MAX RUML WINS SENSATIONAL AMA QUALIFIER @ INDUSTRY – By Tim Kennedy
Industry, CA., Aug. 13 – Round three of the four-race 2016 AMA Speedway National Championship Series at four tracks in California made its annual stop Saturday night at Industry Speedway in The Grand Arena. An announced 1,200 spectators present and an live Internet audience witnessed perhaps the most sensational feature in the 14th season of Industry racing.
Sixteen 500cc first division speedway riders qualified to participate in five rounds of four-lap heat races. They scored points (3-2-1-0) in each heat and the top eight in points after 20 heats advanced to one of the two semi-finals. P 1-4-6-7 raced in the first semi, with P. 2-3-5-8 in the second semi. Only the first two finishers in each semi advanced to the feature.
Multi-time US and California State Speedway Champion Billy Janniro, from Napa, scored 14 points out of a possible 15 based on his four wins and a second in his five heats. Max Ruml and Aaron Fox tied for second place at 11-points based on their three victories, a second and a no points ride. Ruml fell on the backstretch without contact in round four and was excluded from the restart by rule. Fox was excluded also in round four after his front wheel touched the starting tapes.
Other riders who made the semi-finals (with points in parenthesis) were: Luke Becker (10), Charlie Venegas, Austin Novratil and Dillon Ruml (9 each). Eighth spot went to Broc Nicol (8) over Gino Manzares (8) based on the first tie-breaker rule—most heat wins. Nicol had two wins to none by Manzares. During the final heat race (20th), hard-luck Manzares had a spark plug wire come loose while he was in second place on lap 2, causing him to finish fourth and earn no points.
SEMI-FINALS: The intense pair of semis (events 21 and 22) transferred the top two finishers in each to the all-important National Championship Round 3 Final race. In the first semi, Becker, D. Ruml, Janniro and Novratil lined up in that order from pole to the crash-wall. At the start Janniro launched into the lead and held it all four laps. The battle for second was close all the way between Ruml and Novratil. Ruml prevailed by a length. Becker was fourth.
The second semi lineup from pole to the wall had M. Ruml, Venegas, Nicol and Fox in that order. Fox shot into the lead by turn two and beat Ruml. Nicol and Venegas trailed in third and fourth at the finish and had to watch the feature from the pits.
FEATURE: The talented feature lineup for event 23 had Dillon and Max Ruml alongside at gates one and two. High-point rider Janniro, who won 2016 National Championship rounds one and two at Costa Mesa and Ventura, liked gate three after checking dirt firmness there. Fox liked his outside lane four after breezing to victory from that gate position in event 22. After a reconnaissance lap by all riders to check the eighth-mile dirt track riders were ready to settle the matter.
The green light flashed on and the starting gate lifted at 9:43 pm to great expectation. All four riders came off the line together and exited the second turn side-by-side. They raced four-wide on the backstretch fighting for the lead into turn three. Seeing four D-1 500cc riders racing four-wide was an unprecedented first-division sight at Industry. M. Ruml edged ahead of Fox with D. Ruml fighting Janniro for third. The running order remained unchanged after lap 1 and had M. Ruml leading Fox, D. Ruml and Janniro.
Spectators who witnessed that spectacular opening lap will never forget it. The finish had Max, 19, five lengths ahead of Fox. Brother Dillon, 17, was third, three lengths in back of Fox after holding off outside-running Janniro by a wheel for three laps. On the final lap in turn four Janniro, 36, tired to take third and the final podium position. However, “Billy the Kid” bobbled a bit and then hiked his front wheel approaching the finish line after losing his bid for third. He trailed the third finisher by 35-yards.
After the checkered flag from starter Tom Fox, all four riders got together and rode two-by-two as they hiked their front wheels in unison on the front straight to salute the still buzzing, applauding fans in the grandstand. Afterwards in the pits, Fox described the first lap, four-wide racing for position on the backstretch as “scary”. Others called it amazing and a tribute to the professional skill of all four riders. It was Ruml's fifth victory at Industry this season and fourth in a row.
Trophy presentations to the first three finishers took place in the pits after interested fans had a chance to come to the pits and witness the ceremonies. Continuing a speedway bike racing tradition, fellow podium riders and others tossed winner Max Ruml in the air several times. On the final toss they almost dropped him near the front of the podium.
GREAT HEAT: Another race that had fans in awe was the opening round third heat race. Janniro led the first three laps over fellow Auburn regular Bart Bast, Dalton Leedy and Nicol, who was fourth after lap 1. Nicol passed Leedy on lap 2 and used the outside cushion to catch the two leaders. On lap 4 Nicol passed Bast on the outside in the third turn. At full power he nipped Janniro for the victory on the outside at the finish line. Janniro had lifted his front wheel briefly to celebrate just before the finish line and it cost him. The two scorers and referee Steve Lucero consulted to determine the winner and agreed Nicol pulled off the fourth to first ride of the night.
Ten of the 16 riders won the 20 heat races as follows:
> 4 wins – Janniro.
> 3 wins – M. Ruml and Fox.
> 2 wins – Nicol, Becker and Venegas.
> 1 win – D. Ruml, Novratil, Tommy Hedden and Kurtis Hamill.
PEE-WEES: The 50cc pee-wee division for youngsters ages 5 to 9 raced two heats and a main event—the Wayne Leutz Memorial Pee-Wee Main Event. All five riders present competed in all three events. Appropriately, Levi Leutz, 7, led every lap he rode on his Honda 50 in his two heats and in the feature. The race was named in honor of his late father Wayne, a contractor who succumbed in his 50s to a fatal heart attack this year during January.
“Go Go” Gavin Dryfka, soon to have Geist as his surname when adoption papers are finalized, finished second. Connor Salazar, Ken Matsudaira, and Owen Williams finished third through fifth respectively. Kristian Daniel, Jr., a five-time main event winner at Industry as a rookie this year, was unable to race because of a broken elbow he received during mid-July in a fall on the backstretch.
PIT NOTES: Track preparation with the IHEC tractor dragging the track and moving dirt back to the racing groove took place after all five rounds of heat races. Light watering of the track also brought the track back to life throughout the evening and gave riders the best racing surface possible on the warm night.
The format for selecting the 16 eligible AMA National Championship riders this year was as follows:
> P. 1-8 were based on 2015 AMA National Championship points.
> P. 9-14 were the top six in the April 2016 AMA National Championship qualifier race held at Perris Raceway.
> P 15-16 were selected by the track promoter (promoter option). Industry Racing selected track supporters Venegas and Tyson Talkington. Eligible rider Ryan Bast, from Auburn, was unable to come south because of work, so that position went to Mike Faria. Two reserves were selected. They were: Rick Valdez (No. 293) and Ricky Richards (No. 345), who was not present. Valdez raced in one heat race during round four after Fox had a gate touching exclusion and finished fourth.
Junior Division 250cc rider No. 8 Skylar Schnakenberg, 17, used the microphone and sang the National Anthem in the infield following the 7:15 pm rider parade. She did an excellent job that was better than many of the renditions performed by professional singers before events on TV. ... A generous fan gave $120 at the announcer/scoring booth for the top four in the feature. He designated $60 for the winner, $30 for second, $20 for third, and $10 for fourth.
Billy Janniro and Luke Becker came to Industry from Nor Cal separately this week. Luke came south with his parents. Both riders raced in Europe during July for Team USA in the World Team Championship. They said USA riders rode the new to them GTR frame. ... Janniro won both the scratch and handicapped main events in Auburn Friday, August 12 before coming south. ... Venegas, Nicol, B. Bast, Becker, Hedden and Dalton Leedy also raced in Auburn a night before the August 13 Industry race. Charlie said he flew south from Sacramento to Ontario and watched Interstate 5 traffic from above. He keeps Jawa bikes in Auburn and at home in Highland.