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Hancock finds a way in final

Veteran closes in on record eighth title after bouncing back from startling crash
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Greg Hancock broke a chain on his bike, drew the less-than-desirable second lane for the main event and, to the astonishment of the thousands of fans, hit the dirt after a crash in a heat race Friday at the Gold Country Fairgrounds oval. But by the end of the night, the seven-time national champion was back in familiar form. Hancock made a bold move on the outside to overtake Billy Janniro and win the second round of the AMA National Championship series at Fast Fridays. Hancock took a step closer to his eighth national title, which would break a tie with Mike Bast for the most national crowns in a career. After flying in from Sweden earlier in the week, Hancock’s path to victory was far from routine. “For me, I want to win all the time,” said Hancock, who is currently No. 3 in the world rankings. “With Billy and the other guys in there, that was a great final. I had no choice but to go for it. Things happen so fast, I just saw the opening and just hit it.” Hancock and Janniro — longtime rivals in the U.S. and in Europe — lined up against each other in heat 16. Hancock held a slim lead on Janniro on the third lap when his chain broke, he lost momentum, went over his handlebars and slammed onto the track. The 39-year-old walked away from the crash, but lost the sought-after pole position for the A-Main final to Janniro, who was one point shy of sweeping the qualifying heats. In the final, Janniro lined up in lane 1, with Hancock, Bart Bast and Ricky Wells to his right. Janniro was first into the turn, but Hancock was on his back tire throughout the first of four laps. Janniro — the 2008 national champion — maintained his edge until the second turn of lap 2, when Hancock sped around him on the outside. Janniro had to race hard just to hang on to second place in front of a hard charging Bast. Wells was fourth in the final, pulling into a tie for third with Bast in the series standings. Hancock leads the series with 41 points while Janniro is second with 36. The final round is Oct. 2 in Auburn. Hancock, who took home $2,000 for his win Friday, said the national championship series is a big deal, even alongside his professional races in Europe, which regularly attract 30,000 fans or more. “The national championship is always a priority,” Hancock said. “It’s always great to race on this track, in front of these people.” In the B-Main, Charlie Venegas capped an eventful evening with an impressive victory. Auburn’s Tommy Hedden took second and Bryan Yarrow was third. Venegas was the only rider to beat Janniro in qualifying, taking advantage of a slight hiccup by the Fast Fridays regular to edge him at the finish in heat 19. Tyson Burmeister took the title in the C-Main as Matt Becker was second and Kenny Ingalls third. Bryce Starks was the winner in the D-Main event.