Saddlemen

Becker Sends an Ambitious Statement by Winning First AMA National Round at Ventura

| 26 June 2017 4:26 pm

AMA National Speedway Championship Series
Round 1: Ventura Raceway

Story by Steve Evans
Photos by Rob Hargraves
VENTURA, CA, JUNE 17, 2017

Luke Becker once more made a huge statement for his bright future in speedway by winning the opening round of the 2017 AMA National Speedway Championship at Ventura, California, on June 17.

Russell Green (321) leads Robbie Sauer in heat-race action at Ventura Raceway, site of the opening round of the 2017 AMA National Speedway Championship Series.

Russell Green (321) leads Robbie Sauer in heat-race action at Ventura Raceway, site of the opening round of the 2017 AMA National Speedway Championship Series.

Becker entered the main event with the number-one gate choice, having garnered the top score in the heat races, along with Billy Janniro, who was in turn aiming for his fifth straight Ventura win. Both won their semis, but Becker got the nod on gate choice after defeating Janniro in heat seven.

Becker picked the much favored outside gate, from which 14 of the 23 races on the night had been won. Janniro took gate three, Max Ruml took two, and the evergreen Eddie Castro was in gate one.

Becker made an electrifying start and roared into the lead, but Janniro responded with a deep dive into turn three to attempt a sensational sweep to the front. Janniro came unstuck and slid off the bike, causing the race to be stopped and eliciting an exclusion for the defending champ, ending his brave bid for five in a row at the seaside track.

The rerun once more saw Becker make a fast start, with Ruml behind and Castro in third. The field got spread out and Becker raced home to a hugely popular win on the fast European-sized track, well timed with his imminent departure to the UK to partake in Team USA’s 2017 World Cup campaign.

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Round One
For the fifth straight year, the Speedway Grand Prix race format was in use, as 16 riders duked it out through 20 heats to get to the semifinals.

Heat one saw Gage Geist get the start with one of his famous fast gates. Dillon Ruml overhauled him for the lead, and then Becker, in turn, passed his Team USA teammate Ruml and took the win, setting the flavor for the night.

Austin Novratil led home Aaron Fox in heat two.

Heat three saw the first shocker of the night: Eddie Castro got a terrific start, with Gino Manzares in second, Broc Nicol in third, and Janniro a stunning last out of turn one. Janniro worked industriously to first pick off Fox and then get by Manzares on the last lap for second place, all while the 58-year-old cancer survivor and local hero Castro won with relative ease.

Gino Manzares (left) leads Billy Janniro (1) early the third heat race of the evening.

Gino Manzares (left) leads Billy Janniro (1) early the third heat race of the evening.

Ryan Fisher, in his first U.S. appearance since the 2013 Monster World Invitational, immediately showed his cards by leading home Max Ruml in heat four.

Round Two
Manzares opened up round two with a win over Dillon Ruml and Fox in heat five.

Heat six was simply a mind-blowing stunner. Novratil made the start, ahead of Nicol, with Max Ruml third. It looked like Max would be out of contention before he found some fast outside drive and blasted by both of his rivals in the space of half a lap from what looked like an impossible margin.

Broc Nicol (right) rumbles with Max Ruml (5) in the sixth heat.

Broc Nicol (right) rumbles with Max Ruml (5) in the sixth heat.

Becker won heat seven, ahead of his mentor Janniro, with the defending champion finally looking mortal at Ventura and on the ropes.

Fisher went two for two and joined Becker in the “unbeaten” column with a win over Castro in heat eight.

Round Three
Heat nine was billed as an epic, with Janniro, Fisher, Novratil, and the younger Ruml, Dillon, all drawn together. Janniro immediately looked like himself again and scored a dominant win. Dillon Ruml put in another stellar ride before his World Cup debut in two weeks by keeping Fisher in third.

U.S. National Champion Aaron Fox got his night going better by beating Castro in heat 10.

Heat 11 was another epic in the making. Max Ruml got a superb start and went flag to flag for the win. Meanwhile, Becker had to work hard to steal second from Manzares.

Broc Nicol’s night came to life after a slow start with a win in heat 12, over Russell Green.

Broc Nicol shadows Russell Green (321) before passing him for the win in heat 12.

Broc Nicol shadows Russell Green (321) before passing him for the win in heat 12.

Round Four
Dillon Ruml led home his brother Max in heat 13, their respective scores of nine and 10 already ensuring them a place in a semifinal.

Janniro won heat 14, over Robbie Sauer and Hayley Perrault, who was having another landmark night in her rising career with a National Championship debut.

Becker got back to his winning ways in heat 15, coming from third to defeat Fox and Nicol, who later fell. Fisher was third place for the second heat in a row.

Manzares himself made up for a slow start in heat 16 by picking off Gage Geist and Dan Faria to pick up a much-needed win.

Dan Faria (105), Gage Geist (360, right), Gino Manzares (center) and Austin Novratil (back) mix it up.

Dan Faria (105), Gage Geist (360, right), Gino Manzares (center) and Austin Novratil (back) mix it up.

Round Five
The final round saw Nicol record his second win of the night, over Dillon Ruml, but his seven-point haul would be an agonizing one-point miss on making it into the semifinals.

Fisher was back to his winning ways in heat 18, ahead of Manzares.

Novratil scored a much-needed win in heat 19, over Becker, to secure the last semifinal spot. The spot was earned over Fox on count back (most wins) after a last-place finish in heat 20 from the U.S. champ.

Janniro won heat 20, over Max Ruml and Geist, moving him into a tie at 13 points with Becker.

Billy Janniro (1) bested Gage Geist (360) and Max Ruml (not shown) in heat 20, which tied him with Luke Becker at 13 points on the evening.

Billy Janniro (1) bested Gage Geist (360) and Max Ruml (not shown) in heat 20, which tied him with Luke Becker at 13 points on the evening.

Semifinals
Semifinal number one featured Becker, Fisher, Manzares and Castro. Becker launched into the lead, ahead of Fisher and Manzares. However, in turn three, Fisher lost control of the bike and was launched off at speed. In the meantime, Fisher’s wayward bike bounced into the path of Manzares, who had no chance to lay it down. Manzares was on the deck for a few minutes but got up for the rerun, from which the unhurt Fisher was excluded.

The restart saw Becker win, over Castro and then Manzares, whose borrowed equipment and bruised body meant third place and an unlucky end to his night.

Semifinal number two saw Janniro pitted against both Rumls and Novratil. Janniro won his fourth straight ride, with Max Ruml claiming the other spot in the main event after a close battle with his brother.

Becker leads the standings on 18 points, three ahead of Janniro and Max Ruml.

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Support Classes
Aside from the AMA National round, four other divisions were included in the evening’s show.

The Support class saw Will McCloskey win both of his heats, with Hayley Perrault and Mike Lane taking the wins in the others.

Mike Miller won the last-chance qualifier to join the above three in the main.

McCloskey appeared to be on course for a perfect night, but Perrault had other ideas, bringing the crowd to its feet with a confident pass for the win.

Will McCloskey, Kenny Hansen and Hayley Perrault in Support action at Ventura.

Will McCloskey, Kenny Hansen and Hayley Perrault in Support action at Ventura.

Dan Waller won all three Vintage races, including the main. His closest competition came from returnee Ken Thiebaud.

Glenn Geist beat Harley Fisher in a 150cc Exhibition match race.

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Sidecars
The Sidecars proved as popular as ever. Robert Curry & Lori Curry won heat one, with Joe Jones & Tom Summers taking the wins in the next two. Bryan Motis & Johnny Bach won the LCQ.

Bryan Motis & Johnny Bach skirmish with Jeff Medberry & Niki Davis in Sidecar action.

Bryan Motis & Johnny Bach skirmish with Jeff Medberry & Niki Davis in Sidecar action.

The final had a true storybook ending. Curry & Curry, who were in majestic form this evening, launched into the lead but were hotly pursued by Jones & Summers. After several attempts, a last-lap, outside-back-straight sweep saw the number-one team fly into a lead that they then held all the way to the flag. This was a very emotional win for Jones & Summers, as Summers had suffered serious injuries at this race last year.

Robert Curry & Laurie Curry (31) duel with Joe Jones & Tom Summers (1) for the Sidecar main-event victory.

Robert Curry & Laurie Curry (31) duel with Joe Jones & Tom Summers (1) for the Sidecar main-event victory.

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With a good-sized crowd on hand, the Ventura AMA round is now in its fifth year. Given the enthusiasm and support from promoter Jim Naylor and operations manager Cliff Morgan, this race is here to stay! The Grand Marshal was R.C. Jones, who was acknowledged for his contributions to American Speedway for more than two decades on the www.speedwaybikes.com website.

The AMA National Championship Series will move a hundred miles up the 101 Freeway to Santa Maria Raceway on July 29 for the first-ever round at that fabulous Central California facility. A second big-track round, followed by two short-track races in Industry and Auburn, will truly crown an all-around champion this year!

Ventura Raceway
Ventura, California
Results: June 17, 2017 (Round 1)

AMA NATIONAL SPEEDWAY CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES Round 1: 1. Luke Becker (GM) (3, 3, 2, 3, 2, 3, 3 – 19); 2. Max Ruml (Jaw) (2, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2 – 16); 3. Eddie Castro (Jaw) (3, 2, 2, 1, 1, 2, 1 – 12); 4. Billy Janniro (Jaw) (2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, Fx – 16); 5. Dillon Ruml (Jaw) (2, 2, 2, 3, 2, 1 – 12); 6. Gino Manzares (Jaw) (1, 3, 1, 3, 2, 1 – 11); 7. Ryan Fisher (GM) (3, 3, 1, 1, 3, Fx – 11); 8. Austin Novratil (GM) (3, 2, R 0, 3, 0 – 8); 9. Aaron Fox – (Jaw) (2, 1, 3, 2, 0 – 8); 10. Broc Nicol (GM) (0, 1, 3, F, 3 – 7); 11. Gage Geist (Jaw) (1, 1, 1, 2, 1 – 6); 12. Russell Green (Jaw) (1, 1, 2, 0, 1 – 5); 13. Dan Faria (Jaw) (1, 0, 1, 1, 1 – 4); 14. Robbie Sauer (Jaw) (0, 0, 0, 2, 0 – 2); 15. Hayley Perrault (GM) (0, 0, 0, 1, 0 – 1); 16. Bobby Schwartz (Jaw) (0, 0, 0, 0, 0 – 0).

SUPPORT LCQ: 1. Mike Miller; 2. Peter Pecorilla; 3. Kevin Fiore.

SUPPORT MAIN: 1. Hayley Perrault; 2. Will McCloskey; 3. Mike Lane; 4. Mike Miller.

VINTAGE MAIN: 1. Dan Waller; 2. Ken Thiebaud; 3. Bob Waller; 4. Don Nermarnik.

SIDECAR LCQ: 1. Bryan Motis/ Johnny Bach; 2. Dillon Osborne/ Blake Kronkite; 3. Jeff Medberry/ Nikki Davis.

SIDECAR MAIN: 1. Joe Jones/ Tom Summers; 2. Robert Curry/ Lori Curry; 3. Bryan Motis/ Johnny Bach; 4. Dillon Osborne/ Blake Kronkite.

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