2005 Steve Graham Column
November 30, 2005
Six Americans To Compete In Brighton Bonanza
This year’s Brighton Bonanza will be held on Sunday, December 11, 2005 at the Brighton Centre. This will be the ninth edition of this off-season match, which is held indoors. The track is only 55 yards, which makes Costa Mesa look huge but offers an advantage to American riders that have grown up on smaller tracks.
The reason it is called a “bonanza” is because the race is an all day race with the pair portion of the competition being held in the afternoon and the individual racing held in the evening. All in all, it consists of 40 heats, which the British are unaccustomed to but not that unusual over here.
This is a very popular event for riders and fans alike and also provides up and coming riders an opportunity to showcase their skills and, possibly, catch the eye of a promoter or two which could lead to an opportunity to ride in the British leagues.
There has always been a strong American presence at this event however this year we are particularly strong with six announced riders:
It is a safe bet that Chris Kerr will be trying harder than ever to put on a good show. After his performance with Dream Team USA, version 2005, there is interest in Chris in Britain and this is an excellent showcase to peddle his speedway skills.
Previous winners and notable placements include:
Bobby Schwartz & Shawn McConnell 1st, 2000, 01, 02, 03
Brent Werner & Ronnie Correy 1st, 2004
Eric Carrillo & Werner 2nd, 2001
1997 – Werner 2nd, Greg Hancock 3rd
1996 – Werner 1st
2000 – Werner 3rd
2001 – Ryan Fisher 1st, Billy Janniro 3rd, McConnell 4th
2002 - Schwartz 2nd, McConnell 3rd
2003 - Schwartz 3rd, McConnell 4th (fell-x)
Other Americans that have competed in this event include:
Also competing in this event will be Lewis Bridger who is one of the 16 year olds heading our way in January, with some of his fellow Conference League riders, to have some practice matches with some of the riders competing for spots on Dream Team USA, version 2006.
For the complete field and ticket information for the Brighton Bonanza, follow this link:
May 23, 2005
CARSON CITY RACEWAY @ FUJI PARK
This past weekend I had the opportunity to get over to the new Carson City speedway facility and, while still a fledgling operation, found it quite nice. Jeb Onweiler, the promoter, had tapped into local resources to bring speedway to that area from the ground up. The track is located right at the base of the Eastern Sierra Nevada at the junction of Highways 50 & 395 at the local fairgrounds and has got to have the most spectacular backdrop of any speedway facility around.
The track itself is about the size of Costa Mesa in length and 5-10 yards wider from pipe to pipe. At this event, the track held up quite nicely with only minimal grooming, except for a nasty little rut in turn 4.
The quality of racing was excellent and they had a decent field considering this was only their second event. Bart Bast, the Heddens, Jim Estes and many of the Northern California regulars showed up to put on a great show.
The object of the promoters is to make the facility as family friendly as possible and they seem to have succeeded in that. A kid’s zone just for the little ones and lots and lots of pee wees. I think I counted 17 in one heat.
The new metal bleachers are more than adequate and hopefully there will be a need for more as time goes on. Good concessions, very nice and clean rest rooms and canned beer all add to the speedway fan’s experience.
The staff was doing everything possible to make things run smoothly and did a good job considering a lack of experience where speedway in concerned. It became apparent quite early that the Estes family is a large part of the glue holding things together. With Jim working the pits and on a bike, Kymber in the booth and both kids on bikes, Team Estes was well represented. Rick Janniro handled the officiating and Gary Roberts worked in the booth as spotter and color commentator.
There is no racing again until July 2. For Carson City Speedway’s full schedule and additional information, just follow this link: Carson City
April 28, 2005
Carved into a hillside in the City of Industry, in Southern California, is the Industry Hills Equestrian Center. Thanks to the efforts of Freddie Orosco, Dukie Ermolenko and Sweetspeed Promotions, the equestrian center turns itself into The Grand every Wednesday night. Is The Grand a grand experience? Absolutely.
On opening night fans entering the facility were treated to an excellent blues band located just inside the entrance. Once inside, speedway fans find amenities not usually found at most American speedway tracks. The Grand features a fully staffed snack bar that serves up some excellent food, a stocked cocktail bar for patrons looking for something stronger than beer and a beer bar that features $2.00 beers. Even the rest room facilities are above average for speedway.
Once inside the bleacher area, the most striking feature is that there is a roof over the entire facility. Suspended from the roof are four video screens that can play replays of the race just run or highlights from previous races. Cement walkways throughout the bleacher area and new metal bleachers make it a very clean arena.
The staff is top notch. Ryan Evans runs the pits and keeps things moving at a brisk pace. The announcing duties are handled by the legendary Bruce Flanders, who can make paint drying sound exciting. The AMA referee is ex-National Champ, Steve Lucero, who has distinguished himself as an outstanding speedway referee over the past few seasons.
The Grand still has a couple of issues to work through to make it a real world class track. The track is in need of more dirt to make an outside line that can be ridden by more highly skilled riders, always keeping safety in mind. The sound system still needs to be worked through as Bruce Flanders’ considerable talents are wasted when the races are going on.
All that said though, The Grand is still a wonderful place to take in the races and considering that it is still in its infancy, the future looks bright. Coming in the future are the FMX’ers and a round of the AMA National Championship Series.
SPEEDWAY WORLD CUP
On June 5th, America makes its return to the Speedway World Cup after a couple of years off. Our qualifying round is to take place in Daugavpils, Latvia. We will be competing against the Latvians, French and Russians. You can bet the farm on Team USA in the qualifier. It would take nothing short of a complete disaster to not take this qualifier going away. Team USA is being managed by Bill Amick, ex of the AMA and always a great supporter of speedway. If anyone can restore America’s standing in the world speedway arena, Bill Amick can. After the qualifying round, things get quite a bit more difficult. The next round will be on August 2nd in Eskilstuna, Sweden against Sweden, Poland and Australia. That will be when things get interesting. Our team will be going up against the likes of Tony Rickardsson, Jason Crump and Tomasz Gollob. Hopefully, by round 2, our injury plagued team will be back at full strength.
SPEEDWAY GRAND PRIX
On Saturday, April 30th, Greg Hancock begins his quest for another world championship in Wroclaw, Poland. The Grand Prix of Europe is the opening event in the 9 race series. Last year, Greg took a second in the opening event in Norway. Greg finished 3rd in the world last year. If you want to follow the Grand Prix series, including heat by heat results, go to this website on any Saturday morning that the Grand Prix is running. http://www.speedwayworld.tv/en/latest/ and go to the results section.
COSTA MESA SPEEDWAY
Costa Mesa Speedway kicks off its 37th season on Saturday, April 30th, with the Spring Classic. The Oxleys have assembled an excellent field and with the addition of freestyle motocross, there should be a near capacity crowd at the most hallowed ground in American speedway. See you there.
April 11, 2005
Greetings. My name is Steve Graham and I will, from time to time, be contributing opinions and information to this website. I am a resident of Southern California and have been attending speedway regularly since 1977. As with many of you, one race and I was hooked. I have been to races on both coasts, mid-America and Europe. My writings will be from the perspective of a lover of speedway and a huge fan.
I hadn't really intended my first column to be a gripe column but since, as of this writing, it is the off-season and there isn't a whole lot going on in the American speedway world with the exception of The Dream Team, I thought I would address some of the issues facing American speedway today and how it might be made better.
The biggest issue facing speedway in this country today is harmony amongst the various promoters and sanctioning bodies. At present, we have no less than 3 sanctioning bodies, the AMA, SRA and NSRA. The healthiest thing that could happen to speedway right now would be for someone, anyone, to get these bodies and promoters all under one umbrella with everyone pulling in the same direction at the same time.
Conflicting schedules and lack of cooperation between the various promoters is undermining the overall heath of speedway in this country. Having all tracks under the auspices of the AMA would be the obvious solution since the AMA is the body recognized by the FIM (the world sanctioning body). For the AMA to get all tracks on the same page, concessions would have to be made by ALL promoters and the AMA. If this ever happened, which is unlikely, we could then have a true National Championship Series, involving a number of different tracks, including an east coast track, Auburn and Costa Mesa. This would also make life easier on the riders returning from Europe for their required rider returns and provide better fields for the fans.
Another issue facing speedway over here these days is a lack of communication in the speedway community. Schedules are coming out later and later, which makes planning difficult for some folks who like to travel to various venues to take in the races. AMA support of American speedway is there but nobody seems to know what it entails. Are we having a team compete in the Speedway World Cup this season? What are all the dates for the AMA National Championship Series? Is there to be an Under-21 this year? Scheduling and information about American involvement in speedway should be out well in advance of the upcoming season. It is currently mid-April and a number of these issues remain unresolved.
On a brighter note, American speedway does seem to be holding it's own lately. This season we will have at least 9 tracks running speedway along with the East Coast Speedway Series and the possibility of another track opening in Southern California. Also, Fox Sports is expected to pick up Jason Bonsignore's speedway television show. For the time being, it will only be shown in the east but hopefully some groundswell on the part of speedway fans can change that and get it aired in the west on FSW or FSW2.
Last but not least, huge congratulations to The Dream Team. Herculean efforts on the part of Gary Gomez and Steve Evans, all the riders and their parents and a number of supporters in America and England produced an excellent series over there. The Dream Team garnered great reviews, played to good crowds and represented this country the way it deserves to be represented...with class and dignity.
CYA at the races,
North American Riders In England
I will occasionally be updating the progress of the North American riders that are currently competing in England. Here is the mid-April installment. In England they have been racing for about 5 weeks now and the schedule is starting to get into full swing. So far this year the rain has shown some mercy on the speedway matches over there.
The number after the rider’s name is their average coming into this season.
Greg Hancock (9.18) – Oxford Silver Machine
Greg is currently about a half point down from his average. Not surprising considering that Oxford is not off to the start they were looking forward to. Greg is undoubtedly looking forward to the first Grand Prix race of the season. That race will be in Poland on April 30th.
Billy Hamill (8.71) – Oxford Silver Machine
Things were going along quite well for Billy until he snapped a chain in the 9th heat against Swindon on March 24th. Jonas Davidsson, left with nowhere to go, ran into Billy. Billy was left with a collapsed lung, broken ribs and a back injury. He will be out a minimum of two months. This is a tough break for Billy, who was frozen out of the Elite League last season and was looking forward to being reunited with Greg Hancock.
Brent Werner(8.02) – Rye House Rockets
The team captain of the Rockets, Brent is off to a great start this season. He average is up about a point as he has led the Rockets to wins in ¾ of their matches thus far. Brent has scored 13 points twice this season and is fulfilling his role as captain in a big way in his testimonial season.
Sam Ermolenko (6.80) – Peterborough Panthers
Sam is pretty much right on his average thus far this season. At 44, he continues to ride with the consistency he has always demonstrated. Beating kids half your age in the British Elite league is no easy trick. Peterborough is off to a good start this season and the addition of Sam this season is certainly a positive factor in that start.
Billy Janniro (6.42)– Peterborough Panthers
A change of scenery from Coventry to Peterborough this season and becoming a teammate of Sam Ermolenko’s should have been a great thing but this season, so far, has been anything but great for Billy. He had a rocky start with the Panthers, his best meeting producing only a 7+2 against his former team. As bad as his season start was, it was nothing compared to what happened in Germany on April 10th. A horrific crash cracked his next, broke a finger and did tendon damage. He will be out for at least one month.
Josh Larsen (5.26)– Arena Essex Hammers
Josh is just a fraction under his average 8 meetings into this season. His best meeting was a 7+2 in Arena’s 60-30 victory over the defending champion Poole Pirates. Mark Loram, the team’s captain, went out with injuries after 2 matches so Arena managed to get Tony Rickardsson, the best speedway rider in the world, to fill in for the time being. Having TR on your team is a great thing. Hopefully, Josh can pick up a few tricks from the ex-world champ.
Ronnie Correy (5.20)– Wolverhampton Wolves
Ronnie is currently about a half point over his average and has quickly turned into a fan favorite at Wolverhampton. He could be doing even better but has had a run of bad bike luck. After being retired for 4 years, it appears that Ronnie is finding his old form, which is good news for the Wolves after a terrible start to the season. Hopefully, we’ll get to see him ride over here sometime this year.
Kyle LeGault (4.00) – Sheffield Tigers
This is Kyle’s first season over in England. His 4.00 average coming in is the average assigned to him as a new, overseas rider. The 19 year old, Canadian National Champ, is currently averaging about 3½ points per match. He is averaging 6 points per meeting at home and will probably pull up his away average of 2.35 as he learns the various tracks in the Premier League.
A Brief Overview Of The British Speedway Leagues
The Elite League: As the name indicates, these are the elite teams in British racing. Most of the Grand Prix riders participate in this league and this is the league most riders aspire to reach. The BEL has 10 teams
The Premier League: One step down from the BEL, but not by much. This league offers very high quality speedway with riders that could easily compete in 1st Division over here. The PL has 15 teams
The Conference League: This is the starter league. The Dream Team’s recent tour of the U.K. featured matches against CL teams and our guys did pretty well against them. The CL has 14 teams,
The Elite League: Arena Essex, Belle Vue, Coventry, Eastbourne, Ipswich, Oxford, Peterborough, Poole, Swindon and Wolverhampton. The Poole Pirates are currently the champions of the BEL.
The Premier League: Divided into Northern and Southern Divisions.
The North: Berwick, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Newcastle, Sheffield, Stoke and Workington.
The South: Exeter, Isle of Wight, King’s Lynn, Newport, Reading, Rye House and Somerset.
The Conference League: Armadale, Boston, Buxton, Carmarthen, Mildenhall, Newcastle, Newport, Oxford, Plymouth, Rye House, Stoke, Swindon, Weymouth and Wimbledon.
The Elite League: The best riders in the world compete here. Former world champions, Tony Rickardsson, Mark Loram, Nikki Pedersen, Greg Hancock, Billy Hamill and Sam Ermolenko all race in the Elite League along with Jason Crump, current world champion and top riders from countries around the world.
Americans in the Elite League are Hancock (Oxford), Hamill (Oxford), Ermolenko (Peterborough), Josh Larsen (Arena Essex), Billy Janniro (Peterborough) and Ronnie Correy (Wolverhamton).
The Premier League: As mentioned previously, top flight racing with many riders that could easily compete in the BEL. Some of the big names in the PL are Matej Zagar, Carl Stonehewer, Andre Compton and Danny Bird.
The only American currently racing in the PL is Brent Werner, the captain of the Rye House Rockets. Canadian, Kyle LeGault, is racing his first season in England this year as a member of the Sheffield Tigers.
The Conference League: Some riders on this circuit could be competitive in 1st Division over here, with the majority either lower 1st Division or2nd Division.
Tracks in England are longer than most of the “bullring” style tracks over here. Most tracks are in the neighborhood of 300 yards and quite a bit heavier than the decomposed granite we are accustomed to over here.
Usually, a rider gets 5 rides during a match. They are scored on a 3-2-1-0 basis. 15 points is generally considered a perfect match. Because British racing is team racing, scores will often show a “bonus point”. A bonus point is awarded if the riders on a particular team finish 1-2 or 2-3. The trailing rider would receive the bonus point. This is awarded as a disincentive for that rider to race against his own teammate. The bonus point is not reflected in the match score but is a paid point. The bonus point is important to the riders because in England, riders are paid for each point they score.
There are also rides called tactical rides. These occur when a team is down by a large margin and gives that team a chance to close the gap and stay in the meeting. When a team is down by 9 points or more, they can nominate a rider for a tactical ride, which gives that rider double points for that heat. This can be invoked twice during a meeting. The rider for the tactical ride starts from the tapes. There is also a tactical substitution. This is when a high scoring rider replaces a lower point rider, usually against a weak pairing from the other side. The nominated substitute can double his points but has to come from 15 yards back.
Below is the typical manner in which match scores are posted:
Ht1 K.Kasprzak,B.Pedersen,J.Screen,S.Stead 5-1 5-1
Ht2 A.Smith,R.Ashworth,R.Morton,S.Masters 3-3 8-4
Ht3 M.Ferjan,A.Lindback,K.Bjerre,J.Lyons 5-1 13-5
Ht4 R.Sullivan,J.Crump,R.Ashworth,S.Masters 4-2 17-7
Ht5 S.Stead,M.Ferjan,A.Lindback,J.Screen 3-3 20-10
Ht6 J.Crump,K.Kasprzak,B.Pedersen,A.Smith 3-3 23-13
Ht7 R.Sullivan,J.Lyons,K.Bjerre,R.Morton 3-3 26-16
Ht8 K.Kasprzak,S.Stead,R.Ashworth,S.Masters 4-2 30-18
Ht9 M.Ferjan,J.Crump (TR),A.Smith,A.Lindback 3-5 33-23
Ht10 B.Pedersen,K.Kasprzak,J.Lyons,K.Bjerre 5-1 38-24
Ht11 R.Sullivan,S.Stead (TR),J.Screen,R.Morton 3-5 41-29
Ht12 M.Ferjan,A.Smith,K.Bjerre,R.Ashworth 3-3 44-32
Ht13 B.Pedersen,J.Crump,J.Screen,R.Sullivan 3-3 47-35
Ht14 A.Lindback,A.Smith,J.Lyons,R.Ashworth 3-3 50-38
Ht15 J.Crump,K.Kasprzak,B.Pedersen,S.Stead 3-3 53-41
Bjarne Pedersen 2,1,3,3,1 = 10+3
Krzysztof Kasprzak 3,2,3,2,2 = 12+1
Matej Ferjan 3,2,3,3= 11
Antonio Lindback 2,1,0,3=6+2
Ryan Sullivan 3,3,3,0=9
Ray Morton 1,0,0 = 1+1
Ricky Ashworth 2,1,1,0,0 =4
BELLE VUE 38
Joe Screen 1,0,1,1=3+2
Simon Stead 0,3,2,<4>,0=9
Kenneth Bjerre 1,1,0,1=3+2
Jason Lyons 0,2,1,1=4+1
Jason Crump 2,3,<4>,2,3=14
Andy Smith 3,0,1,2,2=8+1
Steve Masters 0,0,0=0
Credit for this match report goes to Tiny on the Yahoo! speedway group.
Pedersen’s score of 10+3 shows he scored 3 bonus points. He was doing a good job of keeping his teammates ahead of him and doing some blocking to keep the other team at bay. The scores listed as <4>, are the tactical rides used by Belle Vue. Unfortunately for Belle Vue, the TR’s failed to help their cause.
To follow British speedway racing, here are a few links that can keep you informed: