Santa Rosa Mile

USA Back on Top at Fast Fridays!

| 14 October 2016 2:55 pm

USA vs. The World
Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway at the Gold Country Fairgrounds

Story and Photos by Michael Kirby
AUBURN, CA, OCT. 5, 2016

In a meeting that was too close to call all evening, the USA team avenged its loss last year to the World team by winning the 16th annual USA vs. The World meeting, 58-55, on Friday night, October 5.

The 2016 USA vs. The World teams before the racing began Friday evening: (from left to right) The World team’s Broc Nicol, Mikael Max, Joonas Kylmakorpi, Peter Karlsson, Mikkel Michelsen and Peter Ljung, and the USA team’s Tommy Hedden, Billy Janniro, Bryan Yarrow, Charlie Venegas, Luke Becker and Bart Bast.

The 2016 USA vs. The World teams before the racing began Friday evening: (from left to right) The World team’s Broc Nicol, Mikael Max, Joonas Kylmakorpi, Peter Karlsson, Mikkel Michelsen and Peter Ljung, and the USA team’s Tommy Hedden, Billy Janniro, Bryan Yarrow, Charlie Venegas, Luke Becker and Bart Bast.

The event closed out the 2016 Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway season at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn, California, in grand style. The near-capacity crowd welcomed the European riders who’d come thousands of miles to compete in this perennial international grudge match. The annual event that has closed the Fast Fridays season since it began back in 2001 has the USA winning 11 meetings and the World winning five times, in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2015.

Representing the World this year were Peter Karlsson of Sweden, Mikael Max of Sweden, Peter Ljung of Sweden, Joonas Kylmakorpi of Finland, and Mikkel Michelsen of Denmark. Broc Nicol of the USA rounded out the World team. All of the European riders are professional racers recruited by Fast Fridays owner David Joiner to travel to Auburn for the annual meeting.

Danish rider Mikkel Michelsen was the high points scorer for the World team, with 17 points.

Danish rider Mikkel Michelsen was the high points scorer for the World team, with 17 points.

The USA team was made up of the top Fast Fridays season points finishers, and, with the exception of one rider, it was the same team that was defeated last year. This year’s team was led by seven-time National Speedway Champion Billy Janniro. Also on the team is Fast Fridays’ top season points finisher Bart Bast, who has ridden in all 16 USA vs. The World contests. Also representing America were Bryan Yarrow, Luke Becker, Tommy Hedden and Charlie Venegas. Trashed pretty good last year – 55-48 – this year’s USA team was out to bring back an American win.

Charlie Venegas racked up six points for the USA team.

Charlie Venegas racked up six points for the USA team.

The meeting was all Scratch team racing, with the team members paired racing in 18 heats: three points for a win, two points for second place, one point for third, and zero for a fourth-place finish. The team with the most points at the end of the evening would be the winner. Insertion of a Joker when a team was 10 points or more down kept the action exciting and enabled a team that was falling behind in points to get back in the game fast with a strategic move.

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The scores stayed very close, and after two rounds (six races) – which included a crash involving Becker and Nicol and an engine failure for Mikael Max – the score was the World with 19 points and the USA with 17. The World scored great races in round three by the team of Michelsen and Nicol, and Ljung and Kylmakorpi each grabbed first- and second-place finishes and a combined 10 points, along with another three points from Karlsson and Max, extending the World’s lead to 10, 32-22.

Being down 10 points allowed the USA to insert a Joker, which they did, substituting Janniro for Yarrow in the 10th race. Janniro came through, picking up double points for his first-place finish, and at the end of 12 races, the score was 38-37, giving the USA a slim one-point lead.

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Unfortunately for the World team, Kylmakorpi – who had two first-place finishes and a second-place finish, with eight points in just three races – became ill and could not continue racing.

In race 14, the World, at this point 10 points down, used their Joker with Michelsen, who capitalized also with a win and doubled his points for that race, bringing the World team to within three points of the USA.

The teams stayed within a few points of each other, with both teams giving it their all, but the USA team could see a win and prevailed with first-place finishes for Janniro and Bast in their final rides.

Bart Bast (foreground) gets ready for the start of race 16. Bast has been in all 16 of the USA vs. The World meets since 2001. Bast scored 11 points in Friday night’s contest.

Bart Bast (foreground) gets ready for the start of race 16. Bast has been in all 16 of the USA vs. The World meets since 2001. Bast scored 11 points in Friday night’s contest.

“We started out a little slow, but we picked it up toward the end,” said USA team member Bart Bast. “I think we are all a little surprised we got back in it. Billy [Janniro] pulled off the Joker, and that really helped.”

Peter Karlsson was part of last year’s winning World team and returned for a second time this year.

“It was good to come here again and have a go at it” Karlsson said. “We didn’t manage to win this year, but it was very close, I feel sorry for Joonas [Kylmakorpi], who is sick; he came a long way and could not finish the race.”

The final score was 58-55, but in an excellent night of racing and international camaraderie, the riders on both teams left the track with handshakes and hugs. There were no losers on this night.

The members of Team USA celebrate their 2016 USA vs. The World win: (from left to right) Bryan Yarrow, Tommy Hedden, Charlie Venegas, Billy Janniro, Bart Bast and Luke Becker.

The members of Team USA celebrate their 2016 USA vs. The World win: (from left to right) Bryan Yarrow, Tommy Hedden, Charlie Venegas, Billy Janniro, Bart Bast and Luke Becker.

In an emotional moment during the opening coin toss, Mikael Max of Sweden announced that this evening would be his last as a professional speedway rider and that he would be retiring from the sport after a stellar 27-year professional career. After race 17 – his last – the boys gathered to give Max a ceremonial toss in the air, and then Max took one last lap around the track as the Fast Fridays fans gave him one last cheer. Well done, Mikael Max!

Swedish rider Mikael Max takes his last lap around the Fast Fridays track, waving to the crowd after his final race. Max announced earlier in the evening that he was retiring from a 27-year international professional speedway racing career.

Swedish rider Mikael Max takes his last lap around the Fast Fridays track, waving to the crowd after his final race. Max announced earlier in the evening that he was retiring from a 27-year international professional speedway racing career.

Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway at the Gold Country Fairgrounds
Auburn, California
Results: October 5, 2016

USA VS THE WORLD: 1. USA (58) – Billy Janniro (2, 3, 3, 3+3, 2, 2, 3 – 21), Bart Bast (3, 0, 1, 1, 3, 3 – 11), Tommy Hedden (2, 3, 0, 3, 2, 2 – 11), Charlie Venegas (1, 1, 1, 1, 0, 1 – 6), Luke Becker (0, 0, 0, 3, 1, 1 – 5), Bryan Yarrow (1, 1, 0, 0, 2, 0 – 4); 2. The World (55) – Mikkel Michelsen (3, 2, 2, 2, 3+3, 2 – 17), Peter Ljung (1, 3, 2, 1, 0, 3 – 10), Mikael Max (0, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2 – 9), Joonas Kylmakorpi (3, 2, 3 – 8), Peter Karlsson (2, 0, 1, 0, 3, 0 – 6), Broc Nicol (0, 1, 3, 0, 0, 1 – 5).

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