Winter Team Racing League
Round 1: Perris Raceway
Story by Steve Evans
Photos by Rob Hargraves
PERRIS, CA, DEC. 10, 2016
The 2016-17 Winter Team Racing League opened at Perris Raceway on Saturday, December 10, with two very close matches, which eventually went the way of the Perris Eagles and the Huntington Heathens. Luke Becker continued his domination with a fabulous 15-point maximum, including the main event.
The race format mirrored the 2016 British Elite League format through 14 heats, with the final two heats being held in the World Cup format, involving one rider from all four teams. Heats five through 11 and heat 15 ran Handicap. Both the Vikings and the Aces only tracked five riders each, due to injuries and withdrawals, so each was allowed to run “guest riders” from other teams to fill a vacant team spot.
Perris Eagles, 48 – Ventura Vikings, 43
The depleted defending champions, the Vikings, pushed the home team closely but eventually ran out of gas, and the Eagles won by five points.
The Eagles were led by an impressive 13-point performance from Dillon Ruml and 12 points from Gage Geist, and they had good support from Rick Valdez, Ron Davis and Chet Kohler. Harold Hartke won three heats on the way to a top 13 score for the Vikings, with Kurtis Hamill winning two on the way to a 9+1 haul.
After an opening Eagles 5-1, the Vikings edged back to tie the event at 12 after four heats.
The Eagles then moved six ahead after heat eight, but the Vikings clawed their way to a 39-39 tie after 13 heats.
A heat-14 4-2 from Ruml and Kohler put the Eagles two up with just the nominated heats to go, but a victory by Ruml in heat 15 and a second-place finish by Geist in heat 16 sealed the Eagle’s first win after six straight losses.
Huntington Heathens, 51 – Santa Maria Aces, 40
The strongly favored Heathens recovered from an early six-point deficit to rally to an eventual 11-point win over the Aces.
Luke Becker led the way for the Heathens with a 15-point maximum, with solid support from the ultra-impressive Rick Richards with 11, Steve Bowen on 9+2, Joey Donaldson on 7+2, and Rohn Zellner with seven.
The Aces had veteran Rudy Laurer scoring a sublime 14+1, with Doug Nicol – who was guesting for his son Broc, who was recovering from surgery to remove metal from his leg, which he broke back in 2015 – scoring 8+1 in solid support.
The Aces led by six points after six heats, but two straight 5-1 runs gave the Heathens the lead by heat eight.
From that point on, the Heathens sailed away, though a 7-1 in heat 14 from Hayley Perrault and Rudy Laurer (on a double-point joker) for the Aces kept things closer.
Becker was lights out throughout the entire event, with five wins.
The Aces will have spearheads Broc Nicol and Max Ruml returning to the lineup in February.
The final two events featured one rider from each team, but points still counted within the matches.
Heat 15 was handicapped. Dillon Ruml gave chase to Rick Richards and eventually found his way by for the victory after coming from the 50-yard line.
Heat 16 – the main event – featured Becker, Hamill, Geist and Nicol. Becker was fast away, though he had to fend off a hard-chasing Geist in turn one on his way to another main-event win at Perris. Hamill secured third, ahead of Doug Nicol.
Four other divisions participated in the event, each running two heats and a main.
The Support class featured 5 riders. Heat one was won by Tom Bryant, with a newcomer, former Sprint Car Champion Randy Moody, winning heat two. The main event saw veteran Bryant lead it from flag to flag for his fourth win in a row at the track!
National 250cc Junior Champion Sebastian Palmese won both of his heats, though the first was an epic duel in which Jake Isaac made him work for it all the way. Palmese was leading the main but dropped a chain, so it was Isaac getting the win, over Sara Cords.
Jose Navarette won all the 150cc Mini heats and the main event. Glenn Geist, who’d cleaned up three weeks earlier, gave chase from the 40-yard line but couldn’t quite make up the ground.
The two-rider Pee Wee class provided three epic side-by-side races. Levi Leutz took the win in heat one and Gavin Geist topped heat two and the main.
The event featured the annual Christmas gathering of the speedway family. More than a hundred toys were donated for the Toys For Tots campaign. Start marshal Tom Fox came dressed as Santa’s elf, and the rest of the staff all wore Santa hats and lit up a Christmas tree on the infield. Jake Isaac won the prize for best-decorated Christmas pit, while Ron Davis won the Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest, based on the sound decibels of the crowd’s applause.
After the Holiday break, racing will resume at Perris on Saturday, January 14, with the second annual Winter Olympique, featuring earned Handicap racing. Team racing will return on February 4 and March 18, and the season will conclude on April 22 with the qualifying round for the 2017 AMA National Championship Series.
Results: December 10, 2016
DIVISION 1: 1. Luke Becker; 2. Gage Geist; 3. Kurtis Hamill; 4. Doug Nicol.
SUPPORT: 1. Tom Bryant; 2. Randy Moody; 3. Lawrence McNutt; 4. Don Nermarnik; 5. Stewart Armas (fell).
250 JR: 1. Jake Isaac; 2. Sara Cords; 3. Sammy Tetrault; 4. Aiden McNutt; 5. Sebastian Palmese (engine failure).
150 MINI: 1. Jose Navarette (0); 2. Glenn Geist (40); 3. Andrew Russell (20); 4. Czane Dunbar (0).
PEE WEE: 1. Gavin Geist; 2. Levi Leutz.
MOST FESTIVE PITS: 1. Jake Isaac.
UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATER CONTEST (by decibel level): 1. Ron Davis (100.5); 2. Stanford the Dog (96.1); 3. Paul Flanders (93.4); 4. Crazy Chris (93.1);
5. Philip Harmatiuk (92.7); 6. Steve Evans (88.6); 7. Mike Reed (88.3).
Winter Team Racing League Standings (After 1 of 4 rounds): 1. Heathens (Won 1, 51-40); 2. Eagles (Won 1, 48-43); 3. Vikings (Lost 1, 43-48); 4. Aces (Lost 1, 40-51).