Costa Mesa Speedway
Orange County Fairgrounds
Costa Mesa, California
2006 U.S. National Championshipp
September 16,, 2006 - Costa Mesa
By: Ryan Evans
Charlie "The Edge" Venegas walked away with his second SRA U.S. National Championship in front of a packed house that enjoyed some thrilling racing at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.
Venegas and defending National Champion Chris Manchester entered the Final tied on points. Venegas won the toss and wasted no time in selecting the pole. Manchester chose gate two, three-time National Champion Mike Faria picked gate three, Bryan Yarrow selected gate four, which left Josh Larsen with the outside position.
When the tapes went up Venegas was off the line first and he led into turn one. Venegas went deep through the first corner and exited turn two on the outside cushion. Faria, seeing an opening on the inside, cut back and tried exploit the gap. Venegas found ample traction on the outside and Manchester and Larsen then chased Faria to make it a three-rider war for second. The battle for the runner-up position gave Venegas a little room. Larsen went down in turn one and Manchester secured second and set his sights on the leader. Venegas wasn't going to be denied his second title and was first to the checkered flag. Manchester settled for second, Faria was third, Yarrow finished fourth, and Larsen was fifth.
A twenty-rider field competed in four rounds of four-rider heats. The top ten scorers qualified for two five-rider semis with the top two from each transferring to the Final with third and fourth going to the Last Chance. The winner of the Last Chance transferred to the Final.
Yarrow started the evening with a blistering win in race one. Race two had to be restarted when Buck Blair went down hard in turn four. Venegas dominated the restart for his first win ahead of Bobby Schwartz.
Faria launched from the start and cruised to victory, but Manchester found himself mired in last before passing Randy DiFrancesco, then making an outside pass on Shawn McConnell to narrowly salvage second.
2003 National Champion Scott Brant, making his first appearance at Costa Mesa in over two years, showed no rust by taking the early lead in race four. Tommy Hedden gave chase of his former Northern California Junior rival and his 22" rear wheel was helping him find traction on the outside. Hedden's challenge ended prematurely when he fell on the third lap and Brant went on to victory.
Larsen cruised to his first win the last heat of the opening round. Chris Kerr, making his first U.S. appearance since launching his Premier League career in Britain, used the outside to pass Dale Facchini for second.
Manchester began the second round with his first win of the night. Yarrow scored his second runaway win in a row in race seven. Hedden reversed his first round misfortune with a win over Kerr in race eight. Faria won his second straight race by defeating Brant in race nine.
Larsen and Venegas lined up next to each other in the final race of the round. Larsen led into turn one and he immediately went wide to find traction and also impede the path of Venegas. Venegas still found room and attempted pass Larsen on the back straight. His effort was unsuccessful and he had to settle in behind the leader. Larsen led the rest of the way for his second win.
Manchester made it two in a row with a win in the first race of round three. Hedden won his second straight race by winning race twelve.
Race thirteen had all four riders in tight formation through the first corner and on the back straight. Kerr hit the back of Schwartz entering turn three and went down while forcing Schwartz off his line. Hicks led at the end of lap one, but Yarrow's desire to remain perfect shone through as passed Hicks for the lead. Yarrow was never threatened after that and kept his perfect score.
Larsen kept pace with Yarrow by winning his third consecutive race ahead of a hard-charging Eddie Castro. Faria, looking to match the perfect scores of Yarrow and Larsen, was foiled by Venegas who used a great start to race away with the win.
After three rounds, Larsen and Yarrow sat at the top with perfect nine-point scores; Manchester, Faria, and Venegas each had eight points; Brant had seven points and Hedden had six.
Manchester began the final round with an impressive win over Hicks. Venegas scored his third win by defeating Brant in race 17.
The four riders in race 18 came to the tapes with ten wins, collectively. Yarrow, lined up on the pole was perfect. Faria, lined up in gate two, had only dropped one point. Hedden was in gate three and had two race wins. Larsen was on the outside and also had a perfect score. Faria and Hedden got the best starts and immediately forged their respective courses of battle, Faria on the inside and Hedden on the outside. Meanwhile, Yarrow and Larsen toiled at the back with Larsen eventually succumbing to an engine failure. Faria held a narrow lead on the inside, but Hedden was relentless in his pursuit and used every inch of the racetrack to try to snatch the lead. Hedden's desire paid off and brought the crowd to its feet with a spectacular pass for the lead and the win. The crowd showed its gratitude with a rousing ovation.
The first attempt of race 19 ended prematurely when Nate Perkins brought down DiFrancesco who then collected Tim Gomez. The crash left bikes and bodies across the back straight and turn three. On the restart, Schwartz cruised to the victory ahead of DiFrancesco.
In the final heat, Shaun Harmatiuk got the start, but Castro made a spirited pass around the outside and ran away with the win. Kerr then used the outside to also pass Harmatiuk and take an important second place finish.
Schwartz and Kerr met in a runoff for the final spot in the semis. Kerr made the start, but Schwartz tried to challenge on the outside on the back straight, but it was to no avail. Kerr took the win and the last slot in the semis.
Venegas was first to turn one in the first semi with Larsen and Kerr in tow. Larsen and Kerr made contact which cost Larsen some momentum, sent Kerr down, and took Hedden out of contention. Faria took advantage and blasted up the inside for second. The places never changed, with Venegas and Faria transferring to the Final, while Larsen and Hedden went to the Last Chance.
Manchester took the lead in the second semi and followed by Hicks down the back straight. Manchester pulled away, but Hicks was under fire from Yarrow. Yarrow moved Hicks off the line entering turn three the second time and secured second place. Manchester and Yarrow moved on to the Final and Brant and Castro transferred to the Last Chance.
Larsen made the start in the Last Chance, but Brant and Hedden went down in a heap in turn three and brought out the red flag. On the restart, Larsen again took the lead while Hedden made another journey to the outside. Larsen wisely rode a wide line and never allowed Hedden to get alongside him. Larsen was victorious and moved on to the Final.
The track conditions were magnificent and the giant crowd was treated to fast and spectacular racing throughout the evening. This was the 38th consecutive year of speedway at the world famous bullring oval and the facility has hosted a national championship in every one of those years.
The National Championship is not the final event on the Costa Mesa calendar. The Fall Classic will take place on Saturday, September 30.
114 - Joey Holt
21 - Gino Manzares
7 - Dylan Black
9 - Rocco Scopellite
611 - Bradlee Pappalardo
Scoring 1 2 3 4 T
1 - Chris Manchester 2 3 3 3 11
2 - Josh Larsen 3 3 3 E 9
3 - Gary Hicks 2 1 2 2 7
6 - Shawn McConnell 1 1 1 1 4
8 - Bryan Yarrow 3 3 3 1 10
9 - Mike Faria 3 3 2 2 10
10 - Scott Brant 3 2 2 2 9
11 - Bobby Schwartz 2 0 1 3 6
12 - Randy DiFrancesco 0 0 F 2 2
13 - Nate Perkins 0 1 F Fx 1
14 - Eddie Castro 2 F 2 3 7
15 - Dukie Ermolenko 1 2 2 0 5
27 - Chris Kerr 2 2 0 2 6
39 - Buck Blair F 2 1 0 3
40 - Tommy Hedden 0 3 3 3 9
43 - Charlie Venegas 3 2 3 3 11
139 - Shaun Harmatiuk 1 1 0 1 3
145 - Mark Dwyer 1 0 0 1 2
256 - Tim Gomez F 0 1 0 1
301 - Dale Facchini 1 1 1 R 3
248 - Brian Starr (R) 1 - - - 1
45 - Dario Galvin (R) Did not ride
1: Yarrow, Castro, Ermolenko, Perkins
2: (restarted) Venegas, Schwartz, Dwyer, Blair (penalty line) (fell)
3: Faria, Manchester, McConnell, DiFrancesco
4: Brant, Hicks, Harmatiuk, Hedden (fell, remounted)
5: Larsen, Kerr, Facchini, Gomez (fell)
6: Manchester, Ermolenko, Harmatiuk, Schwartz
7: Yarrow, Blair, McConnell, Gomez
8: Hedden, Kerr, Perkins, Dwyer
9: Faria, Brant, Facchini, Castro (fell)
10: Larsen, Venegas, Hicks, DiFrancesco
11: Manchester, Brant, Blair, Perkins (fell)
12: Hedden, Ermolenko, Facchini, DiFrancesco (fell)
13: Yarrow, Hicks, Schwartz, Kerr (fell, remounted)
14: Larsen, Castro, McConnell, Dwyer
15: Venegas, Faria, Gomez, Harmatiuk
16: Manchester, Hicks, Dwyer, Facchini, (retired)
17: Venegas, Brant, McConnell, Ermolenko (fell, remounted)
18: Hedden, Faria, Yarrow, Larsen (engine failure)
19: (restarted) Schwartz, DiFrancesco, Starr, Gomez, Perkins (fell, excluded)
20: Castro, Kerr, Harmatiuk, Blair
Runoff: Kerr, Schwartz
Semi #1: Venegas, Faria, Larsen, Hedden, Kerr (fell)
Semi #2: Manchester, Yarrow, Brant, Castro, Hicks
Last Chance: (restarted) Larsen, Hedden, Castro, Brant
National Championship Final
43 - Charlie Venegas
1 - Chris Manchester
9 - Mike Faria
8 - Bryan Yarrow
2 - Josh Larsen (fell, remounted)