2016 RACING SCENE
RACING SCENE Column (2 & 4 wheels) – By Tim Kennedy - Los Angeles, CA.
The 2016 AMA 1,000cc Sidecar National Championship was held on Saturday, October 1 at Costa Mesa Speedway. The event dates back to 1990 and 15 teams entered this year. The team of Joe Jones and his sidecar “swinger” Dave German won over the runner-up team of Dual Anderson and Johnny Bach. Dan Jones/Dryden Gayle and paraplegic Bryan Motis/Cody Brant finished third and fourth respectively in the four team, four-lap feature.
Joe Jones, from Costa Mesa, won the AMA Sidecar National Championship for the 12th time in the last 13 years. He did so with five different sidecar “swingers” providing counter-balance in the turns. The five sidecar riders were: his former girl friend Brandi McElroy, Jimmy Olson, Johnny Glover, Tom Summers and Dave German this year. Joe, 36, is the leader of the expanding sidecar movement and even builds sidecars. He has helped popularize the sport throughout California. His brothers Dan and Chris also race sidecars at times.
The 2016 AMA US National Speedway Bike Championship season consisted of four events from May to September. Four California speedways—Costa Mesa, Ventura, Industry and Auburn — hosted the four events. Seven-time series champion (2008-2016) Billy Janniro, 36, won all four features on his 500cc Jawa. The season finale on September 16 at his home track in Auburn (north of Sacramento) was pivotal.
Three weeks earlier Janniro fell during a special flat track event in Auburn and broke his collarbone. He only had a 10-point lead over Max Ruml, from Huntington Beach, prior to the September 16 race. Billy skipped races to recuperate at home for the critical September 16 race. He raced and admirably won all of his races September 16 and scored the maximum 21 points in the process. He admitted he felt discomfort from his collarbone injury.
Ruml scored 17 points in the September 16 Auburn finale. If Janniro had missed the September 16 race Ruml would have won his first AMA US National Championship by seven points. During Billy's three week recuperation he missed the AMA California State Championship event August 31. Ruml won that title for the first time at his home track in Industry, 20 miles east of Los Angeles. His brother Dillon, 17, finished second.
So Cal native Greg Hancock, 46, won his fourth FIM Speedway World Championship in Australia during October. He won his prior world championships in 1997, 2011 and 2014. Greg also won seven AMA US Speedway National Championships before he moved to Europe and concentrated on winning world championships.
Hancock won the 2016 world championship by nine points (139-130) over Tai Woffinden, of Great Britain. This year 47 riders competed and 34 earned at least one point in the 11-round speedway world championship. Hancock did not make the season finale four rider main event and scored five points for 11th place in the 17 rider field. Woffinden was the main event runner-up in Australia and scored 15 points to cut into Greg's insurmountable point lead.
Aaron Fox, 28, won the 48th US Speedway Championship at Costa Mesa Speedway on Saturday, September 24. It was his second consecutive victory in the original speedway bike premier event started by Costa Mesa Speedway promoter Harry Oxley. His son Brad is the current track promoter. Aaron uses the No. 1 plate only when he races in Costa Mesa and his AMA No. 46 elsewhere. This year the second through fourth place riders were: Gino Manzares, 23, Max Ruml, 19, and movie stuntman Shawn McConnell, 57.
Tragedy struck twice at the AMA National flat track season finale on Sunday, September 25 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds mile-dirt track in Santa Rosa, CA.. The double fatalities occurred during preliminary races for GNC2 650cc riders prior to the GNC1 750cc races for more experienced touring pros. Wisconsin rider Charlotte Kainz, 20, reportedly could not avoid a flipping motorcycle of another rider in the second turn and received fatal injuries. In a subsequent GNC2 race, Pennsylvanian Kyle McGrane, 17, crashed in the fourth turn. He was rushed to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital where he succumbed the next day.
Both young riders placed well in races earlier this year as shown on www.FansChoiceTV.com live telecasts of GNC2 and GNC1 races. McGrane (No. 99A) finished 11th among 50 riders with points;. He scored 92 points and a runner-up feature finish in May at the Turf Paradise mile in Phoenix, AZ. Kainz (No. 35L) raced in two features and scored 9-points for 39th position in final point standings. Ryan Wells, 21-year old New Yorker on the No. 94B Kawasaki 650cc, won his fifth GNC2 feature of 2016 in Santa Rosa. He earned the season championship by 65 points.
The GNC2 series also had a major injury to a rider at the Peoria, IL. TT race on August 14. Veteran GNC2 rider Dominic Colindres (No. 66Y) was paralyzed from the chest down in a crash. The 22-year old from Brisbane CA. ironically won his only AMA feature at the Peoria TT in 2012.
2013 AMA National Champion Brad Baker (No. 6 Harley-Davidson) won the Santa Rosa mile 25-lap GNC1 main event. He became the seventh different 2016 feature winner. Runner-up Bryan Smith (No. 42 Kawasaki 750cc) won his first AMA National Championship. Reigning champion Jared Mees (No. 1 Harley) finished third. Smith beat Mees by five points—240 to 235. Championship rivals Smith and Mees both won four of the 14 GNC1 features in ten states this season. A somber championship awards ceremony followed the next day.
Necrology: Industry Hills Expo Center/Industry Racing executive Carol Perez, 49, died unexpectedly at home September 15. A reported blood clot caused her heart attack and she could not be revived by 911 emergency responders. Her husband and two teenage sons were distraught. Carol's strong support for speedway racing at the Grand Arena on the IHEC premises helped expand attendance. She became more active with Industry Racing in 2008 when IHEC took over promoting the Wednesday night races during summer months.
Carol was instrumental in starting the FIM/AMA Silver Cup Championships for 150cc and 250cc junior division riders three years ago with free admission for spectators. The second Sunday afternoon in August event was only for junior riders and gave them their own day to star. Carol's funeral Mass was held Tuesday, October 4 at 10 am in St. Joseph Church, La Puente, two blocks west of IHEC/Grand Arena. More than 300 persons, including many friends from speedway racing, attended. Interment followed at 11:30 am in Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Rowland Heights. Pallbearers included Kelly Inman, Industry Racing Director, and Jose Salazar, Industry track superintendent.
AUTO TOPICS: As of October 26 the Perris Auto Speedway 21st annual Budweiser Oval Nationals presented by All Coast Construction has 48 sprint cars entered. The entries include 12 USAC National Sprint Series drivers and 12 USAC National Series sprint cars. Dwight Cheney has a new 2016 Maxim/Shaver (No. 42) that he planned to have Alabaman Kevin Thomas, Jr. drive in the Oval Nationals. Owner/driver Robert Ballou was injured seriously at Calistoga September 3 and sidelined for 2016. His No. 1 sprinter was in contention for the 2016 USAC National Sprint car owner championship. He arranged for Thomas to drive his No. 4j car as the No. 1 Ballou DRC/Chevy entry to keep accumulating owner points for Ballou.
Cheney then arranged for Carson Macedo, a sprint car and midget driver from Lemoore, CA., to drive his No. 42 in the Oval Nationals. Macedo, 20, has been racing one of the Keith Kunz fleet of Bullet/TRD Toyota-powered midgets on the USAC National circuit this season. He wheels the No. 71k that Kyle Larson vacated for his full-time NASCAR ride. Carson ranks fifth in series 2016 points and is the highest ranking rookie with only the November 24 Turkey Night GP in Ventura remaining on the national schedule.
Carson, a third generation driver and a member of the Tarlton clan, won a WoO winged sprint car main event in Chico during September, 2014. He also won the 2015 King of California 410 winged sprint car championship. He has raced several sprint cars, winged and non-winged, this season when his midget schedule had open dates. His PAS Oval Nationals effort should prove interesting.
The NMRA-TQ Midget Series, based in Moorpark, had its 11th and final 2016 race scheduled on October 15 at Santa Maria Speedway. Rain won despite the prolonged California drought. With no rain date available, the TQ season has concluded. Six drivers won the ten races conducted at two speedways—Bakersfield Speedway and Santa Maria Speedway. Bakersfield hosted six races and Santa Maria four. West Evans won the driving and car owner championships.
Todd Gilliland, son of NASCAR Cup driver David Gilliland, won the 2016 NASCAR K & N West Series 14 event championship. The North Carolina resident at 16 years and five months became the youngest winner of a major NASCAR touring series. Todd won six features aboard Bill McAnally's No. 16 Toyota Camry as a series rookie. He defeated Irwindale Speedway champion, 51-time Irwindale feature winner, and three K & N West 2016 main event winner Ryan Partridge, of Rancho Cucamonga.
Partridge, 28, led the 2016 standings earlier in his second K & N season driving Bob Bruncati's No. 9 Sunrise Ford Fusion. Ryan started in the front row and won the 150-lap season finale at Roseville, CA on October 15. He cut eighth finisher Todd's point advantage from 25 to 15 points.
On a sad note, Jack Sellers, 72, died at his ranch home near Sacramento a week after racing his No. 15 Chevrolet in the Roseville 150. He finished 14th, down four laps. Jack often gave his race winnings to animal rescue efforts such as Save Greyhounds. He began racing at age 32 and fielded as many as two cars in the K & N West Series for 40 years because he just enjoyed racing. RIP.
K & N Series rookie Julia Landauer, from New York City, finished third at Roseville after starting fifth in McAnally's No. 54 Toyota. The 26-year old NASCAR Next driver is a 2014 Stanford University graduate and 2009 CBS-TV show “Survivor” contestant. She won the 2015 Radford, VA late model track championship and was a 2016 K & N West rookie at 14 tracks she had never raced. She finished fourth in final K & N West driver points.
Nicole Behar, 18, from Idaho is a NASCAR Next driver as well. She finished on the K & N West podium at Irwindale Speedway in 2015 and raced her dad's No. 33 Toyota as funds allowed this season. She started 18th and finished fifth at Roseville on October 15 on the lead lap with 16 of 23 starters still racing.
At the prior K & N West race on September 24 in Meridian, Idaho the two young ladies both finished on the podium. They were interviewed by the TV pit reporter during the one-hour, week-delayed race telecast on NBCSN. Julia started eighth and finished second; Nicole started ninth and finished third. Both ran all 216 laps with 19 of 21 starters still racing at the finish. Veteran observers call both drivers real racers, male or female gender.
Jim Cohan, 211 Entertainment CEO/President, announced on October 26 that Irwindale Event Center has been authorized to lease, operate and schedule events on the 63-acre facility through June 2017. That means oval track, drag strip, LA Racing Experience and the advanced driving school will continue operating as usual. The facility opened in March, 1999. Irwindale staff look forward to racing indefinitely as long as property owner plans to build an outlet mall remain stalled. Cohan invited all teams, sponsors, fans, and competitors to return in 2017 to continue enjoying the racing experience.
NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch (No. 41 Stewart/Haas Chevy) and his mother were shown at the MLB World Series game two Wednesday evening, October 26 in Cleveland. He is a rabid fan of the Chicago Cubs and even wears a Cubs cap at NASCAR races. TV announcer Joe Buck announced Busch and his mom were in attendance when they were shown on camera seated in a grandstand. Kurt was happy after his Cubbies won 5-1 and evened the series at one victory for each team in the best of seven series.