pack, Podergois made his first I.C.E. main event. The final order was Cheney, Wiggins, McKenna and Podergois all transferring; not making the main were Rickman, Wood, Eklund and Bunch, in that order.
With the main event now set, announcer Chris “General” Lee offered the Motion Pro Challenge to pole sitter Mees. He has turned down the Challenge the previous four times this season, but this time the crowd finally convinced Jared to throw the bright yellow Motion Pro vest over his helmet and take the Challenge. The crowd went nuts, raising the roof and setting the mood for this monumental main event. As per the rules of the Challenge, Mees went back to the eighth spot, trading positions to the outside back row and sending Chris Podergois – about to contest his first main event – to the pole. With the Challenge taken and the racers now set, official starter Chad “Sling Blade” Johns gave them a look-over and then turned them loose: The tape went up and the race was on!
Cheney jumped out into the early lead by two or so bikelengths, followed by Beldyga, Podergois and McGrane. Mees was floating around in the back, waiting to make his move. Meanwhile, Cheney was developing a comfortable lead.
But then Mees started picking off riders like it was nobody’s business! In turns one and two on lap four, the “Jammer” passed McGrane on the inside, shooting to the outside of Anderson and passing both, coming out in third. By lap five, Mees was pushing Beldyga, and he got by him on the front straightaway.
Now, with three laps to go, Mees set his sights on race leader Cheney, who at this point still had three to four bikelengths on Mees. But that wasn’t enough: On lap six, Mees passed Cheney to take the lead, and he went on to take the win in heroic fashion. The finishing order was Mees, Beldyga, Cheney, McGrane, McKenna, Anderson, Podergois and Wiggins.
I.C.E. congratulates Mees on an awesome win, Cheney for his first podium, and Podergois for making his first main event.
The Unlimited Outlaw Quads is the division that is often imitated but can never be duplicated. This night saw the return of superstar-in-the-making Shawn Bigham from Lake Havasu, Arizona; Lenny “The Blade” Haines; Jim Di Giovanni; and Robert Dias Jr. and Sr., as well as some great new faces in the sport of ICE racing! Eighteen bad-to-the-bone competitors showed up to take a crack at the only California round until next year, but only one would come out on top.
In the first heat of round one, veteran Jim Di Giovanni from Morgan Hill, California, won in his first race back in five years; his teammate Robert Dias Sr. flipped in turn one right out of the gate. “Big Daddy” Jeff Brodil took the second heat win, adding to his points lead and setting him up for a possibly decent night. A familiar West Coast face from Selma, California, Nick La Lanne, won heat three on his screamin’ Banshee, and he did it in style, setting the fast time for the night. In heat four, Shawn Bigham showed everyone he hasn’t lost a thing by winning his first race back since Ontario last season.
The second round of heats were just as exciting as the first, and saw two different winners crossing the finish line. Robert Dias Jr. showed everyone that he has what it takes to contend for a win, covering the field nicely in his second heat. The oldest rider in the field, Chuck “Rocket Man” Calvert from Madison, Wisconsin, grabbed the next heat win. Bigham and La Lanne finish the second round out with wins, giving them 20 points each on the night. La Lanne, with the fastest heat, earned the pole for the main event, putting Bigham next to him in the second slot. The third spot would go to Jeff Brodil, and outside of him would be Jim Di Giovanni. The front row of the main was set, and all but the last spot in the LCQ was decided.
There was a two-rider run-off for the eighth and final position in the LCQ. Sammy Wiggins, on the Harley-Davidson “Thunder Quad,” faced off against 250R-mounted Kelly Wilkinson of Caruthers, California. At the line, Wilkinson jumped the start, breaking the tapes. Referee Robert Arms had no choice but to send him to the penalty line for the restart. Wilkinson rolled on the second start, so Arms stopped the run-off again to set them for a final time, giving Wilkinson his last warning and letting him know that if he rolled again, he would be disqualified. On the third and final attempt, they were off and running for their four-lap shoot out. Wiggins kept the H-D in the wind and never let Wilkinson get close to him, earning the eighth and final spot in the LCQ. Wilkinson had a few strong words for the ref and left the ice unhappy, while he was “booed” all the way back to the pits.
With the LCQ all set up, this would be some intense eight-quad, four-lap action. On the front row, from the pole out, were Dias Jr.; “Speedin’ Steven” Palmer from Des Moines, Iowa; Mike Zavala from Lemoore, California; and Calvert on. The back row consisted of Mandy “The Wild Child” Brodil; Andrew Rogers from Atwater, California; Darren Barnett from Laton, California; and Wiggins. They got set and ready, and were checked down by the “Sling Blade” and then turned loose!
Calvert got the holeshot from the outside and took off like a missile. Once the field fanned out, the race went off without a hitch and finished clean, with Calvert still out front at the end, followed by Dias Jr., Palmer, and Mandy Brodil for the transfer. Not making the big show were Wiggins, Zavala, Rogers and Barnett.
The eight-rider, six-lap main event featured riders from five states, males and a female, two-strokes and four-strokes – and the toughest ICE racers in the world! It was obvious as they lined up for the start that this one was going to be a sight to see!
The Motion Pro Challenge was accepted by Steve Palmer; after putting the vest on, he declared: “You better watch me! I’m going to pass all the guys on the outside and go straight to the front.” That’s a bold statement, especially since nobody has won from the eighth position wearing the vest in the Outlaw Quads.
Once the line was set and ready to go, all the racers on the front row were playing games with each other, jerking their clutches to try to draw someone into breaking the tape – and it worked. Pole sitter Nick La Lanne jumped the start and broke the tape; he was sent back to the third row, putting him at a serious disadvantage. Now the overwhelming favorite was Bigham, out of the second spot.
hey got set and ready again. When the tape went up for the second time, Bigham stalled it; with nowhere else to go, Mandy Brodil ran up the right rear of Bigham and was sent flying into the air, flipping her quad down the front straight and blocking the entrance to turn one, drawing a red flag. You could have heard a pin drop in the arena as everyone waited to see if Mandy was okay. The paramedics attended to her, and after about five minutes on the ice, she got up, though it took her a minute to gather her thoughts and bearings. Her father and teammate gave her quad a good look-over and saw nothing wrong, so without any hesitation “The Wild Child” jumped back on the pink 250R and went straight back to the line to give it another shot. The crowd went crazy! Unfortunately, due to the stoppage in the race, she was placed on the penalty line, along with La Lanne, for the restart.
On the third attempt to get this race under way, Bigham didn’t make the same mistake twice, launching his Yamaha into turn one, followed by Jeff Brodil and Di Giovanni. La Lanne, from the back, was picking off racers left and right until the third lap, when he overshot turn three, jumping the left front of Di Giovanni, and La Lanne was sent airborne. Miraculously, he saved it – but only by killing the engine, though it could have been much, much worse.
At the end, Bigham pulled off a huge victory in Fresno, followed by Jeff Brodil and then Steve Palmer, who came from the outside back row to finish third. Robert Dias Jr. finished fourth, posting his best finish to date, followed by Di Giovanni, Calvert and Mandy Brodil. Nick La Lanne finished a disappointing eighth. This race was one for the record books and was high on the excitement scale!
Jeff Brodil maintained his points lead and even added to it; he is now leading by 58 points over second-placed Steve Palmer, who is followed by Mandy Brodil, Justin Ebbing and Chuck Calvert.
This wrapped up the West Coast swing of the 35th annual World Championship ICE Racing Series, which next heads east to the Sovereign Center in Reading, Pennsylvania, to start off the New Year on January 8, 2011. For more information about the Greatest Spectacle On ICE, please visit www.icespeedway.com.
Save Mart Center
Results: December 10, 2010 (Round 5)
Manufacturers Cup Bikes
HEAT 1: 1. Jared Mees; 2. Sammy Wiggins; 3. Bryan McKenna; 4. Jimmy Wood.
HEAT 2: 1. Kevin Anderson; 2. Kirk Cheney; 3. Tom McGrane; 4. Chris Podergois
HEAT 3: 1. Adam Beldyga; 2. Eric Rickman; 3. Kris Bunch; 4. Jeff Eklund.
HEAT 4: 1. Jared Mees; 2. Kevin Anderson; 3. Bryan McKenna; 4. Chris Podergois.
HEAT 5: 1. Adam Beldyga; 2. Kirk Cheney; 3. Kris Bunch; 4. Jeff Eklund.
HEAT 6: 1. Tom McGrane; 2. Sammy Wiggins; 3. Eric Rickman; 4. Jimmy Wood.
LCQ: 1. Kirk Cheney; 2. Sammy Wiggins; 3. Bryan McKenna; 4. Chris Podergois; 5. Eric Rickman; 6. Jimmy Wood; 7. Jeff Eklund; 8. Kris Bunch.
MAIN: 1. Jared Mees; 2. Adam Beldyga; 3. Kirk Cheney; 4. Tom McGrane; 5. Bryan McKenna; 6. Kevin Anderson; 7. Chris Podergois; 8. Sammy Wiggins.
Unlimited Outlaw Quads
HEAT 1: 1. Jim Di Giovanni; 2. Mike Zavala; 3. Robert Dias Jr.; 4. Robert Dias Sr.
HEAT 2: 1. Jeff Brodil; 2. Steven Palmer; 3. Sammy Wiggins; 4. Aaron Darpli.
HEAT 3: 1. Nick La Lanne; 2. Mandy Brodil; 3. Charlie Lyles; 4. Chuck Calvert; 5. Andrew Rogers.
HEAT 4: 1. Shawn Bigham; 2. Darren Barnett; 3. Kelly Wilkinson; 4. Lenny Haines; 5. Kellen Case.
HEAT 5: 1. Robert Dias Jr.; 2. Andrew Rogers; 3. Jim Di Giovanni; 4. Kellen Case.
HEAT 6: 1. Chuck Calvert; 2. Mike Zavala; 3. Kelly Wilkinson; 4. Robert Dias Sr.
HEAT 7: 1. Shawn Bigham; 2. Steven Palmer; 3. Mandy Brodil; 4. Charlie Lyles; 5. Darren Barnett.
HEAT 8: 1. Nick La Lanne; 2. Jeff Brodil; 3. Sammy Wiggins; 4. Aaron Darpli; 5. Lenny Haines.
LCQ: 1. Chuck Calvert; 2. Robert Dias Jr.; 3. Steven Palmer; 4. Mandy Brodil; 5. Sammy Wiggins; 6. Mike Zavala; 7. Andrew Rogers; 8. Darren Barnett.
MAIN: 1. Shawn Bigham; 2. Jeff Brodil; 3. Steven Palmer; 4. Robert Dias Jr.; 5. Jim Di Giovanni; 6. Chuck Calvert; 7. Mandy Brodil; 8. Nick La Lanne.