Janniro Tops Ventura Raceway Speedway Action

| 5 July 2014 2:03 pm

AMA National Championship Speedway Series
Round 2: Ventura Raceway

Story by Tim Kennedy
Photos by Jim Thorn/BackItInPhotos
VENTURA, CA, JUNE 28, 2014

Billy Janniro (1) celebrates his second straight victory at round two of the AMA National Speedway Championship Series.

Billy Janniro (1) celebrates his second straight victory at round two of the AMA National Speedway Championship Series.

Billy Janniro won the second of four rounds of the AMA National Speedway Championship Series on Saturday, June 28, on his number-one bike. He led all four laps in a race billed as “The Commotion by the Ocean” on the fifth-mile clay Ventura Raceway track. This annual event at the Ventura County Fairgrounds took place in front of about 2,000 spectators at the Seaside Park “bullring” adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. Known as “The Best Little Dirt Track in America,” this usual auto-racing venue produced the second consecutive victory for Janniro in the 2014 series. He also won the 2013 Ventura feature for the two-wheelers.

Janniro, who hails from Napa, California, won the first race in the 500cc speedway bike series on June 7 at Costa Mesa Speedway. His 21 points led the 17 riders with points entering round two in Ventura. He held a six-point lead over Charlie Venegas, who did not race in Ventura after his flight south was canceled following his Friday night race in Auburn, California. Round three will take place on Saturday, August 9, at Industry Speedway. Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway in Auburn will host the final round on Friday, September 19. At the halfway point, Janniro now leads the series by eight points, 39-31, over Max Ruml. Buck Blair is third with 22 points.

Multiple-time National and California State Speedway Bike Champion Janniro led almost every lap he ran on Saturday in Ventura. He won four of his five heat races, his semifinal race, and the four-lap main event. He was out front in 21 of his 24 race laps. Janniro only beat himself in his fifth heat, when he touched the starting-gate tapes with his front wheel, resulting in disqualification from that race. He protested the referee’s call initially but was replaced by reserve rider Dan Faria. Janniro rode back to the pits with no points instead of having a shot at a perfect 15 heat-race points on the evening.

Billy Janniro (1/14) battles Gino Manzares at Ventura Raceway.

Billy Janniro (1/14) battles Gino Manzares at Ventura Raceway.

Janniro’s miscue dropped him to third in the heat-race points, which advanced the top eight points scorers to the two semifinal races. Gino Manzares – who flew in late Friday night from England, where he races in the British Premier League – was the top-ranked rider in Ventura after 20 heats. He tallied 14 points based on the 3-2-1-0 system, with four wins and one second-place finish in his five races.

“Mad Max” Ruml also scored 14 points out of a possible 15. Manzares beat Ruml in their only head-to-head meeting, so he earned first lane choice in the first semifinal. Ruml had first lance choice in the second semi. Janniro, with second lane choice, selected lane two.

“Mad Max” Ruml.

“Mad Max” Ruml.

Austin Novratil.

Austin Novratil.

Manzares led all four laps in the first semi and beat Austin “On the Throttle” Novratil for the two transfers. Bart Bast and 500cc rookie rider Broc Nicol, 16, followed.

In the second semi – the best race of the night – Ruml got the jump from lane four and led the first three laps, over a pressing Janniro. On the final lap, Ruml pushed up the track in the fourth turn under intense pressure. Janniro shot past him on the inside for the victory. Disappointed, Ruml settled for second in his second season as a 500cc rider. “Fast Eddie” Castro from nearby Ojai, California, placed third, and Buck Blair finished fourth; that ended Castro’s and Blair’s race night.

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The four-lap main event had three GM riders against one Jawa rider – Novratil. The teen was back in action after recuperating from a recent injury. The starting order from inside to outside was Novratil (No. 27), Ruml (No. 5), Janniro (No. 1) and Manzares (No. 24).

Janniro, 33, used his obvious racing skills on two wheels against three young, rising stars of speedway racing: Manzares, 20; Novratil, 19; and Ruml, 17, all of whom competed at Industry, Pirate Speedway in San Bernardino, Costa Mesa Speedway, and Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway in Auburn last season. Manzares’ 2014 experience racing in England was expected to increase his chances at Ventura this year, after he placed third in the last Ventura main. It did: He finished second, 15 yards in back of winner Janniro. Third-place finisher Ruml was 15 yards in back of Manzares, and Novratil was 10 yards from Ruml’s back wheel. The checkered flag flew at 9:29 p.m.

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In the Junior 250cc Division, Northern California’s Luke Becker, 15, beat Dillon Ruml, also 15, and Gage Geist, 14.

Luke Becker (12) topped the Junior 250cc ranks.

Luke Becker (12) topped the Junior 250cc ranks.

In the Extreme 1,000cc Sidecars competition, the number-two Yamaha of paraplegic driver Bryan Motis & his sidecar “swinger” Josh Bennett crossed the line first. Heat-race winners Dual Anderson & Ethan Smith followed closely on their Yamaha R1, with Dave Alexander& Robert Dent finishing third. The Ducati-mounted team of Stuart Glass & Jack Straw did not start the final after dropping out of their heat race.

Bryan Motis & Josh Bennett (12) won the Sidecar main event.

Bryan Motis & Josh Bennett (12) won the Sidecar main event.

Rookie 500cc rider Dalton Leedy, 16, led all four laps of the Support main, over Sean McDougall from Bakersfield, California. Jeremiah Allen, Ron Davis and Jamison Dilkey followed.

Dalton Leedy (222) dominated the Support main event.

Dalton Leedy (222) dominated the Support main event.

Danny Faria topped the 500cc Support Division Trophy Dash.

Dan Faria (105) was the Support Trophy Dash winner.

Dan Faria (105) was the Support Trophy Dash winner.

The Vintage Speedway Bike Main – a special main event for Vintage Speedway racers on their vintage speedway Westlake and Jawa two- and four-stroke bikes – had six riders, ranging in age from 53 to about 70. Ken Thiebaud from Santa Margarita, California, led all four laps on his Jawa two-stroke. He narrowly edged out the Westlake entry of Dan Waller from nearby Goleta, California. Finishing third through sixth were Malcolm Roe, also from Santa Margarita; Bob Waller from Santa Barbara, California; Pat Smith; and Dave Tice from Templeton, California.

Promoter Steve Evans presented large trophies to all the main-event winners following the final checkered flag.


Preliminary racing had started at 5:30 p.m. with two wild-card 500cc heat races and a Junior 250cc heat. Danny Faria and Rocco Scopellite won those 500cc races, which started five and four unseeded riders, respectively.

Event nine, at 6:05, was the 500cc run-off race, with five riders. Scopellite, 18, led all the way and was deemed wild-card number one. P.J Byrne finished second and moved into the vacant number-two and final wild-card slot in the five rounds of heats, with 16 riders. Third-place finisher Danny Faria became the first reserve rider, and he raced in heats two and 19 after riders were disqualified from those races for touching the tapes.

All other divisions raced preliminary heats as well before 6:05p.m. Then a scheduled intermission and interviews took place prior to the 20-point heat races, which started at 7 p.m. Other divisions also raced between the five rounds for 500cc riders, giving fans 38 races in all.

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The first wild-card 500cc race of the night, at 5:35, resulted in the only injury sustained on this shirt-sleeve, 70-plus-degree evening. Rick Valdez was in third place starting lap two when his front wheel contacted the back wheel of Dilkey’s mount at the starting line. Valdez, who hails from Riverside, California, flew over his front wheel and tumbled down the track to the entrance to the first turn. He got to his feet but then quickly reclined on the ground in pain. He was treated by ambulance EMTs and then taken to a local hospital for treatment. He was diagnosed with “a broken collarbone and separated shoulder,” according to race officials. Valdez returned to the pits before racing concluded.

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Nine riders won the 20 points-paying 500cc heat races. Janniro, Manzares and Ruml each won four times. Novratil and high-riding Castro won twice. Single-heat winners were Tyson Talkington, Bart Bast, Broc Nicol and Bryce Starks. Heat winners came from all four lanes at the starting gate.

Max Ruml (308) in front of a hungry pack.

Max Ruml (308) in front of a hungry pack.

The outside lane four had 10 winners, the inside lane one had four winners, and lanes two and three each produced three winners. Janniro won his four heats from all four lanes, in this order: four, three, one and two. In round five, he was disqualified for touching the tape while in lane two. Billy “the Kid” won his semifinal from lane two and the feature from lane three.

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The Grand Marshal at Ventura on Saturday was Bobby “Boogaloo” Schwartz, 57, who’d also been honored a night earlier with “Bobby Schwartz Night” at Pirate Speedway in San Bernardino. He raced his number-11 bike last Wednesday at Industry Speedway. The living legend of speedway racing was the 1986 and ’89 U.S. National Champion, the 1984 and ’91 California State Champion, the 1982 World Team Cup Champion, and the 1981-92 World Best Pairs Champion. He ranked 12th of 17 riders, with five points, after the June 7 race in Costa Mesa. He was entered to race in Ventura but withdrew to serve as Grand Marshal.

Schwartz was interviewed several times at Ventura and gave riders the command to start their engines for the first race. He gave credit to Sonny Nutter for getting him started in speedway bike racing, adding, “This is my 41st year in speedway.” He said his dad bought him his first Jawa for his 17th birthday. Now his young son Bobby Jr., 6, is racing a 50cc Pee Wee bike. A full page in the $2 Ventura Raceway printed program was devoted to Schwartz and his speedway career. The unique program cover depicted a large, Jaws-like shark leaping from the ocean, trying to grab a speedway bike rider. Only 230 of the coveted programs were printed by Jim Naylor’s staff. The pre-set 20 heat-race printed line-ups in the program allowed fans to keep track of riders’ points as the races progressed.

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Riders entered who did not race included Charlie Venegas, due to his canceled airline flight; Tyson Burmeister, who was on vacation with his family in Hawaii); Billy Hamill, the U.S. National Team captain; Mike Faria; and Shawn McConnell, who blew both of his engines last week. Reserves who replaced them were Gino Manzares, Jason Ramirez and Travis Henderson, from nearby Ojai. Nor Cal’s Danny Faria and So Cal’s Rocco Scopellite raced their way into the top 16 riders for the heats via their wild-card heat victories.

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Pit Notes
In attendance for the only AMA racing at the “roar by the shore” Ventura Raceway were USAC Midget racing champions Ron “Sleepy” Tripp from Costa Mesa and Wally Pankratz from Orange, California. Wally had his trailer and midgets in the Ventura pit area.

“I’m teaching a class here at Ventura Sunday afternoon with four or five students,” explained professor Wally.

Support Division rider Sean McDougall, 41, said he now only races at Ventura. He built seven McDougall 150cc and 250cc speedway bikes when his son raced. He knows where they all are. He has one, Billy Hamill has one for his racing school, and original owners still have the others.

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Ventura Raceway promoter Jim Naylor operated his track-grooming equipment all night (at least four or five times between races). He left the PA announcing to “Crazy Chris,” who announces at Steve Evans’ speedway bike events. Danny Hall worked as referee from the starters’ stand overlooking the starting tapes. He called Janniro’s DQ for touching the tape, and Billy protested initially. The ref stood his ground, and AMA rules prevailed. Billy relented and rode back to the pits in a minute or so as fans watched intently.

Double-stacked hay bales were rented for the AMA event. They were positioned in front of the crash wall in all four turns and along the inside of the front straight to protect starter Tom Fox. After the final, racetrack workers used track equipment to retrieve hay bales and position them in the pits for return to the owner.

When asked before the feature who would win, grandstand fans were most vocal for either Manzares or Ruml, according to the track announcer.

International man of mystery Gino Manzares. File photo courtesy of Gino Manzares

International man of mystery Gino Manzares. File photo courtesy of Gino Manzares

Gino Manzares mentioned that he had flown United Airlines from London to Los Angeles and arrived late Friday night after racing for his British Premier League team on Thursday. They won 52-38 on June 26, over the Rye House Rockets. His Ipswich Witches’ next match would be held on Friday, July 4, at 7:30 p.m., and would be against the 12th-ranked Plymouth Devils.

“I still have jet lag,” he said.

He would be visiting family in Corona, California, and then fly back to England on Wednesday, July 2, for his next weekly race. He is in his rookie season with Ipswich, one of 13 League teams. Ipswich currently ranks second, behind Edinburgh, for which So Cal rider Aaron Fox races. Ipswich operates as a major-league baseball or football team would in the USA. The British Speedway season lasts from March through October. Ipswich races at Foxhill Stadium, on the outskirts of Ipswich. There are 24 weekly meetings, 12 home and 12 away. Gino’s CMA rating (points/rides) of 5.75 ranks third on the seven-rider Ipswich team. The Ipswich CMA leader currently has 4.56. Gino wore his number-four bib at Ventura.

Buddy Mills, 90, is the only pre-World War II speedway bike racer still around. He rode a pace lap in front of the six Vintage Speedway bike riders prior to their entertaining, close main event. Mills pulled into the infield and executed a few doughnuts in the infield and kicked up some dust. Then he dismounted and watched his friends race.

“This is one of three Jawas with Westlake heads that I own,” Mills said while chatting with the Vintage group that pits together. “I’ll turn 91 in November.”

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Promoters present at this event included Dave Joiner from Fast Fridays in Auburn; Kelly Inman from Industry Speedway; Steve Evans from Victorville and Ventura; and Chris Morgan, from the AMA Pomona half-mile flat track that will be held on Saturday, October 11. Chris said that eight speedway bikes raced an exhibition race on the big Pomona half-mile last year, and he hopes to have even more speedway bikes compete this year. He said the bikes attained more than 120 mph on the straights.

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Also mentioned was the upcoming AMA Long Track Championship at Perris Auto Speedway on Saturday, July 19. Manzares won that championship feature at PAS last year, over Novratil.

Ventura Raceway
Ventura, California
Results: June 28, 2014

VINTAGE: 1. Ken Thiebaud; 2. Dan Waller; 3. Malcolm Roe; 4. Bob Waller; 5. Pat Smith; 6. Dave Tice.

TROPHY DASH: 1. Dan Faria; 2. Dalton Leedy; 3. Jamison Dilkey; 4. Jeremiah Allen; 5. Ron Davis; 6. Sean McDougall.

SUPPORT MAIN: 1. Dalton Leedy; 2. Sean McDougal; 3. Jeremiah Allen; 4. Ron Davis; 5. Jamison Dilkey.

SIDECARS: 1. Bryan Motis/ Josh Bennett; 2. Dual Anderson/ Ethan Smith; 3. Dave Alexander/ Robert Dent; 4. Stuart Glass/ Jack Straw.

FINAL: 1. Billy Janniro; 2. Gino Manzares; 3. Max Ruml; 4. Austin Novratil.

EVENT POINTS: Gino Manzares (19); Billy Janniro (18); Max Ruml (17); Austin Novratil (11); Eddie Castro (10); Broc Nicol (10); Bart Bast (10); Buck Blair (9); Bryce Starks (8); Tommy Hedden (7); Tyson Talkington (4); Travis Henderson (4); Rocco Scopellite (4); Jason Ramirez (4); Dan Faria (2); Russell Green (1); P.J. Byrne (0).

AMA National Speedway Championship Series Points Standings (After 2 of 4 rounds) (Top 14 automatically qualified for round 3): 1. Billy Janniro (39); 2. Max Ruml (31); 3. Buck Blair (22); 4. Bart Bast (20); 5. Gino Manzares (19); 6. (TIE) Charlie Venegas (15)/ Tyson Burmeister (15)/ Eddie Castro (15)/ Broc Nicol (15); 10. Bryce Starks (14); 11. (TIE) Austin Novratil (13)/ Tommy Hedden (13); 13. Shawn McConnell (8); 14. (TIE) Tyson Talkington (7)/ Jason Ramirez (7); 16. (TIE) Bobby Schwartz (5)/ Russell Green (5); 18. (TIE) Travis Henderson (4)/ Rocco Scopellite (4); 20. Dan Faria (2); 21. Mike Faria (1); 22. P.J. Byrne (0).

[For more from this event, please see “Janniro Two for Two in AMA National Speedway Championship Series” by Steve Evans… Editor]

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