USA SPEEDWAY CYCLES AWARDS BBQ LUNCH HONORS RIDERS AT INDUSTRY HILLS
By Tim Kennedy
Industry, CA., Jan. 11 – The second annual USA Speedway Motorcycle BBQ lunch and awards ceremony here took place from 2:00 to 5:45 pm Sunday at the Industry Hills Expo Center Pavilion near The Grand Arena, site of Wednesday night Industry Speedway speedway motorcycle races. Almost 300 racers and fans enjoyed a display of vintage/historic motorcycles, guest speakers, door prizes, a $1,602 50/50 raffle, rider points fund payout and an abundance of free beverages and hamburgers, hot dogs and tri-trip beef prepared by Dave and Maryann Joiner from Auburn. The event replaced the award ceremonies held in 2005-06 on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. The Industry venue decreased overhead so it could be a free event that allowed increased attendance by rank and file racers and fans of speedway motorcycle racing. Racing promoters Dave Joiner (Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway in Auburn), Steve Evans (tracks in Victorville, Perris and Ridgecrest), Charlie Venegas (Golden Gate Speedway in Vallejo), and Jeff Immediato (Industry Hills) spoke to the audience about their tracks. They highlighted their 2008 racing seasons and some used the twin giant video monitors near the stage to show their track racing action. They also recognized track champions in various divisions and key track employees.
Bruce Flanders served as emcee and his daughter Meagan handled the recorded music. Harald "Howie" Zechner, USA Speedway board chairman, assisted Flanders at times on the microphone during the presentation of awards. He gave appreciation awards from USA Speedway to board member Gary Hicks and to Carol Perez, of Industry Hills Expo Center. He also recognized long-time speedway cycle sponsor Joker Machine. Zechner then presented a speedway cycle lifetime achievement award to George Rich, 87, for his long service to speedway cycle racing. The Anaheim resident is a real life hero who flew in three-man bombers off the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill during WW II and was shot down several times. He received two Distinguished Flying Crosses and six air medals from the President of the United States and the Secretary of the Navy. He joined the AMA in 1939, was a motorcycle racer, a referee, pit steward and the AMA speedway cycle California representative from 1978-2005. He is a member of the trailblazers hall of fame and is the only honorary member of the USA Speedway Motorcycle board of directors. Bill Cody, Gary Hicks, Ryan Evans, JT and Ron Mongenel received recognition for their assistance with the decorations and the BBQ, which was done just outside the spacious carpeted pavilion on a balmy, mid-70 degree day. Paul Flanders headed a ten member team that handled 50/50 raffle ticket sales.
Riders Greg Hancock, Bobby Schwartz, Billy Hamill and Sammy Tanner spoke about racing from the podium. Tanner said late actor Steve McQueen was a big speedway cycle racing fan who came to races frequently. Schwartz, 52, said he started racing in 1974. He raced motocross and raced five times a week. He wants to race again this year, but he will decide later if he will compete again, just as he decided to race on opening day 2008. Schwartz came back to regale the audience with three jokes. Kelly Inman and Hamill plugged Evans' January 25 New Years Classic and the February 14-15 Gumball Rally for Junior Speedway and pee wee riders. It will be held at 1:00 pm at the Perris Raceway flat track, 1205 Burton Rd in Perris. Zechner said a 1/3-mile speedway cycle track will be put in at Perris Auto Speedway for a special race on July 11. Check www.speedwaybikes.com for further updates. Ryan Evans also spoke about speedway cycle racing. Ricky Wells, 17, was recognized and spoke to the audience about becoming the 2008 Speedway Cycle Under 21 National Champion on August 29 in Auburn for the second time in his fast-rising career. Brad Pappalardo received praise as the 2008 Speedway Cycle Youth National Champion, a title he won at Auburn also on August 29 for riders under age 16.
VICTORVILLE-PERRIS-RIDGECREST: Steve Evans, a native of Great Britain who became a speedway cycle fan there, spoke briefly about his 2008 seasons at all three tracks and his plans for 2009 at the three southern California tracks.
AUBURN: Joiner named the Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway champions and presented trophies to those in attendance. D-1 champion was Charlie "the Edge" Venegas, of San Bernardino, who flew north every week to race. Bart Bast was the high-point rider in D-1. Jay Ricketts, 18, was the D-2 champion and Doug Geist was the D-3 (rookies) champion. Kendra Warren was the most improved D-2 rider and Danny Faria was the D-2 high-point rider. The D-2 and D-3 riders were unable to attend. Joiner had a large supply of his 2009 Fast Fridays racing schedule posters near the entrance and available for people to take home.
VALLEJO: Venegas recounted his experience as a first year promoter at Golden Gate Speedway, a small speedway cycle race track at the Solano County Fairgrounds that he put in to bring speedway cycle racing to his original hometown. He said it took four years to get the new track off the ground and a lot of hard work by his family, speedway riders and sponsors. He said he staged seven races on Saturdays in 2008 and he plans to run 20 races during 2009.
INDUSTRY: Co-promoter Jeff Immediato, who took over as Industry Speedway 2008 promoter with co-promoter and two-time speedway cycle world champion Bruce Penhall, spoke and showed video highlights from the nearby Grand 2008 races. He recognized important people at his track. They were: track preparation man Jose Salazar as facilities person of the year; Steve Sorenson as sponsor of the year, D-3 rider and 2006-07 co-promoter at Industry Hugh Randolph,76, as person of the year; Gene "the dancing machine" as fan of the year, Charlie Venegas, 41, as California State Championship race winner at Industry, Bobby Schwartz, as rider of the year. The award was not based on points, but was given for all his assistance to the new promotional team during 2008. Immediato also praised 37 Industry Speedway workers who assisted the track and gave them certificates/plaques. He also named as facilities persons of the year Carlos Zavala (back of the house) and Bruce Dividos (front of the house). Team Sideways received the team presentation award. Immediato called to the stage the top two track point riders in D-3 and D-2 for their point fund checks and trophies. They were D-3 champion Tim McGrath and runner-up Bruce Marteney, and D-2 champion Bryan "Bumblebee" Buffington, who received a $140 check, and runner-up Rudy Laurer. The Industry Speedway rookies of the year by division were: D-3 McGrath, D-2 J. C. Masters and D-1 Jason Ramirez, 21. The top ten in D-1 Industry Speedway points came to the stage for their point fund checks. Champion Shawn "Mad Dog" McConnell, 49, received $559. Second place Ricky Wells trailed by two points and received $335. McConnell, a movie stunt man, told spectators, "I'm getting older and even on some nights when I don't crash I still go home sore. I dedicated my life to this sport, although it wasn't planned." He thanked his wife, promoters, fans and fellow riders.
The 2008 USA Speedway Cycle board of directors decided the disbursement of the nearly $10,000 point fund from 47 sanctioned events—20 at Auburn, 20 at Industry and seven at Vallejo. The fund was divided with two-thirds of the money going to riders and one-third going to the USA Speedway organization for the 2009 membership drive and operating fund. The top two riders at Auburn were Bart Bast and Tommy Hedden who received $559 and $335 respectively. The top two riders at Industry, McConnell and Wells, also received $559 and $335. The top two D-1 riders at Vallejo during the brief seven race season received reduced amounts because of the reduced point fund contributions from Vallejo. Champion Tommy Hedden received $197 and runner-up Kenny Ingalls received a check for $118.
Near the end of the afternoon four candidates for the USA Speedway Cycle board of directors came to the stage and spoke for two minutes each about why they wanted to serve as board members and about their qualifications for the position. The candidates were Billy Hamill, Richard Child, Bruce Stjernstrom and Bill Cody. Hamill's daughter Margi then drew the winning ticket stubs for the spectator share of the $1,602 50/50 raffle proceeds. Third place received $100, second place took home $200 and the first place ticket holder received $501. Persons departing the building were happy with the second annual USA Speedway Cycle Awards BBQ at the site and welcomed a return to Industry next year. USA Speedway members will vote by mail for the board candidates and the election outcome will be announced soon by the USA Speedway Motorcycle organization.