Saddlemen

South Team Wins 24th North vs. South Challenge

| 26 July 2015 1:28 pm

North vs. South Challenge
Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway at the Gold Country Fairgrounds

Story and Photos by Michael Kirby
AUBURN, CA, JULY 24, 2015

With both teams loaded with talent this year, the 24th annual North vs. South Challenge at Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway in Auburn, California, was a spectacular display of speedway motorcycle team racing.

In good sportsmanship, the South and North squads greeted each other in the North vs. South Challenge’s opening ceremony at Fast Fridays in Auburn, California. The South won ending a four-year drought, 70-65. (From left to right) The South team’s Charlie Venegas, Aaron Fox, Dillon Ruml, Max Ruml, Broc Nicol and Shawn McConnell, and the North team’s Billy Janniro, Luke Becker, Bob Hicks, Tommy Hedden, Tyler Warren and Bart Bast.

In good sportsmanship, the South and North squads greeted each other in the North vs. South Challenge’s opening ceremony at Fast Fridays in Auburn, California. The South won ending a four-year drought, 70-65. (From left to right) The South team’s Charlie Venegas, Aaron Fox, Dillon Ruml, Max Ruml, Broc Nicol and Shawn McConnell, and the North team’s Billy Janniro, Luke Becker, Bob Hicks, Tommy Hedden, Tyler Warren and Bart Bast.

The North team has been victorious in the challenge since 2011 and led the series, 15-8, in overall wins going into Friday night’s contest. Their home team included speedway heavyweights Bart Bast, Tyler Warren, Billy Janniro, Luke Becker, Tommy Hedden and Bob Hicks.

The visiting South team, hungry to improve their overall record and break their losing streak, came to Auburn stacked with one of the best rosters to ever compete in the Challenge. Their team was comprised of Charlie Venegas, Shawn McConnell, Aaron Fox, Broc Nicol, Max Ruml and Dillon Ruml.

When the dust settled after a fantastic night of racing, the South team had pulled off a stunning win over the North, 70-65, in one of the closest finishing scores in the history of the North vs. South Challenge.

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The premise in the North vs. South Challenge is team-racing scoring: The team with the most points at the end of the night wins. Riders are paired and race in 18 four-rider Scratch heat races, scoring points for their finishing places. A win earns three points, second place earns two points, third place earns one point, and a fourth-place finisher does not score. At the end of 18 heat races, the teams each pick two riders for the B main event. Points awarded increase to four, three, two, and one point. Next, two more riders are chosen from each team for the A main event, and the points jump to six points for a win, five points for second, four points for third, and three points for a fourth-place finish. During the evening, if a team is six points or more down, they can use a tactical substitution – which makes the evening exciting, as there are many opportunities for lead changes.

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The scores were never that far apart for the entire evening, as the teams were both evenly matched with talent. After the first three races, the North was leading 11-7, with Bast and Hicks both winning races for the North and Fox winning his race for the South.

(From left to right) Bob Hicks, Max Ruml, Tommy Hedden and Dillon Ruml contest the third heat race of Friday night. Hicks and Hedden rode for the North and the Ruml brothers rode for the South. Hicks and Hedden together scored five points in this heat race.

(From left to right) Bob Hicks, Max Ruml, Tommy Hedden and Dillon Ruml contest the third heat race of Friday night. Hicks and Hedden rode for the North and the Ruml brothers rode for the South. Hicks and Hedden together scored five points in this heat race.

After the end of six races, the South brought the score to a very respectable 19-17, down just two points. Again, Bast and Fox each scored wins and another three points for their respective teams, and Janniro also added three points to the North’s tally with a win in heat four.

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After nine heat races and outstanding wins from Tommy Hedden and Billy Janniro for the North, including a combined five points for Fox and Becker in heat eight for the South, the score was tied, 27-27.

After 12 races, the North had managed to bring the tally back in their favor, 37-35.

Billy Janniro (1) scored 18 points for the North.

Billy Janniro (1) scored 18 points for the North.

The South scored big in heat 13, as Venegas and McConnell scored five with a first- and second-place finish, respectively, and after 15 heats, the South had moved ahead, 47-43.

After a great round in heat 18, brothers Dillon and Max Ruml added four points and the South widened its lead to the largest of the evening, 57-51, heading into the main events.

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As the teams huddled in the pits, discussions centered on who would ride the final two main-event races. With the outcome of the meeting on the line, each team pitched ideas to the teams’ managers as to how the final races should be stacked.

Auburn’s own Tommy Hedden had a great night, scoring 16 points for the North team. Here, Hedden gets set to start the B main event.

Auburn’s own Tommy Hedden had a great night, scoring 16 points for the North team. Here, Hedden gets set to start the B main event.

For the B main event, riders Tommy Hedden and Bob Hicks lined up for the North and Shawn McConnell and Max Ruml wheeled up for the South. Max Ruml won it, adding four points to the South’s tally; Hicks was second and Hedden third, adding a combined five points to the North’s tally. The score was now 61-56, with the South still in the driver’s seat.

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In the A main event, with points earned being doubled, the North sent out high scorers Billy Janniro and Bart Bast for a final effort, with the possibility of pulling ahead of the South and a win in the 24th annual North vs. South Challenge. The South sent out Broc Nicol and Aaron Fox to hold back the North team and win bragging rights for the year.

The South’s Aaron Fox led his team, with 19 points. Here, he gets ready for the A main event, which he would win, picking up six more points for the South.

The South’s Aaron Fox led his team, with 19 points. Here, he gets ready for the A main event, which he would win, picking up six more points for the South.

Fox drew lane one, and when the tapes went up, he was able to get in front of the rest of the pack and hold off Bast and Janniro, who would not go down easily.

Aaron Fox (right) and Billy Janniro (1, left) come out of turn two.

Aaron Fox (right) and Billy Janniro (1, left) come out of turn two.

The race was tight, but Fox held on, ahead of Bast and Janniro, for the win and added six points to the South’s total. Bast and Janniro combined to score nine points to the North’s tally, and Nicol finished fourth, grabbing another three points for the South, making the final score 70-65.

The members of the South team – (from left to right) Charlie Venegas, Dillon Ruml, Broc Nicol, Aaron Fox, Max Ruml and Shawn McConnell – celebrate their win on the podium with the Fast Fridays trophy girls.

The members of the South team – (from left to right) Charlie Venegas, Dillon Ruml, Broc Nicol, Aaron Fox, Max Ruml and Shawn McConnell – celebrate their win on the podium with the Fast Fridays trophy girls.

“It was good to win tonight,” Fox said. “The South has not won [the Challenge] in a while. Everyone dug deep and did their part. I am very happy to win that last race, over Bart [Bast] and Billy [Janniro] – that’s very, very rare. I have been looking forward to the Challenge. They kept it close, but we came out on top.”

Shawn McConnell, senior member of the South team, was also happy to be on the winning team.

“There is not too much I can show these younger guys anymore – they’re pretty fast; most of them have been overseas and know what they are doing,” McConnell said. “I was just thrilled they asked me to be on the team.”

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Bart Bast led both teams in the scoring, with 20 individual points for the evening. Bast has a legendary record in the North vs. South Challenge, having ridden in all the events except one, because of injury, and he has now scored more than 320 individual points in 23 Challenges. Second for the North on Friday evening was Billy Janniro, who scored 18 individual points.

The North’s Bart Bast (87, right) was the high scorer for both teams, with 20 points.

The North’s Bart Bast (87, right) was the high scorer for both teams, with 20 points.

For the South, Aaron Fox was the high scorer, with 19 points, followed by Max Ruml, who scored 16 points.

It was a great night of racing, and the win could have gone either way had breaks gone another way. The overall tally in the annual event is now 15 wins for the North and nine wins for the South. Each team walked away respecting the other for the efforts they left on the Fast Fridays track.

“It was great racing,” said Tommy Hedden after the races. “They had a strong team; they brought their best team up. I would really like to thank Bill Warnock, who supplied most of our bikes for the North; he does a great job keeping us riding.”

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In the Youth program, Colton Hicks won the Youth A 250cc main event. Dylan Wagner was second and Kyle Cunningham was third.

Jim Lewis won the Run What U Brung main event.

Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway at the Gold Country Fairgrounds
Auburn, California
Results: July 24, 2015

NORTH VS. SOUTH CHALLENGE: 1. South (70) – Aaron Fox (3, 3, 2, 1, 3, 1, 6 – 19), Max Ruml (1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4 – 16), Shawn McConnell (1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 0 – 11), Broc Nicol (0, 1, 3, 2, 0, 2, 3 – 11), Charlie Venegas (2, 1, 0, 0, 3, 1 – 7), Dillon Ruml (0, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1 – 6); 2. North (65) – Bart Bast (3, 3, 1, 3, 2, 3, 5 – 20), Billy Janniro (2, 3, 3, 3, 1, 2, 4 – 18), Tommy Hedden (2, 2, 3, 3, 1, 3, 2 – 16), Bob Hicks (3, 0, 1, 0, 2, 0, 3 – 9), Tyler Warren (0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0 – 1), Luke Becker (1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 – 1).

YOUTH 250 A: 1. Colton Hicks; 2. Dylan Wagner; 3. Kyle Cunningham.

RUN WHAT U BRUNG: 1. James Lewis.

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