Racing Scene: 2018 AMA 500cc Speedway Bike National Championship Series

Photo courtesy of americanmotorcyclist.com

LOS ANGELES – The 2018 AMA 500cc Speedway Bike National Championship Series consisted of five rounds from April to September at five speedways in California. Race dates and speedways were:

> April 28 – Big Time Speedway, Rancho Cordova (near Sacramento);

> June 23 – Ventura Raceway;

> July 28 – Santa Maria Speedway;

> August 11 – Industry Speedway (near Los Angeles);

> September 29 – Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway, Gold Country Fairgrounds, Auburn (north of Sacramento).

Billy Janniro, 38, won the first four main events and finished second to Dillon Ruml in the fifth round. Janniro won his record ninth AMA Speedway National Championship by 24 points. His championship years were 2008, 2010-11, and 2013-18. He also has won five California State Speedway Bike Championships.

Janniro broke a tie with So Cal native Greg Hancock, a four-time FIM World Speedway Champion (1997, 2011, 2014 and 2016). Hancock, 48, won his eight AMA National titles between 1995 and 2009 and still races in Europe. Mike Bast has seven AMA National Championships and Billy Hamill has four.

Points are accumulated at each round by 16 eligible riders during 20 four-lap heat races with four riders in each event. The winner of each heat receives three points, with following riders receiving two, one and zero points. The top eight riders in points after 20 heats advance to a pair of semi-final races; the first and second riders in each semi-final move to the four-lap main event.

Points from the two semis and main are added to heat race points. The main event winner might not be the series point leader after each round. Such was the case this year. Luke Becker finished second in rounds one and two, but he led main event winner Janniro by one-point (19-18) after round one and 39-38 after round two.

Janniro took over the series point lead 58-56 over Becker after round three. Janniro led Becker 67-65 after round four. So Cal rider Austin Novratil, 23, was third with 65 points. Becker, 19, did not race in round five because he was racing for his contracted Polish speedway team in Europe.

In round five Janniro scored an event-high 18 points. His five round final score was 96 points, which topped his own record of 81 points in 2014. Novratil finished second with 72 points. Becker, a Nor Cal protege of Janniro, finished third in points with 67. Dillon Ruml won the fifth round main event at Auburn over runner-up Janniro. His series total of 59 points earned fourth place in the 2018 AMA Speedway National Championship Series.

Finishing fifth through tenth (with point totals in parenthesis) were: Aaron Fox (51), Jimmy Fishback (42), Bart Bast (40), Russell Green (38) Tommy Hedden (34), and Max Ruml (26). Fishback only raced in four rounds. M. Ruml raced in two rounds because he raced this summer for the Edinburgh Monarchs speedway racing team of the British Racing League.

Thirty first division 500cc riders scored 2018 AMA Speedway National Championship points. That total included four reserves who raced if one of the 16 seeded riders was absent or excluded from a heat race by disqualification for breaking the starting gate tape early. All 30 riders raced in at least one heat and 26 riders scored at least one point.

The Auburn season finale on September 29 had Janniro victorious in his second, third, and fourth heat races. The So Cal-based Ruml brothers–Max, 21, and Dillon, 19–beat Janniro in heats one and 20. Nine riders won the 20 heat races in Auburn. M. Ruml won four. Janniro, Aaron Fox, and Charlie Venegas won three heats. D. Ruml and Bart Bast won two heats. A. Novratil, R. Green, and Bryan Yarrow were single heat winners.

Semi-final winners in round five were: D. Ruml over M. Ruml, Venegas and Green in the first semi; Janniro topped Fox, Yarrow and B. Bast in the second semi. The main event finishing order was D. Ruml, Janniro, Fox and M. Ruml.

D. Ruml also beat Janniro in the main event at the indoor Grand Arena in the City of Industry August 25. His sensational high-to-low pass at the start of the final lap earned Jawa rider Ruml his first AMA California State Speedway Championship over GM-mounted Janniro.

Janniro won the Fast Fridays Auburn track championship at his home track by 99-points with 2,123 points. Second place Bart Bast scored 2,024 points. Janniro is the five-time Auburn track champion. His title years were 2010-11, 2013, 2015 and 2018.

Janniro is also the four-time US Speedway Champion at Costa Mesa Speedway in So Cal. He won his track titles at the Orange County Fairgrounds dirt track in 2004, 2008 and 2010-11. The Costa Mesa track, promoted by Brad Oxley, has its own, non-AMA US Nationals Championship that dates back to 1968. This year on October 6 Janniro won the track’s 50th US Nationals over M. Ruml, Fox and D. Ruml.

D. Ruml won his first Industry Speedway track championship in 2018 despite missing the penultimate race because he had two wisdom teeth extracted a day prior to the race. He succeeded his older brother Max, the Industry Speedway 500cc first-division track champion in 2017.

The Fast Fridays season finale Saturday, October 13 was the annual “USA versus The World”. Riders from Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Australia raced against Nor Cal USA riders. Final score was The World 57 and USA 52, avenging a loss to USA riders in 2017. Martin Smolinski, from Germany, led the visitors with 15 points; Janniro led the USA with 16 points.

About Tim Kennedy 8 Articles
Tim' Kennedy's RACING SCENE Column has covered motorsports since 1968. His race results stories and weekly column are avidly followed by racing enthusiasts nationwide.

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