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JANNIRO WINS CONNOR PENHALL MEMORIAL CUP @ INDUSTRY

JANNIRO WINS CONNOR PENHALL MEMORIAL CUP @ INDUSTRY
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AMA Speedway racing superstar/reigning National and California champion Billy Janniro, 36, did it again. The Nor Cal-based ace won the third annual Connor Penhall Memorial Cup Wednesday night at Industry Speedway for the third time. He rode his 500cc Jawa to victory after starting from the inside lane and leading all four laps. He defeated the runner-up by four lengths on the eighth-mile dirt track in The Grand Arena at the Industry Hills Expo Center. Officials ran 38 races between 7:40 and 10:05 pm. More than 1,200 spectators entered through the front gate and about 200 more watched from the pits.

The Penhall Memorial honors the memory of late speedway bike racer Connor Penhall, the youngest son of 1980-81 US National and 1981-82 World Speedway Champion Bruce Penhall. Connor lost his life in a tragic incident during April 2012 on the westbound I-10 Freeway near the 605 Freeway. He was working as a Cal-Trans contractor on a night-time construction project. An intoxicated driver drove through cone barriers at an estimated 60 mph and stuck Connor, tossing him 60 to75 feet and killing him instantly.

Each year individual and corporate sponsors add money to the racing event honoring Connor. The announced purse this year surpassed $12,000. Troy Lee, owner of Troy Lee Designs, racing artist/helmet painter for major racing stars, again donated one of his colorful painted helmets to the Penhall Memorial Cup winner. This year the black/green/gold helmet had a big No. 1 on the side as it sat on display in a plexi-glass container. Janniro uses that number on his Jawa and won the third coveted Troy Lee helmet for his growing trophy collection.

Austin Novratil, 22, from Huntington Beach, was the only rider able to defeat Janniro all night. He did so in the final round of heat races. However, he could not catch Janniro in the feature. Dillon Ruml, 18, trailed Novratil by one length. Nor Cal rider Luke Becker, 18, finished fourth, two lengths in back of Ruml.

There were five rounds of heat races for the 16 500cc Division 1 riders and two reserves, who both were able to start heats as alternates. Janniro and Novratil tied for high-point honors at 14 points based on the usual 3, 2, 1, 0 scoring system. Both riders won four races and placed second in another heat. Max Ruml, 20, and Becker tied for third place at 12 points. Dillon Ruml and Broc Nicol, 19, tied for fifth place with 10-points. Tim Gomez (9 points) and Aaron Fox (8 points) completed the field of eight riders for the two semi-final races. The top two finishers in each semi advanced to the main event.

Becker started from the outside lane and led all four laps in the first semi (event 34) to outrun pole starter Novratil, Nicol and Gomez. Janniro started the second semi (event 35) on the inside and beat the Ruml brothers. Lane three starter D. Ruml tried to pass his older brother Max, the lane two starter, on the outside all four laps. Dillon pulled off a spectacular pass on the outside from turn four to the finish line with the checkered flag waving. Scorers agreed Dillon had taken the final transfer to the feature by inches. Outside lane starter Fox was a close fourth all the way.

JUNIORS: Nine 250cc and ten 150cc junior riders from throughout California raced in two heats plus consy and semi races. AMA 250cc Youth 2015 National Champion Colton Hicks, from Auburn, launched from lane one and led all the way in the 250 main. The 15-year old came to Industry with his father Bob, who raced and scored three points in the 500cc D-1 class. So Cal riders Sebastian Palmese, Jake Isaac and Michael Wells trailed in the 250 main.

Enzo Sorani, 11, from Grass Valley, took the lead on lap two from Huntington Beach resident Slater Lightcap, 11, and beat him to the checkered flag waved by starter Tom Fox. Luke Whitcomb, 11, and Glenn Geist, 11, followed in P. 3-4 respectively.

The younger set (riders ages 5 to 8) raced 50cc bikes and are called pee-wees. Five of the tykes raced two heats and a main event with all five racing. Gavin Geist, the youngest of three racing Geists at age 6, led all four laps in the main aboard his Yamaha 50cc. He defeated double heat race winner Owen Williams.

EXCITING RACES: Most exciting races of the night included the Ruml brothers battle for the final feature berth. Another was Nicol's outside-running, high-wire-balancing act on his bucking No. 4 trying to pass Novratil for second spot in his semi-final. The fifth round (event 29) race by Novratil to barely beat pressing Janniro brought fans to their feet; they cheered loudly at the checker after Novratil's gutty ride to beat the master rider.

Nine riders won the 20 D-1 heat races. Four-time winners were: Janniro, Novratil and M. Ruml; triple winner Becker, plus solo winners D. Ruml, Nicol, Gomez, Gino Manzares and Rick Richards. M. Ruml had four victories in four races, but in round five his front wheel touched the starting line tape prematurely for an automatic disqualification. He was replaced on the starting line by reserve rider Mike Bloom. Reserve Rick Valdez also raced in two heats and scored one point.

PIT NOTES: Mike Bast, 64, was the 2017 Penhall Memorial Cup Grand Marshal. The seven-time US Speedway National Champion (1971-79), US Open Champion (1979), American Final Champion (1977) and California State Champion (1973-83) was unable to attend because of illness. .Mike is a long-time friend and fellow speedway bike racer with Bruce Penhall, a speedway legend now a young-looking age 60. As an actor Bruce portrayed a CHP officer on the 1970s TV show--CHiPS.

A photo and salute to the late Carol Perez, IHEC General Manager, and major supporter of speedway bike racing, was in the 12-page color program given free to all fans and competitors. ... Industry Speedway Racing Director Kelly Inman was honored as “a friend of AMA racing and for bringing young riders into the ranks”. The presentation took place at the starting line during an intermission for track re-grooming. Inman said, “Thanks, but I think this award belongs to Carol Perez and all the Industry Hills staff.”

The May 31 Industry printed program contained two pages with 29 color photos of Connor as a youth and junior speedway rider, plus many with the Penhall family. Bruce, his wife Laurie, sons Devin and Ryan and daughter McKenzie were shown in various informal settings. ... Bruce brought a display that he keeps in his office to honor his son Connor and placed it on display inside The Grand main entrance. It included Connor's No. 81 junior speedway bike, his No. 81 racing leathers, and his colorful helmet.

Bruce told me the Toyota RV4 driver whose alcohol-impaired night-time driving cost Connor his life, has had his day in court. The then 37-year old Asian driver from Arcadia tried to flee the scene after hitting and instantly killing Connor. He tried to plead innocent, but was found guilty of drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter. He is now serving a 15-year sentence in state prison. He was working in the US for years as an illegal alien. When he is paroled eventually he will be deported back to his native Japan.

Janniro, wearing new colorful yellow and red Jawa leathers, told me prior to racing that he drove south from home solo and brought one of his Nor Cal Jawa bikes. He also keeps a Jawa in So Cal. Billy said he has won two of the three Friday night features at Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway in Auburn and Becker won the other.

Charlie Venegas was present in the pits May 31 but was not racing. He said he fell last week racing in Auburn and suffered a broken left clavicle. Charlie's son Keelan, 13, also scratched from racing because it was his eighth grade graduation party/dance. ... Mike Miller sang the National Anthem as usual from the infield following “rider parade” introductions from the pits to the infield.

D-1 racer Ricky Wells (Huntington Beach) has been racing speedway for years in Europe. His mother sells pit passes at the Industry pit gate each week. She said Ricky is racing this season for the Edinburgh (Scotland) Monarchs. ... Junior 150cc rider Travis Horn, a 9-year old frequent winner on his No. 25, was present in the pits May 31 but did not race. He decided to concentrate on motorcycle road racing. His mother Gina prints the speedway bike racing programs.

Broc Nicol returned for the May 31 Industry Speedway opener from racing in Europe. He raced in Poland, Germany and Italy (Broc scored three points) in the Under 21 Championship won by Aussie Jack Holden. Broc's dad Doug, a veteran 500cc D-1 rider, related the info in the Industry pits May 31. Doug said he pits for Luke Becker when Luke's dad is not present. Broc gets $500 airfares to make returning to the USA reasonable financially. His racing base is Sweden.

Broc has busy months on his 2017 racing agenda. He will race in the first of four US National rounds Saturday, June 17 at Ventura Raceway. He will fly June 18 to London to race next. He will race in Europe from June 18 to July 27. Then he will return home to race in the second US National round Saturday, July 29 at Santa Maria Speedway. Broc's ultimate goal is to race for the Speedway Bike World Championship.

Doug revealed that Great Britain citizen Martin Hagon, from London, has lived in Santa Margarita and operated his Hagon speedway bike business in Carlsbad for years. However, he is closing his successful business and returning to England. Why? He has been unable to get US government permission to bring his wife and children to the US to live as residents. They have only been allowed visitor visas and returned to London after each visit. Martin's son, Sam, 12, has raced a Hagon 140cc junior speedway bike (No. 350) in California from 2013-16.

Wednesday nights June 7 and 14 at Industry Speedway will feature extreme sidecar racing and all regular speedway bike divisions, including D-2 and D-3, plus juniors and pee-wees.