Janniro perfect in AMA repeat

Fast Fridays
By: Michael Kirby Journal Speedway Correspondent
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From the first race of the 2011 Fast Fridays season back in May Billy Janniro has been riding at the top of his career and every week he was the man to beat at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. Friday night Janniro did not disappoint, with a giant target on his back all season and the championship his to lose. At evening’s end it was Janniro standing in the top spot on the winner’s podium holding the AMA Racing Speedway National Championship number one plate, and hoisting the championship trophy high. Janniro successfully defended his 2010 AMA title, bringing his national championship total to three. This year’s format was scaled down from three championship meetings to one winner-take-all evening. The format gave all the racers except Janniro a better chance to win the championship. One slip up, one bad race, one mechanical problem, or a bad evening for Janniro, could have put him out of the championship circle. The championship format included 20 four-rider heat races in five rounds. The top eight riders transferred into two semifinal rounds with the top two finishers in each semi advanding into the national final. Janniro was perfect for the evening, winning all his heat races. In his semifinal, Janniro was in gate one, Charlie Venegas with 11 points was out of gate two, Greg Hooten with 10 points was in gate three, and veteran Bobby Schwartz with nine points lined up on the outside. Janniro was unstoppable and riding on the inside and deep on the outside line of the track. Venegas gave good chase but could not catch the champ, and had to settle for second place. Hooten was third and Schwartz was fourth. Janniro and Venegas transferred into the championship round. The second semi pitted Bryan Yarrow, Tommy Hedden, Bart Bast and Southern California’s Charles Ermolenko racing for the remaining two championship spots. Yarrow powered to an impressive first place finish, followed by Ermolenko in second, Bast in third and Hedden in fourth. In the championship round the available points jumped to six for a win, four for second place, two for third place and zero for fourth. Janniro with 18 points chose the inside gate. Yarrow with 16 points chose gate two, Venegas with 13 points was in the third gate, and Ermolenko mathematically out of the championship with nine points was outside in four. Yarrow was the only rider who really had a chance to give Janniro a scare. Entering the round with 16 points and picking six first place points in the final round, and any finish second place or below for Janniro would have given Yarrow the national title. Janniro needed the win, but when the tapes went up Janniro and Ermolenko tangled on turn one and both riders went down, forcing a restart. This time Janniro got a great gate and took the inside line, weaving inside and outside with Yarrow giving chase. But the smooth riding Janniro controlled the race from the starting gate to the checkered flag, finishing with 24 points. Yarrow finished second, turning in a stellar night with 20 championship points. Venegas was third with 15 points and Ermolenko was fourth.