RUML WINS AMA CALIF. STATE SPEEDWAY CHAMPIONSHIP – By Tim Kennedy
Industry, CA., Aug. 31 – Max Ruml, 19, capped his brilliant “career-year” Wednesday by winning his first AMA California State Speedway Championship. The 41st running of the event took place at the Industry Hills Expo Center Grand Arena eighth-mile dirt track in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 1,350. It was the season finale of the 14th Industry Racing season.
The personable older brother of the impressive “Ruml Racers” clan from Huntington Beach started the feature from the third gate on his 500cc Jawa. He used the inside groove to lead all four laps. Gate four starter Broc Nicol provided intense pressure on the outside every lap, but he trailed by one length at the finish line.
Aaron Fox scored the only perfect 15 points earlier by winning all five of his heat races. He also won one of two semi-final races for a perfect 18 points entering the main event. M. Ruml won four of his five heat races and lost only to Fox in the third round (race 16 of 36). Ruml scored 14 points in heats and added three more by winning his semi-final for a total of 17 entering the feature.
Nicol, 18, ran second to Fox, 28, in the first semi and had 13 points entering the main. Charlie Venegas, 49, ran second to Ruml in the second semi and scored 12 points prior to the feature. With first gate choice based on total points, Fox selected gate two, Ruml gate three, Nicol the outside lane and Venegas the pole.
At the start, Ruml shot into the lead with Nicol a close second by turn two. Fox ran third and Venegas fourth. They remained in that order all four laps, but Nicol challenged Ruml intensely every lap. Fox trailed high-running Nicol by five lengths and Venegas was six lengths in back of Fox at the checkered flag.
Main event riders performed wheelies together on the straights following the 10:16 pm finish. Then the second and third place riders and racing officials performed the traditional celebratory winner toss into the air several times on the front straight. The top three finishers then mounted the podium placed at the finish line and received their silver trophies. They sprayed bubbly from bottles as a cannon shot red, white and blue paper into the air.
Ruml scored his seventh D-1 feature victory at Industry in 15 events this season. He won seven of the last eight mains during his late season surge. His first victory came in week four on June 22 aboard his GM bike. Ruml also won the Industry Speedway track championship by 179.0 points over his 17-year old brother Dillon, who did not win a feature at Industry this season but usually made the feature.
This week Dillon missed the semi-finals for the top eight point riders after the 20 heats. He scored five points and it took eight points to make a semi-final. Dillon had a gate foul in round one and a nasty-looking fall on the backstretch in round four, resulting in no points in two of five heats. Dillon went down hard as his Jawa tumbled towards turn three. He remained on the ground several minutes to assess his injuries before walking to the pits to spectate. It was just “a bad night” for him Max said.
There was no consolation race this week for D-1 riders who finished third and fourth in the two semi-finals. They were Shawn McConnell and Gage Geist in the first semi and a pair of veteran speedway riders from Auburn--Bob Hicks and Tommy Hedden in the second semi. Hicks was impressive in his five heats with three victories and a pair of seconds. His 13 points ranked third among the eight semi-final riders.
JUNIORS: Two junior divisions raced for points on the same 3-2-1-0 basis used by D-1. Four 250cc juniors were present and raced three heats, won twice by Sebastian “Big Daddy” Palmese, 13, and once by Michael Wells, 15. Both riders led all the way in their triumphs. There was no 250cc main event, so the title was based on total points.
The top three 250cc California State Championship riders stood on the podium. Palmese won the 2016 state title with eight points (two wins and a second). Jake Isaac,14, earned second place with two seconds and a third for five points. Wells earned the third step on the podium with four points for a win and third place. He fell in the first round and did not remount. Sara Cords, 16, scored one point in round one and ranked fourth. Palmese now has ten championships in 150 and 250 racing from 2013-2016.
150cc: There were ten 150cc juniors present (three from Nor Cal and seven from So Cal). They also raced three rounds of heats for points. All three northern riders and one of the seven southern riders made the main event. Sterling Martin, 11, won all three of his heats for the maximum nine points. So Cal's Slater Lightcap, 11, had two wins and a second for eight points. Alex Martin and 9-year old Folsom resident “Speedway Charlie” Trana (No. 66n) tied for third with seven points; both made the feature.
Other 150cc riders (with point totals in parenthesis) were: Keelan Venegas and Glenn Geist (six each), 150cc rookie/Pee-Wee Division star Travis Horn (five), “Lightning” Luke Whitcomb and Jose Navarette (three each), and Andrew Russell (none). The 150s feature (event 34) pole to crash-wall lineup was: Sterling Martin, Lightcap, Trana and Sterling's twin Alex.
At the start, Lightcap (No. 3) and another bike made contact in turn one. Lightcap flew over the bars and landed hard on the track. He remained motionless several minutes before talking and standing. He wanted to restart, so a replacement bike was brought out from the pits. The two-minute exclusion rule sidelined him when the replacement ride would not start.
Alex launched quickly into the lead on his colorful No. 2 bike over his twin Sterling's colorful No. 1; he stayed out front easily all four laps. Trana trailed the Salinas-based twins all the way. Riders and track officials performed the traditional winner toss of Alex into the air near the finish line. The top three finishers stood on the podium at the finish line after the D-1 feature. They were the first to spray cider from bottles onto onlookers on the front straight and receive a shredded paper salute from a cannon in the infield.
Earlier Alex had told his parents, Steve and Margaret, that he really wanted to win a championship. His twin Sterling had won the 2015 and 2016 AMA/FIM Silver Cup National Championships at Industry. With his 2016 California State 150cc Championship Alex had achieved his goal and won a big championship trophy. His obvious joy and smiles as he sprayed bubbly showed how proud he was of his achievement.
PIT NOTES: Billy Janniro, the four-time California State Speedway Champion, was not among the 2016 entries. He broke his collarbone Saturday, August 27 during a special flat track motorcycle race at his home track in Auburn. His ability to race in round four of four for the 2016 AMA National Championship on Friday, September 16 in Auburn is in doubt. Billy, 36, won the first two rounds in the national title series at Costa Mesa and Ventura. Max Ruml, the third round winner on August 13 at Industry, is within striking distance (-10 points) if Billy does not race in two weeks.
Industry announcer Bruce Flanders made his usual announcement prior to the singing of our National Anther by Mike Miller about 7:30 pm. He asked everyone to remove the hats and stand for the National Anthem. This week he mentioned the NFL's San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick recently refused to do so. Industry spectators booed the 49ers QB loudly.
D-1 had 16 riders entered plus veteran D-2 rider Eloy Medellin as a reserve. Unexpectedly, two riders--Austin Novratil and Mike Faria--were absent. That put Medellin into the 16 rider field to replace Faria. Officials needed one more rider to make a 16-rider field with four riders for all 20 heats. Jimmy Fishback (No. 25) agreed to race Ruml's backup No. 5 GM bike that Max rode to the June 22 Industry victory. Jimmy got his leathers and steel boot from his vehicle, ran back to the Ruml pit under the grandstand and changed at National Anthem time. He was in the first race at 7:48 as Novratil's replacement. All Fishback did was lead all four laps and score three points.
Fishback, 35, last raced in D-1 speedway on his own No. 25 in 2014 and at Industry in 2013. He went off-road truck racing in the Lucas Oil Series at tracks in Glen Helen and Lake Elsinore. That got expensive and he sold his off-road truck. On August 24 at Industry Jimmy hot-lapped a 500cc bike he borrowed from Broc Nicol to see if he could still be competitive on two-wheels. He ran eight fast laps and showed he still has it. He said he changed the No. 5 setup to his liking. Jimmy stated he might return to speedway racing in 2017.
D-1 POINTS (after two semi-finals): Fox-18, M. Ruml-17, Hicks-14, Nicol-13, Venegas-12, McConnell-10, Geist-9, Hedden-8, plus non-semi riders Fishback and Bobby Schwartz-6 each, D. Ruml and Dalton Leedy-5 each, Tyson Talkington-3, Kurtis Hamill-2, Medellin-1, and Gary Hicks-0 (mechanical problem in first round).
Attendees at Industry August 31 included former AMA bike and sprint car drivers Sammy Tanner, 77, and Sonny Nutter. Sammy raced Hank Higuchi's sprint car in 1959. Sprint car drivers Jeff Heywood, plus J. J. Ercse and his wife Lisa were in the grandstand as well as Jack Crone, father of former 250cc rider/auto racer Courtney Crone. Industry Racing Director Kelly Inman raced the No. 43 sprint car with CRA back in the day.
Sebastian Palmese raced on August 31 for the 250cc California State title despite his left wrist being wrapped from an earlier crash. His right shoulder had a brace following his August 24 header over the bars into the third turn. He clearly was hurting and iced his shoulder in the pits between races. Seb added the 2016 250cc California State title to his numerous titles, including the Sunday, August 14 AMA/FIM Silver Cup Championship at Industry. Afterwards, near the podium, Seb admitted his shoulder was bothering him.
The Martin family got school approval for the twins to miss their sixth grade class and do makeup work. They drove south from Salinas from 10 am and arrived at Industry about 4 pm via the 210 Freeway through Pasadena. Dad Steve planned to drive home Wednesday as his family slept in their motor-home. He said he would nap awhile near the I-5 Grapevine and the twins would be in class Thursday morning.
Steve, a former 500cc speedway rider, owns his own construction and backhoe business, so he plans work around his twin sons racing. They are fast-rising stars with backing from Bubba Shobert, a 3-time (1985-87) AMA National Champion (flat track). The twins will be racing in the 250cc division next season. Steve said he already has their 250cc bikes and has potential buyers for the twins' 150cc bikes.
Prior to the first heat race Wednesday, Industry Racing leader Inman made a special appreciation award at the starting line to referee Steve Lucero, a retired champion speedway rider. It was a black helmet with autographs in white from all D-1 and junior riders present. Young fan Mariah Figueroa collected all the signatures as she did for the helmet presented to Inman on August 14 at the Silver Cup Championship for junior riders. Lucero was surprised and appreciative for the gesture and immediately tried on the helmet.
The 16-page color program at Industry August 31 was given free to arriving spectators at the front gate and to competitors at the pit gate. It contained printed heat race lineups plus color action photos of all D-1 riders entered. It also had half a page dedicated to three-time World Speedway Champion Greg Hancock, a So Cal speedway veteran, who is leading in 2016 World Championship points currently.
2016 INDUSTRY SPEEDWAY FINAL POINTS:
500cc D-1 top ten: 1. Max Ruml – 497.5; 2. Dillon Ruml – 318.5; 3. Broc Nicol – 309.5; 4. Charlie Venegas – 287; 5. Billy Janniro – 270.5; 6. Austin Novratil – 208.5; 7. Shawn McConnell – 185; 8. Luke Becker – 169; 9. Gage Geist – 146, 10. Aaron Fox – 97.
500cc D-2 top three: 1. Rudy Laurer, 2. Hayley Perrault, 3. Rick Valdez.
500cc D-3 top three: 1. Steve Brown, 2.. George Yates, 3. Brent Smith.
INDUSTRY RACING AMA 2017 SCHEDULE: (tentative).
Feb, 25-26 - Pre-Season Weekend – Annual Gumball Rally.
May 31 – Season Opener – Connor Penhall Memorial Cup.
June 7, 14, 21 and 28.
July 5, 12, 19, 26.
August 2, 12 AMA D-1 National Round, 13 – Juniors 150 and 250cc Silver Cup Championships, 16, 23, 26 42nd AMA California State Speedway Championship.
October 14 – Under Age 21 National Championship and Sidecar Championship.