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NOVRATIL DOMINATES INDUSTRY SPEEDWAY -- WEDNESDAY

NOVRATIL DOMINATES INDUSTRY SPEEDWAY -- WEDNESDAY
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Austin Novratil returned to Industry Speedway Wednesday and again dominated the AMA speedway bike 500cc field as he did four nights earlier during AMA National Championship round four. He led 27 and three-quarters of the 28 laps he raced Saturday and lost his only race of the night to Billy Janniro in the final corner as they approached the waving checkered flag.

This time Novratil, 23, closed the deal by leading every lap in his three heat races, his semi-final and in the main event. He scored a perfect nine points in heat racing and led all 20 laps he raced in the Grand Arena on his No. 7 Jawa frame with a GM engine. The engine, recently rebuilt by Bill Cody, never provided more power.

The event Wednesday was the third annual Ray “Junior” Kurtz Memorial Cup that honors the late speedway bike racing supporter and financial sponsor, Plastic Express Trucking of Industry owner, and winning USAC race car owner for decades. The event attracted more than 500 spectators.

Kurtz watched speedway racing each week with his wife Michele from the main grandstand. He succumbed unexpectedly to health issues at a hospital in Las Vegas during March 2016. Michele and her son, who now runs the trucking firm, commissioned the Kurtz Memorial Cup in August 2016 and attend the event annually.

A coveted and colorful helmet perpetual trophy, custom painted by famous racing artist Troy Lee Designs of Corona, was on display. Janniro, who won the first two Kurtz Memorial helmet trophies, was not present Wednesday because of his job in Nor Cal. Two Kurtz USAC Silver Crown cars--the A. J. Watson-built No. 30 Plastic Express raced to numerous victories by Chuck Gurney, and the No. 2 S/C car built recently by Jeff Heywood--were on display behind the first turn grandstand.

Eleven 500cc D-1 riders, including two D-2 riders moved up to D-1 for the night, raced three rounds of heats. A support division of 11 riders, from the 500cc D-2 and D-3 ranks, raced two heats, two semi-finals, a consy and main event. Four junior 250cc and three mini-150cc riders also raced two heats and main events during the rapidly run 27 event program. There were three planned track preparations after heat race rounds.

D-1 FEATURE:

High-point rider Novratil selected the outside lane next to the wall. Aaron Fox then chose the inside lane, leaving Max Ruml and Jimmy Fishback III lanes two and three respectively. At the start, Novratil shot across the outside and led Fox, Ruml and Fishback out of the second turn. The four riders completed the first lap in that order. On lap 2, Ruml used an outside pass in the third and fourth corners to take second from Fox. The running order remained unchanged to the checkered flag.

Outside runner Novratil cruised home with a steady four-lengths lead over Ruml, who held a seven lengths advantage over Fox. Fishback trailed Fox by five lengths. The 9:31 pm conclusion was the earliest of the season. That allowed spectators time to watch the Kurtz trophy ceremonies for the top three finishers on the podium in the pits near turn four.

Winners of the two D-1 semi-final races (events 20 and 21) were Novratil and Fox over Ruml and Fishback respectively. All four advanced to the feature. The D-1 consolation race for P. 3-4 finishers in the two semi-finals went to pole starter Tim Gomez in a flag-to-flag ride over Bobby Schwartz and Dave Hancock. D-2 multi-feature winner Rudy Laurer, who fell on lap 3 in turn two, pushed his bike to the infield. The race was not restarted because it was more than 50% complete.

SUPPORT DIVISION:

The five-lap handicapped start support main was an out-front ride all the way for ten-yard line starter Kevin Fiore. Brad Moreau (from the 20-yard line) finished second. Thirty-yard line starters Mike Miller, David Lynch and Ron Davis placed third through fifth, with ten-yard line starter Steve Brown sixth.

JUNIOR DIVISIONS:

Jake Isaac, a 16-year old resident of nearby Whittier, won every 250cc race. He led all laps in the two heats and the main event. P. 2-4 finishers in all three 250cc races were identical--Slater Lightcap, Luke Whitcomb and Andrew Russell.

The 150cc heat races went to Levi Leutz and Jose Navarette over runner-up Owen Williams. It the 150cc main event, Williams turned the table on his two rivals and led all the way over runner-up Navarette and Leutz.

PIT NOTES:

  
  > The eight-page printed program this week had a color cover photo of a young “Junior” working on the 355 cu.in. Chevy engine of his No. 30 car that produced 700+ HP reportedly. Page 3 of the program had a montage of 14 color photos of Kurtz, his wife, various race cars, and Plastic Express Trucking 18-wheelers.

  > Dillon Ruml was entered Wednesday but he was not present. The reason? He had two wisdom teeth extracted by his dentist a day earlier and was recuperating at home from his dental surgery.

   > Junior rider Travis Horn, 10, was present in the pits with his family as a spectator. His left arm was still in a sling following his hard crash in turn three during a heat race Sunday afternoon at the 6th annual Silver Cup Championship event in The Grand.

   
  > Junior 250cc rider “Lightning” Luke Whitcomb, from Anaheim, raced Wednesday. He was not present Sunday afternoon for the Juniors Silver Cup event. The reason? He was in church because his father Wade, a Baptist minister, was conducting Sunday services at his church in Orange County. So first things first.

  > Former speedway bike racer Bruce Flanders has handled Industry Speedway PA announcing duties since the start (2003). He did so last Saturday night and Sundayafternoon as usual. He was not feeling well Wednesday, so he called in his reliable sub Terry “Ike” Clanton, the PA announcer at Costa Mesa Speedway. He handled the PA mic well as usual.

   > Normally, Industry Speedway has two official scorers—Lisa Inman and Anna Venegas. Only Lisa handled scoring Wednesday with the Charlie Venegas family not present.

   > Sebastian Palmese, now 15, was in the pits just watching Wednesday after winning his third consecutive 250cc Silver Cup Championship Sunday afternoon. He will race a 500cc in 2019.

   > The Ruml brothers, former residents of Huntington Beach, have new hometowns in other Orange County cities. Dillon now lives in Garden Grove, while Max and his girl friend call Costa Mesa home.

   > Michael Wells, the tallest D-1 rider at 6' 3”, had a forgettable night. In his first heat (event 3) he fell on lap 1 in the second turn. After shaking off the hard fall, he made the complete restart. On lap 3 exiting turn four Michael slammed into the crash-wall and went down hard again. He was excluded from that event. He walked to the pits holding his right arm. He came back and raced in round two (event 7) and placed third for his only point. In the third round (event 15) he finished fourth, concluding his race night. The 17-year old from Huntington Beach is in his second year riding a 500cc.

   > The “Junior” Kurtz black with purple numerals No. 30 USAC Silver Crown car was displayed on a throw-back open trailer. Famous Indy 500 car constructor/mechanic A. J. Watson also built some famous sprint cars. He built the No. 30 Plastic Express Spl. during the late 1960s according to a long-time Kurtz team member. It still has Plastic Express plus Middleton on the hood. Kurtz purchased it in the 1970s and it raced until 1993. Chuck Gurney, from Livermore, CA, raced it most successfully and won the Springfield, (Ill.) 100-mile race numerous times in the car.

Kurtz owned a No. 30jr CRA sprint car that raced at Ascot Park in Gardena. He also owned a white and red numeral No. 7 Beast sprint car that Brian Tyler raced in the Midwest. Former sprint car and midget driver Jeff Heywood was present and talked to fans about the Kurtz white, red & blue trim No. 2 Silver Crown car on display at Industry behind ropes.
 

Jerry Weeks did metal work on it and Jeff put it all together several years ago. It never raced. However, Gurney paced a USAC-CRA 410 sprint car race at Perris last year in the S/C No. 2. The car and Chuck are scheduled to be at Perris Saturday, August 18 during California Racers Hall of Fame Night. The Kurtz commissioned S/C No. 2 car will be on display for fans attending the USAC-CRA race August 18.