AMA National Speedway Championship Series
Round 2: Ventura Raceway
Story by Steve Evans
Photos by Jim Thorn/BackItInPhotos
VENTURA, CA, JUNE 28, 2014
The AMA National Speedway Championship Series reached his halfway mark with Billy Janniro stepping closer to a fifth title after scoring another victory at Ventura Raceway in California on June 28.
A large and enthusiastic crowd was on hand to witness some fast and exciting racing on the fifth-mile, banked oval, the biggest track used in the series. Janniro did not have it all his own way and was pushed harder than ever by the emerging young riders, including 17-year-old Max Ruml and 20-year-old Gino Manzares; Gino had flown in on a break from his British League season to compete.
An hour before the main show, Rocco Scopellite and P.J. Byrne emerged victorious from run-offs for the last two spots in the main event, with Dan Faria being the reserve rider.
The first round of heats saw victories for Manzares, Ruml, Janniro and Tyson Talkington. In the last race of that round, Bryce Starks fell while leading; he remounted and passed Russell Green for third, but that fall would prove costly later for a semifinal spot, which he missed by one point, despite some impressive races.
In the opening heat, 16-year-old Broc Nicol held pace with Manzares, while 55-year-old local veteran Eddie Castro was close to Janniro in heat three.
Castro pulled off a trademark, stunning outside pass on Northern California multiple-time champion Bart Bast to win heat five, a move that brought much noise and approval from the crowd.
Ruml made easy work of Buck Blair in heat six to remain unbeaten.
Austin Novratil led home Tommy Hedden in heat seven.
Heat eight brought together the two pre-event favorites, Janniro and Manzares. Janniro led home his fellow 2013 Team USA World Cup teammate.
Ruml beat his very impressive teenage rival Nicol in heat nine.
Janniro led home Blair in heat 10.
Castro moved on to a popular eight points with another pass, this time on Hedden in heat 11.
Then Manzares beat his former Junior Speedway rival Ramirez to round out the third section of heats.
Heat 13 was a jaw-dropping race between with Janniro and Nicol. The 16-year-old actually tried an outside pass on the defending champion, though Janniro’s experience saw him take a fourth win on the night and a perfect 11 wins in 11 rides in the series so far.
Bast scored a popular win, over Starks and Hedden, in an all-Nor Cal top three in heat 15.
Manzares defeated Ruml in heat 16 to put an end to the 17-year-old’s thus-far perfect night, putting them both on 11 points.
The final round of heats saw Nicol win heat 13, ahead of Travis Henderson, putting Nicol on a hugely impressive 10 points and making him fourth-placed qualifier for the semifinals.
Starks made a fabulous pass on Blair to win heat 18, but, sadly, he was a point short of making it into the semifinals.
Heat 19 saw Janniro’s perfect streak ended after he was excluded for touching the starting tapes. Ruml took full advantage of that opportunity by winning the race to end the heats on 14 points.
Manzares led home Novratil in heat 20.
The points standings after the heats was Manzares and Ruml with 14 apiece; Janniro with 12; Nicol with 10; Castro, Novratil, Bast and Blair with nine apiece;, Starks with eight; Hedden with seven; Talkington, Henderson, Scopellite and Ramirez with four each; Faria with two; Green with one; and Byrne with zero.
The first semifinal saw Manzares win, ahead of Novratil, in what looked like a carbon copy of heat 20. Bast and Nicol were third and fourth, respectively, and thus were eliminated.
Semifinal number two was the race of the night, by a long ways. Ruml stunned Janniro, the crowd, and perhaps everyone but himself by out-trapping Janniro and leading him throughout. Janniro gave it all of his might, with some blistering outside speed, but he could not close ground on his rival. The shocked crowd looked on for what was shaping up to be a monumental upset – until Ruml entered the final turn with too much speed. He was left with no option but to shut off power or end up in the crash wall, so Janniro took full advantage and moved inside to win. Ruml recovered to get the second transfer spot to the big final. Castro and Blair were eliminated.
The final saw the Champion up against three young rivals. Manzares elected to take the outside starting spot. Janniro chose gate three. Ruml took gate two, leaving Novratil on the pole.
Janniro, perhaps sharpened up very much from that semifinal near stunner, made a perfect start and led Manzares and Ruml into turn one and around the back straightaway. The speed was sensational, but the positions did not change, as Janniro led home the rising stars behind him for his second victory of the series.
Janniro takes an eight-point lead over Ruml into round three, which will be held at the Industry Hills Expo Center in California on August 9. The championship will then conclude on September 19 at Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway in Auburn, California. There is much close competition midpack, as the top eight riders receive automatic 2015 Series nominations.
The event also featured races for several other classes between the rounds. Luke Becker was simply stunning as he won all three Junior 250cc races with relative ease and much speed.
Dan Faria won the Trophy Dash for nonqualifiers, while Dalton Leedy topped the Support main.
Bryan Motis & Josh Bennett won three of the four Sidecar races, including the main event. Ken Thiebaud, for the second year in a row, won the very popular Vintage Bike class.
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 Tops Ventura Raceway Speedway Action” by Tim Kennedy… Editor]