Saddlemen

American Speedway the Winner in Winter Invitational

| 16 December 2017 12:31 pm

Winter Invitational
Perris Raceway

Story by Steve Evans
Photos by Robert Hargraves
PERRIS, CA, DEC. 9, 2017

Edinburgh Monarchs star and Team USA captain Ricky Wells was victorious in a battle royale with the cream of American Speedway in front of a jam-packed house at the Winter Invitational at Perris Raceway, California, on December 9.

Ricky Wells, Tyson Burmeister and Max Ruml in action at the Winter Invitational at Perris Raceway.

Ricky Wells, Tyson Burmeister and Max Ruml in action at the Winter Invitational at Perris Raceway.

The event ran the full Grand Prix format, and while Wells took the victory, the depth of the field meant that it was no easy ride. Yet perhaps the biggest story of the night was the stunning 500cc debut of 15-year-old Colton Hicks, who scored nine points and made it to the semifinals. Hicks hit the ground running and, in only his second 500cc race, tasted victory with a sensational defeat of both current National Champions.

Colton Hicks (24) leads Tyson Burmeister and Billy Janniro.

Colton Hicks (24) leads Tyson Burmeister and Billy Janniro.

The depth of the field meant that several star riders did not make the semifinals, despite good displays.

The first heat race saw the “King of Perris,” Luke Becker, storm away to a win over Tyson Burmeister. Late call-up Redmond Bohannon from Colorado scored a point with a third-place finish.

Heat two was the first blockbuster of the evening. Max Ruml showed speed and intention by overcoming eight-time AMA champ Billy Janniro. New Scunthorpe signee Gino Manzares was third, over Austin Novratil.

U.S. National Champion Broc Nicol took the win in heat three, ahead of Aaron Fox and Dillon Ruml.

Wells stormed to victory in heat four, but it was the pace of Hicks, who was close behind in second, that stunned the crowd.

Max Ruml won his second race in heat five, over Fox.

Becker missed the gate in heat six but showed his usual Perris pace by getting back up to second. In the meantime, Novratil got an excellent win after his initial last-place finish.

Heat seven was the stunner in which Hicks gated and held off the line of superstars behind him. Nicol came in second, ahead of Janniro and Burmeister.

Wells headed Manzares home in heat eight.

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Wells won heat nine in his back-to-back ride, with Nicol and Novratil behind him.

Heat 10 saw Dillon Ruml make a stunning start, ahead of Hicks. Meanwhile, Becker and Max Ruml were charging from the back. Hicks slid off the bike in the battle with Becker, finishing in second place.

Burmeister won heat 11, ahead of Manzares and Fox.

Janniro finally got his first win on the board in heat 12, ahead of Bryan Yarrow.

Janniro, in a back-to-back ride, suddenly gave notice that he should not be counted out by scoring a win in heat 13, ahead of Dillon Ruml.

Becker led home Manzares and Nicol in a close heat 14.

Wells stayed perfect, leading home former Wolverhampton teammate Tyson Burmeister in heat 15, with Max Ruml coming in third.

Novratil notched his second win in heat 16, with Hicks getting second and moving on to seven points ahead of Fox.

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The final round of heats had much to play for, with 11 riders still in contention for spots in the semifinals. Manzares got his first win of the night in heat 17, ahead of Hicks, to secure his place in the semis.

Heat 18 was a blockbuster on paper and, as it turned out, it lived up to the anticipation. Becker trapped ahead of Janniro, with Wells running in last place. Wells first went by Fox and then pulled off a magnificent inside pass on Janniro. He was, however, unable to catch Becker and dropped his first point of the night. Wells, on 14, and Becker, on 13, would be the top two in points from the heats.

Novratil won his third race, ahead of Burmeister, in heat 19.

Max Ruml got back to his winning ways in a close and intense battle with Broc Nicol in heat 20.

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The first semifinal had Wells charging into the lead by passing Manzares heading into turn three. Manzares, who also made a good start, took the second transfer spot, leaving Novratil and Nicol eliminated.

Semifinal number two was won by Luke Becker, ahead of Max Ruml, with Janniro and Hicks losing out. The depth of the line-up was proved not only by the four remaining riders but by the long list of stars who did not make the final.

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The final saw Wells get his expected fast start, but he was chased hard by Becker until an engine failure took his 18-year-old Team USA teammate out of the chase. That left Max Ruml and Gino Manzares to take up the chase. They finished in that order, much to the appreciation of the crowd.

Ricky Wells leads Luke Becker and Max Ruml in the final.

Ricky Wells leads Luke Becker and Max Ruml in the final.

The supporting act of divisions did not disappoint. The Clubman Division featured 19 riders. Heats were won by Chet Kohler, Jeremy Estes, Shawn Eldridge and Chanse Grove. The third- through fifth-place riders went to last-chance races, with only the winners, Will McCloskey and Brad Moreau, making it to the semifinals.

Estes and Grove continued their dominance by winning their respective semis, and the two had an epic battle in the main event, with newcomer Grove passing Estes, who slowed and dropped to fourth. With Will McCloskey and Shawn Eldridge taking second and third, respectively, it was still a Northern California clean sweep!

The Support class saw heat-race wins go to Dennis Osmer and Brent Smith. Smith led the final until the very end, when a mistake let Osmer get by for the win.

Dennis Osmer (303) was the Support-class winner.

Dennis Osmer (303) was the Support-class winner.

Osmer also won the prize for the most festive Christmas-decorated pit!

In Junior 250cc action, one heat-race win went to National Champion Sebastian Palmese, one went to Cameron Krezman, and the last-chance win went to Jake Isaac.

Palmese inexplicably missed the start in the main. Isaac was out front. Palmese reeled in the opposition, and a last-gasp pass on Isaac completed a fantastic last-to-first charge.

Sebastian Palmese and Jake Isaac in Junior 250cc competition.

Sebastian Palmese and Jake Isaac in Junior 250cc competition.

Travis Horn and Wilbur Hancock each took a heat win in 150cc Mini Division One competition. Horn was victorious in the main.

Jose Navarette (48), Travis Horn (25), Wilbur Hancock (right) skirmish in 150cc Mini Division One action.

Jose Navarette (48), Travis Horn (25), Wilbur Hancock (right) skirmish in 150cc Mini Division One action.

In Division Two, Chad Williams and Justin Almon split the heat-race wins. Almon topped the main in three very close duels between the two of them.

Justin Almon (7) duels with Owen Williams (right) in the 150cc Mini First Division.

Justin Almon (7) duels with Owen Williams (right) in the 150cc Mini First Division.

Dakota Black took a clean sweep in the Pee Wee contest.

Dakota Black (503, right) won the Pee Wee class. Max Rose (92, left) finished fourth.

Dakota Black (503, right) won the Pee Wee class. Max Rose (92, left) finished fourth.

This event kicked off the 2017-18 winter season at Perris, which fills the void of an otherwise seven-month off season in American Speedway. There will be monthly races through April, the next three being the much-anticipated team racing series, which will begin January 13.

Perris Raceway
Perris, California
Results: December 9, 2017

WINTER INVITATIONAL (Top 4 decided by main-event standings): 1. Ricky Wells (20); 2. Max Ruml (15); 3. Gino Manzares (13); 4. Luke Becker (16); Austin Novratil (11); Billy Janniro (11); Broc Nicol (10); Colton Hicks (9); Tyson Burmeister (9); Dillon Ruml (8); Aaron Fox (6); Bryan Yarrow (3); Redmond Bohannon (3); Eddie Castro (2); Kurtis Hamill (2); Rick Richards (0).

CLUBMAN MAIN: 1. Chanse Grove; 2. Will McCloskey; 3. Shawn Eldridge; 4. Jeremy Estes; 5. Rohn Zellner (20); 6. Lawrence McNutt (20).

SUPPORT: 1. Dennis Osmer; 2. Steve Brown; 3. Brent Smith;4. Justen Schultz.

250 JR: 1. Sebastian Palmese; 2. Jake Isaac; 3. Cameron Krezman; 4. Landon Norton.

LCQ: 1. Jake Isaac; 2. Landon Norton; 3. Sara Cords; 4. Andrew Russell.

150 MINI DIVISION 1: 1. Travis Horn; 2. Wilbur Hancock; 3. Jose Navarette.

150 MINI DIVISION 2: 1. Justin Almon; 2. Owen Williams; 3. Levi Leutz; 4. Cole Ayers; 5. Czane Dunbar.

PEE WEE: 1. Dakota Black; 2. Ryder Schultz; 3. Shane Smith; 4. Max Rose.

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