Palmese, Lightcap Top Junior Silver Cup Championships

| 13 September 2017 5:44 pm

AMA/FIM Junior Speedway Silver Cup Championships
Industry Hills Expo Center Grand Arena

Story by Tim Kennedy
Photos by Clark Oden/Race Day Images

The fifth annual AMA/ FIM Junior Speedway Silver Cup Championships were decided Sunday afternoon, August 13, at Industry Speedway in the Grand Arena at Industry hills Expo Center. Two champions – Sebastian Palmese, in the 250cc class, and Slater Lightcap, in the 150cc division – rode to decisive victories. Both champions are based in Southern California and call Industry Speedway their home track. The event’s grand marshal was Tucson, Arizona, resident R.C. Jones, founder of

Slater Lightcap (2) took the checkers in the 150cc division at the fifth annual Junior Speedway Silver Cup Championships at Industry.

Slater Lightcap (2) took the checkers in the 150cc division at the fifth annual Junior Speedway Silver Cup Championships at Industry.

Twenty-five Junior Division riders, 13 of them on 250cc bikes and 12 on 150cc mounts, raced at the modern indoor arena with open sides overlooking the east San Gabriel Valley. In the 250s, 10 riders came from Northern California and two from Southern California. The 150s had two from Northern California and 10 from Southern California.

Thirty-one races, including 25 heat races, four semis and two features, were run from 12:45 to almost 3 p.m. on a 90-degree day. There were four rounds of heat races, in which riders started from all four starting positions and raced against every other competitor. Riders scored points on the usual 3, 2, 1, 0 basis.

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Juniors-only racing attracted 90 persons through the front gate, with admission free for persons in the grandstands. Families and friends of riders were joined by the usual Wednesday night speedway regulars. About a hundred persons bought pit passes at the back pit gate. A free-to-all eight-page printed program contained line-ups and two pages of recent head shots of the competing Juniors, in color.

The usual two 150cc divisions – Division One for veteran 150cc riders, and Division Two for riders with less experience racing a 150cc bike – were combined for the first time. The first four Silver Cup events from 2013 to 2016 had separate 150cc champions in Divisions One and Two.

When racing concluded, Sebastian “Big Daddy” Palmese, 14, won his second consecutive 250cc National title. The teenager from Rancho Santa Margarita, California, would be flying to Poland and Czechoslovakia soon to race for the Junior 250cc FIM World Championship.

Lightcap, 11, who hails from Huntington Beach, California, won his first 150cc National Championship.

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The 250cc main launches off the line.

The 250cc main launches off the line.

250cc Feature
High-point rider Palmese won all four of his heats for the maximum 12 points. He selected pole position in the main and led all four laps.

Sebastian Palmese (1) takes the checkers in the 250cc main.

Sebastian Palmese (1) takes the checkers in the 250cc main.

Kyle Cunningham, 13, from Auburn in Northern California, came from the third lane and ran second all the way. Anthony Dion, 15, from Grass Valley, California, started next to the wall and ran in third position every lap. Jake Isaac, 15, who was second highest in heat-race points, selected lane two. He got caught in first-turn congestion on the initial lap and ran fourth all four laps.

The champ, Sebastien Palmese.

The champ, Sebastien Palmese.

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The 150cc main gets under way.

The 150cc main gets under way.

150cc Feature
Lightcap started from the inside lane at the starting gate and led all four laps. Lane-three starter “Lightning Luke” Whitcomb, 11, and outside starter Travis Horn, 9, finished second and third, respectively, and also received huge trophies on the podium.

Slater Lightcap (2) led the 150cc feature from wire to wire.

Slater Lightcap (2) led the 150cc feature from wire to wire.

Slater Lightcap may have to raise his ceiling to fit this hardware into his trophy room.

Slater Lightcap may have to raise his ceiling to fit this hardware into his trophy room.

Impressive Northern California rider Enzo Sorani, 11, won three of his four heat races and selected the second starting position. He was in third place on the first lap when his bike turned sideways on the back stretch. He corrected, but suddenly fell to the ground at the inside edge of the track. He rose quickly and pushed his bike into the infield in disgust. He finished fourth.


The eight highest in points in both the 150cc and 250cc classes raced in the two semis. The top two finishers in each semi advanced to the feature.

Lightcap led all four laps in the first 150cc semi. He beat 150cc rookie Horn, a frequent winner in the 50cc Pee Wee division. Colton Nelson from Northern California and Levi Leutz from Southern California finished third and fourth, respectively.

Travis Horn (25) was the runner-up in the first 150cc semifinal.

Travis Horn (25) was the runner-up in the first 150cc semifinal.

The second 150cc semi was a runaway victory for inside-lane starter Sorani. Lane-two starter Whitcomb, who hails from Anaheim, California, placed second and earned the final berth in the feature berth. Third and fourth went to Southern California riders Andrew Russell and Jose Navarette, respectively.

The eight high-point 250cc semi riders saw Palmese lead every lap from the inside lane. Third-lane starter Kyle Cunningham beat fellow northerners Greg Moore and the fallen Sterling Martin.

Kyle Cunningham (35) was runner-up in the first 250cc semi.

Kyle Cunningham (35) was runner-up in the first 250cc semi.

Pole starter Isaac led all four laps in the second semi, and outside starter Anthony Dion followed him into the feature. Third and fourth went to northerners Cameron Krezman (who started from lane two) and Landon Norton (who started from lane three), respectively.

The podium was placed on the track at the start-finish line. An air-gun shot colorful confetti into the air during both the 250cc and 150cc trophy presentations. Industry Racing director Kelly Inman presented the trophies, which were taller than some of the riders. Other prizes and awards were presented to all riders. Envelopes containing donated cash (more than $2,500 and counting, prior to racing) were distributed to the riders.

Sterling Martin, 12, received the Hard Charger Award for Showing True Grit & Determination. The racing twin brother from Salinas, California, fell on lap two while running in second place during the first semi. He missed transferring to the feature, where he has been a fixture in past Silver Cup events.

The Edge Go Fast or Go Home Award wen to Enzo Sorani from Grass Valley. He was awarded this prize for his strong performance all day until a sudden mishap cost him a likely podium position.

The annual Grin Award for Dedication and Sportsmanship was presented to Jake Isaac from nearby Whittier.

The Unicorn Award – a ceramic figure awarded “for when days are not magical” – went to Sterling’s twin brother, Alex Martin. He had an uncharacteristic Silver Cup afternoon, scoring two points.

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Pit Notes
Track officials for the Junior Silver Cup Championships Sunday were the same as for the 500cc AMA National Championship’s round three on Saturday night. Racing director Kelly Inman supervised all operations, including track preparation. The referee was past speedway champion Steve Lucero, and the starter was Tom Fox.

Inman and the late Carol Perez, IHEC’s operations manager, were the key persons who started the Silver Cup Championships in 2013 to support and grow Junior Speedway racing. Carol, who died suddenly at home last September, was pictured and remembered fondly in the printed program.

Industry Speedway announcer Bruce Flanders was on the mic on both Saturday and Sunday. However, Bruce’s brother Paul was ill and not present on either Saturday or Sunday. The versatile Paul did the postrace tech inspection after the 2016 Silver Cup event.

Charlie Venegas and his son Keelan were in the pits on Sunday to support Junior racing. They have not raced so far this season at Industry. Charlie’s wife, Anna, works at the pit gate and is also an official scorer at Industry Speedway races. Lisa Inman, wife of Kelly, also does both jobs at Industry.

The promoter of Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway in Auburn was present for both Saturday’s and Sunday’s races. He knows Juniors are the speedway stars of the future.

Sammy Tanner, Arai Helmets’ western distributor, and Jack Crone, Courtney’s dad, were present to watch the Juniors race on Sunday. Sammy will be the AMA Flat Track National grand marshal on Saturday, October 7, at the Perris Auto Speedway half-mile clay season finale for the premier dirt-track racing series.

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Past Junior racing stars and current 500cc Division One riders also attended Sunday’s Junior Championship racing. Brothers Max Ruml, 20, and Dillon Ruml,18, as well as Broc Nicol and Austin Novratil were in the pits and the grandstands, eyeing their future 500cc competition. They are serious supporters of Junior riders.

Colton Hicks, 15, was missing as a star 250cc rider in the 2017 Silver Cup Championship. The Auburn resident and son of 500cc Division One rider Bob Hicks fell at Industry during June and broke his wrist. He is still rehabilitating. Colton expects to be ready to join friendly rival Sebastian Palmese as they race for the upcoming FIM Junior World Championship in Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Luke Whitcomb had an engine failure during his last Wednesday night race at Industry on August 2. His dad, Wade Whitcomb (a 500cc Division Three rider), said the new $50 part for his $150 engine arrived on Thursday, August 11, so Luke was able to race on August 13 as planned. Luke’s mom and his look-alike brother Mark, 10, were present to watch Luke race on Sunday.

Industry Hills Expo Center Grand Arena
City of Industry, California
Results: August 13, 2017

JR 250 SILVER CUP FINAL: 1. Sebastian Palmese; 2. Kyle Cunningham; 3. Anthony Dion; 4. Jake Isaac.

MINI 150 SILVER CUP FINAL: 1. Slater Lightcap; 2. Luke Whitcomb; 3. Travis Horn; 4. Enzo Sorani (fell).

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