Speedway Legends and Heroes Night: Industry Hills Expo Center
Story by Tim Kennedy
Photos by Dorcey Wingo
CITY OF INDUSTRY, CA, AUG. 19, 2015
Billy “The Bullet” Hamill made a triumphant return to speedway racing Wednesday at Industry Speedway in the Industry Hills Expo Center. He returned after recuperating following a crash at Industry on June 24. His racing this week was to prepare for the 40th annual AMA California State Speedway Championship event at Industry on Wednesday, August 26. Hamill proved that he is ready and back to 100 percent.
About 1,050 persons attended on the annual “Speedway Legends and Heroes Night.” Thirty-one retired speedway riders signed autographs in the front courtyard for an hour before racing started at 7:30.
The 45-year-old 1996 Speedway World Champion missed eight weeks following his hard fall and crash into the front-straight plywood crash wall during a six-rider Handicap semifinal. He remained on the ground for several minutes, but he then limped back to the pits and remained at the track. Leg and hip soreness kept him off the track, but he told well-wishers on Wednesday that he felt good.
Hamill is a five-time AMA U.S. National Champion and four-time U.S. National Champion. The San Marcos, California, resident rode his Monster Energy/ Hagon Shocks/ Joker Machine backed number-104 mount to a perfect night. He scored a perfect nine points by winning his three heat races. Then he won his semifinal and the four-lap main event and led every lap of his five races. It was his second Industry feature triumph this season. (He also won the Scratch main during week two back on June 3.)
Hamill started his GM (Giuseppe Marsotti) speedway bike from the pole and beat lane-two starter (and August 12 feature winner) Max Ruml, 18, into the first turn. He maintained a five-bikelength lead for all four laps. Max finished second, five bikelengths back and 30 yards in front of his younger brother Dillon, 16. Buck Blair was running in fourth on the first lap when he slid to the track; he pushed his Jawa to the infield and placed fourth.
An exciting D-1 semifinal race saw the win go to Max Ruml, over his brother Dillon, with Nicol and Novratil following.
The second D-1 semifinal race went to Hamill. Aaron Fox was in second place on the opening lap when he fell in the third turn. Buck Blair and Tyson Talkington both slid their bikes to the ground to avoid Fox. Fox was excluded from the restart for having caused the red flag. Blair and Talkington finished second and third, respectively.
The Scratch Division One consolation race had only two of the four scheduled riders; Industry 2015 feature winners Aaron Fox and Broc Nicol scratched following crashes earlier in the evening. Austin Novratil started from the outside lane and led all the way over pole starter Tyson Talkington.
Rick Richards started from pole position and led every lap of the 500cc Division Two main. It was his first Industry feature victory this season. Nathan Siegel, Bentley Barrett and two-time winner Rudy Laurer followed.
Wade “The Reverend” Whitcomb from Anaheim, California, led every lap en route to his second 500cc Division Three feature this season at Industry. George Yates was a pressuring second place all four laps. Two-time winner Steve Brown and Thomas Rishton finished third and fourth, respectively.
The three-rider Junior 250cc main event went to 50-yard-line starter Sebastian “Big Daddy” Palmese, 11. He led laps three through five. Jake Isaac, 13, led the first two laps after starting from the 20. Three-time 2015 winner Michael Wells, 14, started at the 30-yard stripe and finished third.
A six-rider Mini 150cc feature field started from the zero-, 10-, 20- and 50-yard lines. Dakota Shockley, 10, started at the 10 and led all five laps easily over Sam Hagon and Keelan Venegas. It was Shockley’s second victory this season. Four-time winner Slater Lightcap, 9, came from the 50-yard line and finished fourth. Glenn Geist and Luke Whitcomb, 9, followed in official scoring.
Second-place Luke Whitcomb, who’d started at the 20, was racing fast in the outside groove and closing on leader Shockley on the final lap when he fell hard in the third turn. Third-place rider Hagon’s bike hit Whitcomb’s downed number-bike and he also fell hard. Shockley received the red flag instead of the expected checkered flag. Both youngsters remained on the ground for several minutes. “Lightning Luke” had a sore elbow, and Londoner Sam had a sore foot and toe. Both returned to the pits, Luke on his own feet, but Sam was carried by one man. The race finish order reverted to the running order on the last green-flag lap, excluding Whitcomb. The final order behind winner Shockley was Hagon, Venegas, Lightcap, Geist and Whitcomb.
Six Pee Wee riders ranging in age from 5 to 8 ran another fan-pleasing race that had the spectators cheering. In an earlier heat race, Travis Horn, 7, had raced his Honda 50cc from third position to take the win in a closing dash in the final turn on the last lap. This time, Horn made another inside pass from turn four to the start-finish line, but he did it on lap three. He defeated the leader of the first two laps, Levi Leutz, 6; three-time winner Jose Navarette; Richard Stephens; two-time winner Cole Ayers; and Conner Salazar.
The multipurpose Grand Arena facility recently hosted a rodeo, and the dirt track seemed to be slicker and rougher this week. A rare hole developed in the first turn by main-event time after the final track-maintenance grading. The first nasty crash of the evening was in the first Division Three heat race, for newer 500cc riders. Alex Martino flipped out of the starting gate and injured a knee. After he received medical attention, several men carried him back to the pits. He remained at the track for the evening.
The scariest crash occurred in the final round of Division One heats. On lap three, entering the first turn, second-place runner Broc Nicol’s bike suddenly shot into the back wheel of leader Max Ruml. Both riders fell hard as their bikes flipped over. Ruml remained on the ground, near the wall. Nicol rose momentarily. After several tense minutes, both riders were able to walk away. Nicol was excluded and placed fourth in the race that, with 50 percent of the laps run, was called complete. The victory went to Ruml, over Talkington. Visiting rider Dave Clark from Binghamton, New York, fell in turn three on the opening lap; he lost a lap but continued and received third. He earned four points for the night.
Following race 30 of the 40-race program, two USAC Midgets ran 10 laps at speed on the small (for them) eighth-mile dirt track. Former Junior 250cc speedway rider Courtney Crone, 14, drove the Wally Pankratz-owned number-98 Ford Focus-powered car. Speedway legend Sonny Nutter drove Jet Davison’s number-59 machine. Crone started half a lap behind Nutter and gradually closed on him. Crone passed Nutter on the inside entering the first turn and then pulled away to the “victory.” Nutter bounced off the backstretch wall and continued, though slower, to the checkered flag.
This was Speedway Legends and Heroes Night, and the free 16-page program given to spectators as they entered the front gate (and also to pit-pass purchasers at the pit gate) had photos of all the Speedway Legend riders. Many spectators had legends autograph their photos in the programs. Spectators paraded in front of the tables that were positioned in a U-shape in the IHEC restaurant courtyard and outdoor dining area.
It was interesting to watch Junior riders Sam Hagon, Sebastian Palmese and Courtney Crone get autographs and talk to the legends of their sport. These people helped speedway progress from the 1960s to where it is today, and it is still growing in popularity. With many fans working on Wednesdays and unable to get to the City of Industry on the clogged Southern California freeways, they are still able to watch the racing action from Industry live on the Internet.
The 31 legends who signed autographs and reminisced with spectators about the “good old days” were (in alphabetical order) Brian Alderdice, Jan Ballard, Danny Becker, Pam Bennett, Randy Blevins, Barry Briggs, Tommy Burba, Terry Clanton, Bill Cody, Mike Dwyer, Stu Egli, Bryce Eikelberger, Mike Faria, Dub Ferrell, Bruce Flanders, Dave Galvin, Tim Gewecke, Steve Gresham, Bobby Hardison, Steve Lucero, Billy Meister, Rob Morrison, Doug Nicol, Sonny Nutter, Bruce Penhall, Preston Petty, Bobby Schwartz, Scott Sivadge, Sammy Tanner, Bobby Tocco, and “Tumbleweed” Walton. In addition, active riders Billy Hamill and Charlie Venegas were in the pits, preparing to race Wednesday evening.
Interestingly, Pam Bennett, who raced in the 500cc Division Two in the 1980s, raced on Wednesday in 500cc Division Three, on her number-351 Jawa. The “racing grandma” is the mother of five and grandmother of six.
Shawn “Mad Dog” McConnell, 58, planned to attend Legends Night, but he reportedly had a bad headache and remained home to watch the event on the Internet. He received serious injuries at the Eddie Castro Testimonial event on August 1 at Perris Raceway; the popular racer will be sidelined until 2016.
Industry Racing at the Industry Hills Expo Center
City of Industry, California
Results: August 19, 2015
PEE WEE MAIN: 1. Travis Horn (40); 2. Levi Leutz (0); 3. Jose Navarette (10); 4. Richard Stephens (0); 5. Cole Ayers (10); 6. Conner Salazar (0).
MINI 150 MAIN: 1. Dakota Shockley (10); 2. Sam Hagon (10); 3. Keelan Venegas (10); 4. Slater Lightcap (50); 5. Glenn Geist (0); 6. Luke Whitcomb (20) (fell).
JR 250 MAIN: 1. Sebastian Palmese (50); 2. Jake Isaac (20); 3. Michael Wells (30).
DIVISION 3 MAIN: 1. Wade Whitcomb; 2. George Yates; 3. Steve Brown; 4. Thomas Rishton.
DIVISION 2 MAIN: 1. Rick Richards; 2. Nathan Siegel; 3. Bentley Barrett; 4. Rudy Laurer.
SCRATCH CONSOLATION: 1. Austin Novratil; 2. Tyson Talkington.
SCRATCH MAIN: 1. Billy Hamill; 2. Max Ruml; 3. Dillon Ruml; 4. Buck Blair (fell).