U.S. National Speedway Championship
Costa Mesa Speedway at the Orange County Fairgrounds
Story by Elaine Jones
Photos by David Gallegos
COSTA MESA, CA, SEPT. 24, 2016
The saying “crazy like a fox” comes to mind when one refers to Aaron Fox. He played his cards close to his vest and when he had to get it done, that’s exactly what he did as he defended his title at the 48th United States National Speedway Championship at Costa Mesa Speedway on Saturday night, September 24.
It was a great night for racing, “Rad Brad” Oxley and his crew did a fabulous job of preparing the track, and Jaleen Oxley was on top of all the rest. They are quite a team!
The format was a simple one: five rounds of Scratch racing, with the top three going directly to the main event. The next four in points would go to the last-chance qualifier, with the winner of that race being the last man in the grid for the main.
Starter Steve “Bad Boy” Lucero was taking a walk down Memory Lane, was remembering his U.S. title 20 years ago to the day. Also, a shout-out to Doug Nicol, who was celebrating his birthday by pitting for his son.
The first round saw many generous donors sweetening the pot for each of the heat races. Many thanks to Jim Busby Racing, A&D Cleanup Masters, Team Swolen, and Wraps by Tori G.
Aaron Fox opened things up with a solid ride, cutting a great gate and leading the first heat from start to finish. Following him home were Tyson Talkington, Charlie “The Edge” Venegas and Bobby “Boogaloo” Schwartz.
The second heat was all “Mad Max” Ruml’s, but it wasn’t easy, as the boys from Northern California, Bryan Yarrow and Luke Becker, didn’t let up on him for a second. “Fast Eddie” Castro rounded out the field.
In the third heat, Shawn “Mad Dog” McConnell was on his game, and he let the young guns know they were going to have to work very hard if they thought they were going to beat him. It was a wire-to-wire romp for McConnell. Broc Nicol was second. Reserve rider Dillon Leedy came in for Kurtis Hamill after a restart and took third. Dillon Ruml was fourth.
The last heat of the first round was all about Gino Manzares. He has been a force to be reckoned with all season, and he would be one to watch as this night unfolded. Gage Geist, in his first season as a Division One rider, was right there behind him. “Flyin’ Mike” Faria and reserve rider Leedy, who this time was in for Austin Novratil, rounded out the field.
Jim Busby Racing, Mike Deliefsen, Mike Boyle Racing, and Boyko Racing put up the extra dough for the second round of heats.
Novratil had all his problems fixed when the first heat of round two came to the line; he may have tallied a DNF in the first round, but he was letting everyone know that he was back in the hunt when he got the start he needed, and it was all over. Fox came home second. Yarrow and Dillon Ruml were third and fourth, respectively.
The second heat of this round was again all about Manzares. Max Ruml gave it a great fight but he would have to settle for the second spot. McConnell and Schwartz rounded out the field.
Nicol gave Dad a nice birthday present as he got the win in the third heat of round two. Following him home were Geist, Venegas and Castro.
The final heat of round two belonged to Northern California rider Becker. The first try at a go in this race saw three riders take the wall out in turn two. The only one who stayed out of trouble was Becker. The only one unable to restart was Faria. They lined up again, and this time it was all Becker. Talkington and Hamill were third and fourth, respectively.
With two rounds in the books, only one rider was clean, and that was Manzares. The betting windows had opened.
For the third round, Fullerton Sand Sports, Jim Busby Racing, the Detlefsen family, and So-Cal Fencing helped the riders out, and they really appreciated it.
In the first heat of round three, Max Ruml was back on track and hungry for the main-event ride, and he let it all hang out as he took the win. Fox was second. Nicol was third, and Leedy, in for Faria, was fourth.
In the next outing, Yarrow, who won the Championship in 2014, had a sweet race to put some much-needed points on the board, as he topped Geist, Hamill and Schwartz in the second heat.
Manzares was still the man to beat, but they still couldn’t do it, as he came off the pole and was gone in heat three of round three. Becker, Dillon Ruml and Venegas could do nothing more than follow him home.
Novratil was settling down, and he put together a much-needed good ride in the final heat of this round. McConnell was second, with Castro and Talkington rounding out the field.
Three rounds down and two to go. Manzares was still perfect. One point back was Max Ruml, with Fox two points back.
Thank you, Long Beach Boat Movers, Jim Busby Racing, Sarge & Sue Fiesler, and Tear Drip Juice Company, for you generosity on behalf of the riders in the fourth round of heats.
Manzares opened things up in round four with another great ride, and it looked like he would be a shoo-in for a direct transfer to the main. Fox was still the consistent rider with another second. McConnell, by virtue of his third-place finish, was still a player. Geist, with a fourth, was still hanging tough.
Novratil was trying to make up for a slow start as he put another win in the books in the second heat of round four. Becker, with his second-place finish, was also looking at a spot in at least the LCQ. Schwartz and Nicol would need a whole lot of luck to move up the ladder.
Yarrow, in the third heat of the fourth round, had his game face on and was looking to make it a horse race for the title. Venegas and Faria were done for the night, so it was reserves, Leedy and Laurer, who rounded out the field for third and fourth, respectively.
Max Ruml showed his little brother Dillon Ruml the way home in the final heat of the round. He was making sure he had a spot in the main. The road would not be so easy for Dillon. On back, it was Geist and Talkington.
Manzares was still perfect with 12 points. Max Ruml had 11 points, and Fox and Novratil both had 9. There was one round to go.
A special thanks to the Geist family, Jim Busby Racing, the Walker family, and Larry’s Lounge for helping out the riders with your sponsorship for the fifth round of heats.
Fox led things off in the first heat with a more than solid ride that ensured him a spot in the main. Becker, by his virtue of his second-place finish, would make it to the LCQ, as would McConnell. Geist’s night was over, but for his first National, he did one heck of a job.
The second heat saw Dillon Ruml get the ride he’d been looking for all night. Unfortunately, it was a case of too little, too late, and he would be cheering on his big brother on in the main. Leedy was third, and Schwartz was fourth in this one.
The third heat of round five saw Max Ruml put the icing on the cake, as he finished out the night with a win, and a direct transfer to the main. Novratil was headed to the LCQ and would get one more shot at a main-event ride. Hamill’s night was over.
The final heat of the night saw Manzares still perfect, as he finished with a win. Would he have one more in him? Yarrow made it to the LCQ. Nicol and Talkington were done.
Law Tigers put up the cash for the LCQ. The players were Novratil, Yarrow, Becker and McConnell – two Nor Cal riders vs. the South.
They loaded in, and the first try at a go saw Novratil go down on the second lap, so they had a total restart, with Novratil now back on the 20-yard line.
The second try was perfect – at least for McConnell, who got the holeshot and got down on the pole, where he does his best work, and it paid off, as the win was his and he was headed for the main. On back, it was Yarrow, Becker and Novratil.
They rolled to the line for the premier race of the night, the U.S. National Championship. They chose starting positions. By virtue of his perfect score, the first pick went to Manzares, and he chose the pole. Max Ruml went for gate two. Fox opted for lane four, so McConnell would be in three. They loaded in, the light went green, the tapes went up, and it was a drag race to the first turn between Fox and Manzares!
Fox got the edge and came out of turn two running out front. Manzares was not giving up without a fight, but it looked like Fox had saved the best for last, and at the checkered flag it was Fox defending that number one he had on his back. Manzares was second, with Ruml and McConnell rounding out the field.
The Support riders had their own Championship, and their races were sponsored by National T-Shirts and Toolander Engineering Inc.
Eloy Medellin took the Support win with a wire-to-wire ride, topping Hayley Perrault, Rudy Laurer and Chet Kohler.
The 150cc Division Two event was sponsored by Insiders MC and Topping Events. Glenn Geist topped Jose Navarrete, Sammy Waddill and Andrew Russell.
Hagon Shocks and Topping Events sweetened the pot for the 250cc Juniors. Sebastian Palmese put it to Michael Wells, Jake Isaac and Sara Cords for the bragging rights.
The 150cc First Division event was sponsored by the Whitcomb family and Uncle Doug Nicol. Sterling Martin picked up all the marbles in this one. On back, it was Alex Martin, Luke Whitcomb and Slater Lightcap.
Costa Mesa Speedway at the Orange County Fairgrounds
Costa Mesa, California
Results: September 24, 2016
U.S. NATIONAL MAIN: 1. Aaron Fox (Jaw); 2. Gino Manzares (Jaw); 3. Max Ruml (Jaw); 4. Shawn McConnell (GM).
SUPPORT MAIN: 1. Eloy Medellin (Jaw); 2. Hayley Perrault (Jaw); 3. Rudy Laurer (Jaw); 4. Chet Kohler (Jaw).
250 JR: 1. Sebastian Palmese (Jaw); 2. Michael Wells (Jaw); 3. Jake Isaac (Jaw); 4. Sara Cords (Jaw).
150 JR DIVISION 1: 1. Sterling Martin (Hgn); 2. Alex Martin (Hgn); 3. Luke Whitcomb (Hgn); 4. Slater Lightcap (Hgn).
150 JR DIVISION 2: 1. Glenn Geist (Hgn); 2. Jose Navarrete (Hgn); 3. Sammy Waddill (Hgn); 4. Andrew Russell (Hgn).