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ndustry, CA., Aug. 24 – Multi-time National and California State Speedway Bike Champion Billy Janniro returned to Industry Speedway Wednesday after skipping a week. He showed he hasn't lost a beat by leading every lap he raced. It was his fifth feature victory this season in the Grand Arena. The Napa resident was the only rider who scored a perfect nine points by winning all three of his heat races. He won his semi-final and the main event aboard the Jawa he uses to win so many races in Nor Cal. Janniro raced out of gate two for his semi and main event triumphs.
The first presentation of the Ray “Junior” Kurtz Perpetual Helmet Trophy went to Janniro. It is a racing helmet honoring the late speedway racing fan and sponsor/winning USAC Silver Crown car owner/and successful businessman. The Hacienda Heights resident succumbed to cancer March 1. Two of his many gleaming Plastic Express Freightliner trucks, based in the City of Industry, were parked inside the front gate. Famous racing artist Troy Lee, stepson of Kurtz, painted the colorful helmet that sits atop a base with plaques to identify each winner in coming years.
Janniro's expertise was on display in front of 950 spectators at the Industry Hills Expo Center plush Grand Arena overlooking the eastern San Gabriel Valley. The site is in year 14 of continuous racing on Wednesday nights. Officials ran 44 events in two hours and 40-minutes with two brief breaks for track preparation. A tractor dragged the eighth-mile dirt track and moved dirt back to the racing groove and kept the track racy all night.
Not only did Janniro dominate two-wheel racing, he drove a four-wheel USAC Ford Focus midget (blue No. 37) owned by USAC Champion Wally Pankratz. His second midget (light green No. 98) in the two-car exhibition “race” had former 250cc Junior Speedway winner Courtney Crone, 15, at the wheel. She started half a lap in back of Janniro. They ran ten quick laps after the second round of bike racing. Crone nipped Janniro by inches in a photo finish. She used an inside move from turn four to the finish line. Janniro said he “enjoyed the experience” and would like to race a midget if scheduling allowed. Pankratz said he “did a good job.”
500cc Main: Riders picked starting spots based on total points for the evening. The lineup from pole to the crash-wall was: Charlie Venegas, Janniro, Max Ruml and Broc Nicol. Janniro shot into the lead when the gate rose and led the opening lap over Ruml, Nicol and Venegas. The order remained the same all four laps. Janniro won by two lengths. Nicol was a length in back of runner-up Ruml. Venegas trailed Nicol by four lengths when starter Tom Fox waved the checkered flag at10:10 pm.
The first D-1 semi-final went to Janniro over Nicol, with Mike Faria and Bobby Schwartz in P. 3-4. Venegas won the second semi over M. Ruml and Tyson Talkington. Dillon Ruml fell at mid-race in the third turn and pushed his bike off the racing line. With more than half the race completed, referee Steve Lucero ruled the race was finished. The D-1 consy went to Faria, who led all four laps over Talkington, D. Ruml and Schwartz.
SIDECARS: A season-high count of nine sidecars raced this week. Heat races for points determined which rigs went to the main and consolation events. Sidecar heat winners were the No. 13, 44, 2, and 1 (twice). Champion Joe Jones and his sidecar “swinger” Dave German won their third race of the night by leading all four laps of the feature from gate two. It was Jones' fourth feature victory this season at Industry; he won with three different swingers. It made two in a row for German as Jones' working passenger.
The rapidly improving team of Dillon Osborn/Ashley Gibbons used a lap 2 inside pass in the second turn to take second. Kevin Holman and his new rider Johnny Glover passed for third place on the inside during lap 3. Slipping to fourth were the Jeff Medberry/Niki Davis team. The S/C consy went to the husband and ex-wife team of Robert and Lori Curry from Sacramento. Second through fourth finishing teams were: Bryan Motis/Cody Brant, Stuart Glass/Jack Straw, and Adam Duckett/Kimberly Bailey.
500cc D-2: Eloy Medellin led all four laps for his first main event victory at Industry this season. Four-time D-2 Industry 2016 winner Rudy Laurer was a close second with David Lynch the only other finisher. Hayley Perrault, a college sophomore, was third when she fell leaving turn two and hurt her elbow. She remained down on the backstretch several minutes before walking to the pits.
D-3: The newest 500cc pro riders ran four laps without incident. Kevin Fife led every lap for his second triumph in the Grand Arena this season. George Yates, rookie Dennis Osmer and Steve “Beach-ball” Brown followed.
JUNIORS: The 250cc class only had three starters for their feature. Sebastian Palmese, reigning 250cc National Champion, crashed hard in event 10. On lap 2, third place Palmese's front wheel and the back wheel of the second place bike made contact. It sent six-time 2016 Industry 250 winner Palmese, 13, flipping into the third turn. He remained on the ground several minutes with a shoulder injury. Ambulance EMTs stationed outside turn three brought Palmese to the ambulance on a gurney for further treatment in the pits.
Sara Cords, 16, won both five-lap heat races and the five-lap 250cc feature over Michael Wells, 15, and Skylar Schnakenberg, 17. It was her second 250cc main event victory at Industry and her first since July 8, 2015. She also has feature triumphs at other speedways.
150cc D-1: The first division leader this week was “Lightning” Luke Whitcomb, who won his third 2016 feature at Industry. Whitcomb, 10, won the first five-lap heat and main after starting from the 20-yard line. He led the final two laps in both races. In heat two he spotted his rivals 10 or 20-yards on the starting grid. He again took the lead on lap 4, but fell in turn one on the final lap for his only non-finish. That heat went to the newest 150cc rider/past pee-wee star Travis Horn, 8. In the feature, Keelan Venegas, 12, led three laps and finished second. Horn and London resident Sam Hagon followed.
150cc D-2: The D-2 150cc field of three ran in a close pack all five laps. Gate starter Cole Ayers, 10, from Riverside, led every lap over 10-yard line starters Rachel Schnakenberg, 11, and Jose Navarette, 7. It was the first 150cc main event victory for Ayers, a two-time 50cc pee-wee division main event winner at Industry last season.
PEE-WEES: Mighty mites known as pee-wee riders had six riders this week on 50cc Hondas and Yamahas. Three started at the starting gate. Newcomer Owen Williams, 9, was one of two 10-yard line starters. He led all five laps for his second feature victory this year. Frequent winner/20-yard line starter Levi Leutz, 7, finished second. Connor Salazar restarted after a fall and took third. Rookies Ken Matsudaira and Dakota Black, 5, followed. “Go Go” Geist stalled at the gate and missed two laps before starting from the infield and running laps for experience.
PIT NOTES: Speedway bike racing Wednesday seemed like an open-wheel auto racing gathering. Present were Wally Pankratz with his two midgets, plus current midget/360 cu. in. sprint car/Formula Mazda driver Courtney Crone, the 2016 Young Gun Series point leader at Perris Auto Speedway. Chuck Gurney, who drove south from his home in Livermore, to present the Kurtz Trophy along with Junior's widow Michelle and her son, who has run Plastic Express for six years. Chuck, 67, drove the No. 30 Plastic Express Watson/Chevy to many USAC Silver Crown victories on mile dirt tracks.
Also present to honor Kurtz were fellow USAC Silver Crown car owner Gary Zarounian, Stu Van Dyne, who built all racing engines for Kurtz, and promoter J. C. Agajanian, Jr.. Midget/sprint car drivers present were: USAC-CRA 410 3-time Champion Damion Gardner (who loved watching Industry racing for the first time), Shane Scully, J. J. Ercse, Jordan Hermansader, Jerry Hudson, and Tom Patton. Also seen were Rip Williams and his wife Becky and their three USAC-CRA sprint car racing sons. Also, PAS pit announcer Chris Holt attended Industry racing for the first time.
Industry Speedway announcer Bruce Flanders interviewed Agajanian, Pankratz, Crone, and Holt, who plugged the fact PAS would be honoring Junior Kurtz as well Saturdays night, August 27 during the USAC-CRA event. Gurney and the Kurtz family planned to be at the Perris half-mile speedway to continue honoring the much respected Kurtz, who was 73 when he succumbed at a hospital in Las Vegas.
SIDECARS: The nine sidecars present had two different engines—eight 61 cu. in. 1,000cc Suzuki GSXR and one 996cc Ducati. The sidecars had six different builders. Joe Jones built four—Numbers 1, 2, 13 and 64. One offs came from Peter Lewis (No. 33), Charles Davis (44), Dennis Stokes (911), driver Robert Curry (31), and Australian Russell Mitchell (No. 14). ... The No. 25 sidecar, a 1,000cc Harley-Davidson (black & orange natch), has been sold. Owner/driver Heather Rowe drove it Saturday August 20 at Costa Mesa Speedway with her sidecar rider John Bach.
The seven feature victories in a row streak by Max Ruml, 19, ended August 20 at Costa Mesa. Aaron Fox, the 2015 Costa Mesa track champion, won the main event with Max second, Gage Geist third and Broc Nicol fourth. The sidecar feature went to No. 1 Joe Jones/Dana Catone. Stuart Glass/lJack Straw (911), Bryan Motis/Cody Brant (2), and Robert and Lori Curry (31) trailed.
At Industry Speedway on August 24 it was announced that the prior week live Internet broadcast of Industry bike racing had 1,03 households watching in the USA and foreign countries. ... On August 24 Gage Geist blew his engine while finishing second in his first round heat. He was unable to race in the next two rounds.
There were only 12 D-1 500cc riders this week. It only took two points in heats to earn one of eight semi-final starting spots. ... There were 12 500cc D-2 riders and four 500cc D-3 riders racing. ... Luke Becker, 17, was absent this week because he returned to high school. However, he is sure to be in the field next Wednesday, August 31 for the 2016 Industry Racing season finale. It is the 41st California State Championship.