KENNEDY: California Coast


INDUSTRY, Calif. — The second annual $36,000 Monster Energy World Speedway Invitational motorcycle race at Industry Speedway on the final Saturday of December was another rousing success at the box office and on the track.

It attracted a record crowd of 5,400 according to Industry Hills Expo Center Operations Manager Carol Perez. Racing took place on a well-groomed eighth-mile dirt oval inside the open-sided Grand Arena. An additional 500-seat grandstand outside turn two was added for the 2013 event after the inaugural event on Dec. 29, 2012 attracted more than 5,000 spectators. This year overflow spectators stood outside the backstretch crash-wall and watched action from a closer than normal perspective. Last year a rider from California won; this year a rider from Europe took the victory.

Sixteen 500cc speedway bike racers (with two reserves) competed in five rounds of four-lap, four rider races. Riders raced against every other rider and started from all four lanes at least once. Eight racers with the highest point totals following all 20 heats advanced to a pair of four rider semi-final races. Only the top two finishers in the semis moved into the main event, the 23rd 500cc race of the night.

Complimenting the pro riders were speedway bike racing stars of the future. Five juniors on 250cc mounts, five 150cc first division juniors and five150cc second division juniors also raced in a pair of heats and main events for all three junior classes, giving fans 32 races.

Seven noted foreign riders raced against nine pro riders from the United States, who were invited to participate by racing director Kelly Inman based upon their 2013 results. Two reserves were young American pros based upon their 2013 season points.

Four returning foreigners were: Edward Kennett, 27, and Scott Nicholls, 35, from Great Britain, Hans Andersen, 33, (Denmark), and Maciej Janowski, 22, (Poland). Newcomers to Industry racing this year included: Darcy Ward, 21 (Australia), Chris Harris, 31 (Great Britain), and Patryk Dudek, 21, (Poland).

The nine USA riders included past speedway world champions Billy Hamill, 43, and Greg Hancock, 43; national champions Charlie Venegas, 46, and Billy Janniro, 33; veterans Ryan Fisher, 30, and Ricky Wells, 22, returning from racing in Europe all year, plus California circuit veterans Tyson Burmeister, 29, Gino Manzares, 20, and 500cc rookie sensation Max Ruml, 16. So Cal veterans Jason Ramirez, 21, and Austin Novratil, 18, were the reserves and both were able to compete in at least one heat.

Nine riders won the 20 heat races. Kennett, Wells, Venegas and Janniro all won three heats. Burmeister, Nicholls and Hancock were two-time winners. Fisher and Ward each won once.

Janniro led the first semi all four laps from the inside lane and Nicholls ran a close second from the outside lane. Kennett took third from Hancock on the third lap.

In the second semi, Venegas shot from lane one and led all four laps. Lane four starter Ward ran second all the way to earn the final feature berth. Wells and Burmeister placed third and fourth.

The main event lineup had Janniro, Venegas, Nicholls and Ward in lanes one through four respectively. Janniro shot into the lead immediately when the starting gate tapes lifted. Entering the third turn on the initial lap, second place Ward made contact with Janniro’s bike. Janniro fell; his bike flipped several times at speed and punched a hole in the wooden crash wall. Ward also fell. Fourth-place Nicholls laid his bike onto the ground to avoid contact with Janniro and Ward.

Third-place Venegas, on the inside, rode past the crash and was the only rider to complete the first lap as the red flag appeared quickly. The three downed riders rose quickly without injury.

Janniro’s primary bike was damaged too severely to continue, so he used his backup bike for the restart. By rule, Ward was excluded from the restart for causing the crash. Following an eight-minute red flag, Nicholls raced into the lead on the outside in the second turn on the opening lap. He kept his No. 7 bike out front all four laps and won by ten yards. Venegas took second position from Janniro on lap three with an inside pass entering the third turn. Janniro slowed a bit on the final lap and hiked his front wheel as he crossed the finish line in P. 3 — the final podium position. Janniro, the winner of the inaugural Monster Invitational last December, sprayed champagne from the third place step on the podium this year.

Winner Nicholls, from Suffolk, England, said, “Thanks for inviting me over again this year. I was pretty nervous. It kept me sharp, but tense. I feel for Billy (Janniro) because he was the dominant rider, but that’s racing. I benefited from the misfortune of others.”

Dillon Ruml, 14, led all four laps of the 250cc feature after starting from lane two. The Huntington Beach resident was tossed into the air several times by his brother Max and fellow 500cc rider Manzares during a joyful celebration in the third turn. Broc Nicol, 15, Nor Cal’s Luke Becker, 14, Hayley Perrault, 16, and Dalton Leddy, 16, followed. Nicol won both 250cc heat races over Ruml. Nicol and Perrault will advance to more powerful 500cc competition in 2014.

The 150cc D-1 feature went to frequent youth division winner Sebastian “Big Daddy” Palmese, 10. Great Britain resident Tom Brennan, 11, Courtney Crone, 12, Great Britain’s Jason Edwards, 11 and Maverick Molloy, 11, followed.

Junior 150cc D-2 main event winner Sterling Martin, a 9-year old twin from Salinas, won the four-lap main by a straightaway over Logan Hedden, 10.