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Fast Fridays Speedway
Gold Country Fairgrounds
Auburn, California

South Prevails in 20th Annual North vs. South Challenge
Fast Friday’s Motorcycle Speedway
Michael Kirby (Story & Photos)
Auburn, California - July 22, 2011

One of the most popular match-ups in speedway racing renewed itself Friday night at Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway in Auburn. The annual North vs. South Challenge pitted the best riders from the south and the best riders from the north in a hotly contested match-up dating back almost a quarter century. This year the South, led by World Speedway Champion Billy Hamill, was able to put together a winning combination to take back the Blue and Gray trophy beating the North 81-58 after losing to the North 95-41 in 2010. The win puts the epic battle total since 1991 at 13-8 with the North leading the South in the historic speedway event. The format is simple-team racing, two riders from each team in 18 scratch heat races that lead to the A and B main events. Racers receive a score on how they place in each race with the top team score overall for the night wins.

The North team included 2010 US National Speedway champion Billy Janniro, Bart Bast, Tommy Hedden, Bob Hicks, Greg Hooten and Alex Marcucci. The South's team was headed by Billy Hamill, and also included Charlie Venegas, Josh Larsen, Chris Kerr, Nate Perkins and Bobby Schwartz. The score held fairly close through the early heats going back and forth a few times until heat 11 when the South really started putting it together scoring 5 of 6 available points in heats 11-14 putting the score in their favor at 53-31 after 14 heats. Heat 15 gave the north some hope after Billy Janniro came in as the joker which allowed the North a one-time wild card entry which doubled his score to six points with his heat win and brought the score to 56-37. Heat 16 gave the south 5 more points and in heats 17 and 18 the teams tied at 3 points each, and the score settled with the South leading 67-44 after the 18 heats.

In the B main the North sent out Greg Hooten and Bob Hicks and the South sent out Nate Perkins and Chris Kerr. The scoring increased with this round and Hooten and Hicks picked up 6 combined points for the north and Perkins and Kerr added 4 points for the South bring the score to 71-50 with the South still in command. With the A main left to run and the South with a 21 point lead even if the North picked up a first-second finish the 11 points available would not carry them past the South. The North Billy Janniro and Bart Bast for the North and Billy Hamill and Charlie Venegas lined up for the South. Hamill finished first, Bast was second, Venegas was third and Janniro was fourth. The final tally for the evening and into the record books of the ongoing classic grudge match was 81-58 with the South taking this year's honors.

The North vs. South Challenge doesn't have any real consequences other than bragging rights, but that was all that was needed for the six riders on each team to put on a great night of exciting racing, some of the best of the season, riding inches from each other on the turns. The team scoring event really adds to the camaraderie and respect the racers gain for each other, working together instead individually.

Billy Janniro was the overall high point's scorer for the match-up with 23, and Billy Hamill was second with 21 points. Auburn's Bart Bast leads in all-time points in the North vs. South Challenge at 288 and has ridden in 20 of the 21 meeting missing only the 2006 event because of injury.

The South made a clean sweep Friday night as the Southern team also won the Youth North vs. South contest. The Southern team of Max Ruml, Kurtis Hamill, Dillon Ruml, Louie Mersaroli, Broc Nicol, and Joseph Hernandez outscored the Northern team 42-30. Max Ruml had a perfect night scoring 12 points in four heats. The Northern team consisted of Tanner Kane, David Mersaroli, Colton Hicks, Luke Becker, Jamison Dilkey, and Daniel Casey.

Results for North vs. South 7-22-11

Score after 18 Heat Races North-44 South-67

Score after B Main North-50 South 71

Score after A Main (Final) North 58 South 81

A Main: 1-Billy Hamill (6) 2-Bart Bast (5) 3-Charlie Venegas (4) 4-Billy Janniro (3)f

B Main: 1-Greg Hooten (4) 2-Chris Kerr (3) 3-Bob Hicks (2) 4-Nate Perkins

Total Scores

North-Billy Janniro-23, Bart Bast-14, Greg Hooten 11, Bob Hicks 5, Tommy Hedden-3, Alex Marcucci-2

South-Billy Hamill-21, Josh Larsen-15, Charlie Venegas-14, Nate Perkins-13, Chris Kerr-12, Bobby Schwartz-6

Photos Michael Kirby

Fast Fridays Speedway North and South teams after the rider's parade and before the event start. (L-R) North-Greg Hooten, Alex Marcucci, Bob Hicks, Bart Bast, Tommy Hedden, Billy Janniro. South-Charlie Venegas, Billy Hamill, Bobby Schwartz (kneeling), Josh Larsen, Nate Perkins, Chris Kerr.
Fast Fridays Speedway In heat one Billy Hamill (L) and Billy Janniro (R) come out of turn 3 in Friday night's North vs. South Challenge at Fast Friday's Motorcycle Speedway.
Fast Fridays Speedway Max Ruml of the Youth South team takes a turn in heat one of the Youth North vs. South contest. Ruml did a lot of looking back Friday night winning all his heat races by a wide margin scoring a perfect 12 points for the South team. The South prevailed 42-30 in the Youth North vs. South Challenge.
Fast Fridays Speedway The start of the A Main event Friday night at the annual North vs. South Challenge. (L-R) Billy Janniro, Charlie Venegas, Bart Bast, and Billy Hamill.
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