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The annual “Big Kids” Speedway Bike Gumball Rally for adults took place Saturday night in a pre-season, non-point event on the eighth-mile indoor dirt Industry Speedway. The event took place despite light rain most of the day and evening. A roof covered the Industry Hills Expo Center Grand Arena grandstand and pits. About 800 persons attended. Forty-seven 500cc riders in Divisions 1, 2 and 3, plus a field of eight 1,000cc sidecar racers entered the event. They ran 43 four-lap races, including main events for all four divisions.

Nor Cal resident and multi-time AMA National and California State Speedway Champion Billy Janniro, 37, started the D-1 feature from the third gate position. He shot across the front of the two inside riders and had the lead on the inside entering the first turn. He led all four circuits. Pole starter Max Ruml, the 21-year old Industry Speedway 2016-17 track champion, chased Janniro's Jawa all the way but trailed by ten yards at the finish.

Outside starter Tyson Burmeister placed third, five yards in back of the runner-up. Colton Hicks, a 15-year old 250cc Junior Division star and five-time Junior Gumball Rally winner, made his 500cc debut and ran fourth all four laps. He trailed Burmeister by five yards. The Auburn-based son of active 500cc D-1 rider Bob Hicks impressed everyone with his riding in four heat races and in the main aboard his No. 45n Wells GM ride.

SIDECAR MAIN: The sidecar feature went to the No. 1 Suzuki SX 1,000cc team of Joe Jones and his usual sidecar swinger Tom Summers. The No. 2 rig of paraplegic driver Bryan Motis and swing-man Johnny Bach took second spot. The No. 1965 of Jeff Rowe/Josh Bennett finished third, with the No. 911 of Stuart Glass/Jack Straw fourth.

The 500cc D-2 feature for intermediate skill level riders went to Michael Wells, a 17-year old former Huntington Beach resident now living in Northern California. He races regularly at Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway in Auburn. He started racing at Industry as a junior 150cc and 250cc rider and began racing a 500cc late last season. Second through fourth place finishers were D-2 veterans Davey Shaw Mike Miller and Rohn Zellner.

Sammy Tetrault, a 15-year old 500cc rookie from Auburn, thrilled himself and fans by winning the D-3 main for newer 500cc riders on his first attempt in the more powerful class. Past D-3 Industry Speedway winners Brent Smith, Dennis Osmer, and Steve “Beach-ball” Brown trailed the happy winner in that order.

GUMBALL RALLY HISTORY: The original speedway Gumball Rally for young riders took place in 1982 at a Ken Maely-owned private ranch in Corona,California. Riders raced for a large gumball machine filled with gumballs and have done so periodically at various venues, including Pirate Speedway in San Bernardino during 2013. The event was reborn in 2011; Industry has hosted the last four Gumball Rally events. ... Originators of the Gumball Rally concept were two junior speedway fathers—Bill Felts and John Gordon. Industry Speedway racing Director Kelly Inman revived the event to help develop junior speedway riders and ensure continuation of speedway racing into the future.

Commendably, all adult riders in the Saturday Gumball Rally donated all of their race earnings and associated proceeds to the junior Gumball Rally participants Sundayafternoon. They agreed to help develop the sport's future riders financially. Industry Speedway sponsors, grandstand spectators and officials also helped swell the financial proceeds Sunday to almost $7,000. The smallest check any of the junior riders (age 4-15) received on Sunday was $80. Dave Joiner, the Fast Fridays speedway racing promoter, came south from Auburn to support the Gumball Rally weekend program.

PIT NOTES: Max Ruml, from Huntington Beach, has signed a contract to race in Europe this year for the Edinburgh (Scotland) Monarchs, one of the upper division teams in the premier British Racing League. Fellow Californian Ricky Wells, 26, rides the No. 3 bike for Edinburgh and was the team's top point scorer in 2017. Max will race the No. 7 bike. He had a flight to Europe on Wednesday, March 7. His first event will be on March 18 against Glasgow. He said racing in Europe realizes a long-time goal. He indicated he will not be racing at Industry or in California this year even in the AMA National Championship rounds.

Reportedly, Californian and Speedway World Champion Greg Hancock has been working diligently to land rides for two other young Californians—Corona's Gino Manzares, 24, and Nor Cal's 19-year old Luke Becker, who might land with a Polish team. Speedway World Championship team competition briefly last summer only whet their appetite to race in Europe and develop their speedway skills.

Two 500cc D-1 veteran riders who took time off recently to do other things are returning to speedway bike racing this season.. They are Jimmy Fishback (No. 25 Jawa) and Tyson Burmeister, who finished third in the March 10 Gumball Rally feature, on his No. 26 GM Stuha.

Many of the junior speedway riders and their families attended the Saturday night adult Gumball event. The Martin family from Salinas attended, including twins Alex and Sterling, 13. Sterling decided to skip racing in the Gumball Rally himself to help his brother Alex work on his bike. Their father Steve was a 500cc speedway racer.

Gumball Rally D-1 feature winner Janniro continued his successful riding at Industry and had an extra incentive to win March 10. On Wednesday, March 7 his wife gave birth to their second child—a boy named Ricky. Watch out pee-wee riders, in four or five years a young charger might be gaining on you. Ricky's big sister Gracie, 7, has raced her 50cc pee-wee bike seven times since 2015.

Speedway racing lost one of its pioneers on February 20, 2018 when Patrick “Tumbleweed” Walton, 64, passed away. He was one of the annual participants at the Industry Speedway “Legends & Heroes of Speedway” autograph session in the front courtyard at IHEC. He was present at the August 2, 2017 “Legends Night” and was gregarious as usual. A “celebration of life” for Patrick was held on March 3 and many of his speedway friends and fans attended.

The Industry Speedway 2017 points championship awards dinner took place Friday, March 9 at 8:00 pm in the pavilion of IHEC. Top point riders in the D-1, 2, and 3 divisions received their awards. Riders and speedway racing supporters were able to join AMA for 2018 prior to the dinner and eliminate delays at the pit gate prior to the first race.

The 15th consecutive year of speedway racing at Industry Speedway in the Grand Arena will begin Wednesday, May 30. The annual season opener will be the 4th annual Connor Penhall Memorial Cup. Scheduled 2018 dates by months are: June--6, 13 and 27; July--11, 18 and 25; August--1, 11 (AMA National -Championship round 4), 12 (AMA/FIM Junior Speedway Silver Cup), 15, 22 and 25 (43rd annual AMA California State Championship).

Check for continuing updates and for live coverage on the Internet of all Irwindale Speedway races.