California’s best duel on the track

Janniro, Venegas, Brant, Bast lead a loaded NorCal team into Civil War race
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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The term dream team is thrown around often, but from Dave Joiner’s perspective he’s got one representing Northern California speedway racing tonight. Fast Fridays’ best will take on a crew of Southern California speedway stars tonight in the annual North vs. South Civil War at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. Led by Billy Janniro, who has won eight of nine main events at Fast Fridays this season, the north team is stacked. “We’ve got the top six riders in the country as far as I’m concerned no the north team,” said Joiner, who owns and operates Fast Fridays. Janniro’s got plenty of talent surrounding him as the riders who are usually dueling with each other get a chance to team up and represent their track. There’s a rejuvenated Scott Brant, a former youth national champion who took a break from racing, but has returned with great success. Brant, who lives in Reno, is the only rider to knock off Janniro in a scratch main event this season. Auburn’s Bart Bast is the wily veteran on the North squad. He’s lined up in nearly 20 North vs. South races and remembers when the South teams used to dominate the competition. In recent years the North has defended its home turf well. Auburn’s Tommy Hedden will also race for the North. The 37-year-old rider has been a mainstay in final events at Fast Fridays for several years and knows the track as well as anyone. Bryan Yarrow is back to ride for the North team as well. The former youth national champ is capable of competing with the best on any given night at the Auburn track. The North’s closer is veteran Charlie Venegas, who out-dueled Janniro last year to claim the Fast Fridays Track Championship. He’s a two-time runner-up for the AMA National Championship and can keep up with just about anyone in the field. The Southern California team lacks the firepower of the North, but they aren’t to be taken lightly. Jimmy Fishback has shown he is capable of racing well in Auburn with strong performances the past few years. Veterans Eddie Castro and Bobby Schwartz are skilled riders while Buck Blair and Tyson Burmeister have posted impressive results at the Victorville and San Bernardino speedway tracks, respectively. The youngster on the South team is Brad Popalardo, who is the nephew of eight-time U.S. national champion Greg Hancock. The Fast Fridays regulars are hoping to defend their home dirt, while showing the SoCal riders hospitality. “It’s a good friendly competition,” Joiner said. “The Southern California riders will come up and the Northern California guys will show them a good time. They all want to put on a good show for the fans.” Tonight’s race is also a good tuneup for the upcoming second round of the AMA National Championships, which will be held July 23 at Fast Fridays.