Connor Penhall Memorial Cup - Industry Hills, CA, USA - May 27Connor Penhall Memorial Cup - Industry Hills, CA, USA - May 27
Industry Racing opened its regular season with the biggest event of on its calendar and it was defending AMA National Champion Billy “The Kid” Janniro who went home with the largest trophy and largest paycheck for winning the inaugural Connor Penhall Memorial Cup.
Five rounds of heats and two semi-finals whittled the field to Janniro, Billy “The Bullet” Hamill, Broc Nicol, and “Battling” Buck Blair for the Connor Penhall Memorial Cup Final. Janniro had first choice of starting position and picked gate one. Nicol had second choice and he selected gate two. Blair picked gate three which left Hamill with gate four.
Tensions were high as the four racers staged and when the tapes went up Janniro and Blair surged slightly ahead of Nicol and Hamill. Janniro and Blair went for the same spot entering turn one and the inevitable contact brought both riders down just shy of the fence. Blair was down for several minutes but was able to get up and make the restart. The referee declared that all four racers would participate in the restart.
Janniro was first off the starting line on the second attempt and led the field into turn one. 17 year old Nicol was first in line to chase down the leader. Janniro led through the first two laps while soreness from the crash got the better of Blair who decided to pull into the infield. Janniro maintained his advantage throughout the race and first to the checkered flag. Nicol was a very impressive second, Hamill finished third, and Blair was credited with fourth. Janniro was presented with an amazing memento for his victory. A custom painted gold-leaf Troy Lee Designs helmet bearing the number one, painted by Troy Lee himself, inside a display case which sat on a stand bearing the logo of the event. The unique trophy is among the most impressive awards ever crafted for motorsports.
The event was held in remembrance of Connor Penhall who was tragically killed by a drunk driver in 2012 while he was working construction on a local freeway. Connor, the son of speedway icon Bruce Penhall, briefly raced junior speedway a decade ago. The Penhall family was in attendance along with “CHiPs” cast members Larry Wilcox and Robert Pine, LOORS off road champion Sheldon Creed, and “Storage Wars” television celebrity and Industry Racing regular attendee Barry Weiss.
The amazing trophy certainly wasn’t the only payoff. The purse for the evening was $10,000 and Janniro collected a bonus check from Toyota of Escondido as well as a set of Hilti power tools.
The evening began with five Toyota of Escondido trucks on parade. Eighteen racers were in the backs of the first four trucks. In the back of the fifth truck was none other than Greg Hancock. The three-time and defending World Speedway Champion raced in Sweden the previous evening and flew in to serve as Grand Marshal of the event. Hancock, who also wrote a message that was printed in the program, considers Bruce Penhall to be a hero and his number 45 was Bruce’s racing number as well.
The racing kicked off with Blair defeating Aaron Fox in event one. Janniro opened his evening with a win ahead of Charlie “The Edge” Venegas in event two. Hamill scored his first victory ahead of Russell Green in event three. Nicol held off “Mad” Max Ruml to finish round one with a win.
Blair started round two with his second win while Shawn “Mad Dog” McConnell passed Tyson Talkington in the final corner to get second. Event six saw Hamill get the better of Janniro in an early showdown of favorites. Nicol defeated former Junior National Champion Jason Ramirez for his second straight win. Max Ruml ended the second round by defeating Fox.
Janniro defeated Max Ruml to begin the third round. Nicol beat Dillon Ruml for his third consecutive win. Venegas beat Luke Becker in event 11. Hamill matched Nicol’s perfect score by winning the last race of round three.
Round four began with Becker holding a secure lead before falling and bringing out the red flag. Becker’s exclusion would ultimately cost him a spot in the semis. Blair took advantage of the second chance to earn his third victory. Dillon Ruml was victorious over Talkington in event 14. Hamill defeated Max Ruml for his fourth win in a row. Janniro ended Nicol’s unbeaten run with a win to finish the fourth round.
The final round of heats began with a shakeup in the standings. Blair made a great start and led through turn two while Hamill ended up on the ground after contact with the leader. The race was allowed to continue and Blair was victorious with Nicol getting second. Max Ruml claimed event 18 for his second win. Janniro romped to victory in the penultimate heat to bring his point total to 14 and top scorer entering the semis. Fox trapped from the outside and won the final heat.
Janniro got a bit of revenge on Hamill by defeating the former world champion in the first semi, but the latter’s second place still placed him in the Final. The second semi ended quickly when Ramirez went down in turn two. He was excluded from the restart but an injured arm would’ve prevented him from coming to the tapes anyway. Nicol made the best start and led all four laps and into the Final. Blair and Max Ruml waged an excellent side-by-side battle for second with the Colorado native taking second and the final transfer.
Sara Cords led the Junior 250 Main Event for two laps but Sebastian “Big Daddy” Palmese, who started from the 30 yard line, had weaved through traffic and was right behind her. The former 150 National Champion slipped past the leader entering turn one the third time. Palmese never looked back from there and was first to the checkered flag. Cords held on to second, Jake Isaac was third, and Michael Wells finished fourth.
Alex Martin started on the 20 yard line in the Mini 150 Main Event and immediately attacked his competitors from the outside. It took two laps before he passed initial leader Enzo Sorani. Alex’s twin brother Sterling wasn’t far behind and was in second a lap later. Sterling couldn’t make up any ground on his brother and Alex Martin crossed the finish line first. Sorani finished third, Slater Lightcap was fourth, Dakota Shockley finished fifth, and Luke Whitcomb was sixth.
Legendary speedway racer Bobby “Boogaloo” Schwartz was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award during one of the breaks. Among the many titles he has won over the years, Schwartz won the 1981 World Best Pairs Championship with Penhall and they were teammates when America won the 1982 World Team Cup Championship.
The event opened the twelfth season of speedway at the Industry Hills Expo Center and the fourth under the current promotion. If the first night is any indication of the season then there will be some incredible events in store for the fans in 2015.
The next event at Industry Racing will have all divisions of speedway, juniors, and pee wees. The event will also mark the first appearance of the sidecars at the venue this season.
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Quick Results from the Connor Penhall Memorial Cup.
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