Video is compliments of Anthony Bernardi
It was almost perfect for Charlie Venegas Friday night at Fast Friday’s 2012 AMA National Speedway Championship at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn. After five rounds of heat races and one semi-final round of championship racing Venegas was perfect. Six races, six first place finishes and 18 perfect points. If he was a major league pitcher he’d have been pitching a perfect game in the bottom of the ninth inning. Venegas’ first place finish in his semi-final round placed him in the final race for the National Championship where the points doubled in the last race of the night. Also in the final and who would end up being his spoiler was four time AMA National Speedway champion Billy Hamill. Though not perfect the formal world champion was as close as it gets with 17 points after six races. Hamill had all wins Friday night except for a second place finish to Venegas in heat race three. Fresh off winning the SRA National Championship last weekend in Southern California Hamill won the final race Friday night and the 2012 AMA National Speedway championship for the fifth time in his career.
Also working his way into the final race for the national championship was newly crowned 2012 AMA Under 21 National Champion Gino Manazares. The 19 year-old Manazares had a exceptional night entering the final championship race with 14 points after finishing second to Hamill in his semi-final. Rounding out the four man final championship race was Bryan Yarrow who just three weeks ago won the Fast Friday’s Track Championship. There was no lack of talent in this final race and the points up for grabs had it possible for any of these riders to win the championship. Absent from the championship race was defending and three time national champion Billy Janniro who suffered a couple of unfortunate set-backs including a fall in his semi-final race and he failed to make the final round.
Venegas, with the highest points entering the race, had his pick on starting lanes and after some investigation chose the inside lane. Hamill chose three, Manazares chose two and Yarrow was left with the outside lane. The riders lined up and as starter Mark Joiner released the tapes it was Hamill that got the best gate. Hamill took the lead in the first turn and never looked back. Venegas gave chase with his only hope being a Hamill mistake that never came. Venegas chased Hamill a bike length or two behind but could not overtake him. Both speedway veterans with years of experience, Hamill began his speedway career in 1983 and Venegas in 1988, raced to the finish line with Hamill winning the race and the 2012 AMA National Championship. Hamill picked up another six points for his efforts and finished with 23 total points for the evening. Venegas finished second and totaled 22 points for the night. Yarrow followed Venegas in third and gathered another 2 points to finish in third with 14 points. Manazares proving he belongs on any speedway track with any speedway riders finished fourth in the race and fourth in the national championship with 14 points. The 42 year-old Hamill has been in semi-retirement in recent years after giving up a very successful European speedway career. He is still very involved coaching youth speedway riders and teams, and was surprised his 2012 season included his fifth AMA US National Championship win. “I had no idea this was going to happen, if you would of asked me in July if I would be standing here tonight I would of said you were crazy,” said Hamill after accepting his championship trophy. “I thought about it earlier in the season and thought I’d give it a shot, I’m glad I did,” he said. Hamill is just three national championships behind his good friend Greg Hancock who still races on the world speedway circuit. With the way Hamill’s is riding it’s possible he could be chasing Hancock in the race for most national championships in coming years.
Auburn’s Bart Bast finished with the most points among the local riders in fifth place with 11 points and Janniro finished sixth with 10 points.
Results for Fast Friday’s 2012 AMA National Championship 9-28-12
1 Billy Hamill 2 3 3 3 3 3 6-23
2 Charlie Venegas 3 3 3 3 3 3 4-22
3 Bryan Yarrow 3 2 3 0 2 2 2-14
4 Gino Manazares 1 3 3 3 2 2 0-14
5 Bart Bast 3 1 1 3 2 1-11
6 Billy Janniro 0 3 2 2 3 0-10
7 Tommy Hedden 3 2 1 2 1 0-9
8 Aaron Fox 2 0 2 1 3 1-9
9 Bob Hicks 2 0 1 2 2-7
10 Alex Marcucci-0 2 2 2 1 -7
11 Bryce Starks 0 1 2 0 1-4
12 Danny Faria 1 1 0 1 1-4
13 Greg Hooten 2 0 0 1-3
14 Charles Ermolenko 0 2 0 0 0-2
15 Bobby Schwartz 0 1 1 0 0-2
16 Eddie Castro 1 0 0 0 0-1