Story by Tim Kennedy
CA, OCT. 27, 2016
The 2016 AMA 1000cc Sidecar National Championship was held on Saturday, October 1, at Costa Mesa Speedway. The event dates back to 1990, and 15 teams entered this year. The team of Joe Jones & his sidecar “swinger” Dave German won, over the runner-up team of Dual Anderson & Johnny Bach. Dan Jones & Dryden Gayle came in third, and the team of paraplegic driver Bryan Motis & Cody Brant finished fourth in the four-team, four-lap feature.
Joe Jones, who hails from Costa Mesa, won the AMA Sidecar National Championship for the 12th time in the last 13 years. This year, he did so with five different sidecar “swingers” providing counterbalance in the turns. Those five sidecar riders were his former girlfriend Brandi McElroy, Jimmy Olson, Johnny Glover, Tom Summers and Dave German. Joe, 36, is the leader of the expanding sidecar movement, and he even builds sidecars. He has helped popularize the sport throughout California. His brothers Dan and Chris also race sidecars at times.
The 2016 AMA U.S. National Speedway Bike Championship season consisted of four events from May to September. Four California speedways – Costa Mesa Speedway, Ventura Raceway, Industry Racing, and Fast Fridays – hosted the four events. Seven-time series champion Billy Janniro, 36, won all four features on his 500cc Jawa. The season finale on September 16 at his home track – Fast Fridays in Auburn, north of Sacramento, California – was pivotal.
Three weeks earlier, Janniro had fallen during a special flat-track event in Auburn and broke his collarbone. Prior to the September 16 race, Janniro only had a 10-point lead over Max Ruml, who hails from Huntington Beach, California. Billy skipped races to recuperate at home for the critical September 16 race. He raced that evening and admirably won all of his races on September 16 and, in the process, scored the maximum 21 points. He admitted that he still felt discomfort from his collarbone injury.
Ruml scored 17 points in the September 16 Auburn finale. If Janniro had missed the September 16 race, Ruml would have won his first AMA U.S. National Championship by seven points. During Billy’s three-week recuperation, he missed the AMA California State Championship event on August 31. Ruml won that title for the first time at his home track in Industry Hills, 20 miles east of Los Angeles. His brother Dillon, 17, finished second.
So Cal native Greg Hancock, 46, won his fourth FIM Speedway World Championship in Australia during October. He won his prior World Championships in 1997, 2011 and 2014. Greg also won seven AMA U.S. Speedway National Championships before he moved to Europe and concentrated on winning World Championships.
Hancock won the 2016 World Championship by nine points, 139-130, over Tai Woffinden of Great Britain. This year, 47 riders competed, and 34 earned at least one point in the 11-round speedway World Championship. Hancock did not make the season finale’s four-rider main event and scored five points for 11th place in the 17-rider field. Woffinden was the main event’s runner-up in Australia and scored 15 points to cut into Greg’s insurmountable points lead.
Aaron Fox, 28, won the 48th U.S. Speedway Championship at Costa Mesa Speedway on Saturday, September 24. It was his second consecutive victory in the original speedway-bike premier event started by Costa Mesa Speedway promoter Harry Oxley, whose son Brad is the current track promoter. Aaron uses the number-one plate only when he races in Costa Mesa and his AMA number-46 plate elsewhere. This year, the second- through fourth-place riders were Gino Manzares, 23; Max Ruml, 19; and movie stuntman Shawn McConnell, 57.
Tragedy struck twice at the AMA National Flat Track season finale on Sunday, September 25, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds’ Mile dirt track in Santa Rosa, California. The two fatalities occurred during preliminary races for GNC2 650cc riders prior to the GNC1 750cc races, for more experienced touring Pros. Wisconsin rider Charlotte Kainz, 20, reportedly could not avoid a flipping motorcycle of another rider in the second turn and received fatal injuries. In a subsequent GNC2 race, Pennsylvanian Kyle McGrane, 17, crashed in the fourth turn. He was rushed to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where he succumbed to those injuries the next day.
Both young riders placed well in races earlier this year, as shown on www.FansChoiceTV.com live telecasts of GNC2 and GNC1 races. McGrane (number 99A) finished 11th among 50 riders with points; he scored 92 points and a runner-up feature finish in May at the Turf Paradise Mile in Phoenix, Arizona. Kainz (number 35L) raced in two features and scored nine points for 39th position in the final points standings. Ryan Wells, a 21-year-old New Yorker on the number-94B Kawasaki 650, won his fifth GNC2 feature of 2016 in Santa Rosa. He earned the season championship by 65 points.
The GNC2 series also saw a rider sustain a major injury at the Peoria, Illinois, TT race on August 14. Veteran GNC2 rider Dominic Colindres (number 66Y) was paralyzed from the chest down in a crash. Ironically, the 22-year-old from Brisbane, California, won his only AMA feature at the Peoria TT in 2012.
The 2013 AMA National Champion, Brad Baker, riding the number-six Harley-Davidson, won the Santa Rosa Mile 25-lap GNC1 main event. He became the seventh different 2016 feature winner. Runner-up Bryan Smith, on the number-42 Kawasaki 750, won his first AMA National Championship. Reigning champion Jared Mees finished third. Smith beat Mees by five points, 240 to 235. Championship rivals Smith and Mees both won four of the 14 GNC1 features in 10 states this season. A somber championship awards ceremony followed the next day.
Sadly, Industry Hills Expo Center and Industry Racing executive Carol Perez, 49, died unexpectedly at home on September 15. A reported blood clot caused her heart attack, and she could not be revived by 911 emergency responders. Her husband and two teenage sons were distraught. Carol’s strong support for speedway racing at the Grand Arena on the IHEC premises helped expand attendance. She became more active with Industry Racing in 2008 when IHEC took over promoting the Wednesday night races during the summer months.
Carol was instrumental in starting the FIM/ AMA Silver Cup Championships for 150cc and 250cc Junior division riders three years ago with free admission for spectators. The second-Sunday-afternoon-in-August event was only for Junior riders and gave them their own day to shine.
Carol’s funeral mass was held on Tuesday, October 4, at 10 a.m. at St. Joseph Church in La Puente, two blocks west of the IHEC’s Grand Arena. More than 300 persons, including many friends from speedway racing, attended. Interment followed at 11:30 a.m. at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Rowland Heights. Pallbearers included Industry Racing director Kelly Inman and Industry track superintendent Jose Salazar.