North captures bragging rights in speedway challenge
It's one of the longest running grudge matches in California speedway history. It began in 1991 and has become a historic challenge bringing the best speedway riders in the nation together for one night of high-powered speedway motorcycle racing.
Friday night before a near capacity crowd Fast Friday's Motorcycle Speedway brought Southern California's best speedway riders to challenge the best riders from Northern California in the annual North vs. South Challenge at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn.
Going into this year's challenge northern team members Bart Bast, current National Speedway Champion Billy Janniro, Tommy Hedden, Bryan Yarrow, Bob Hicks and Alex Marcucci were out to avenge last year's loss to the Southern team.
Led by world speedway champion Billy Hamill, the 2011 Southern team outdueled the north with an 81-58 win. This year's team from the south included Charlie Venegas, Mike Faria, Bobby Schwartz, Russell Green, Aaron Fox and Buck Blair all coming to Auburn looking to keep the party going with consecutive wins.
The format is team racing with members grouped into racing pairs. Two riders from the north race face off against two riders from the south off the line, all scratch racing. The teams accumulate points for how they finished.
The heat races score three points for a win, two points for second place, and one point for a third place finish. In the final A and B main events the scoring increases. The scores are added up and at the night's end the team with the most points wins. The team scoring changes the race dynamics from the regular rider vs. rider scoring format. For the North, Janniro was paired with Marcucci,
Bast with Yarrow, and Hedden with Hicks. For the South, Faria was paired with Schwartz, Venegas with Green, and Blair with Fox.
After nine heat races the South was within striking distance trailing the North 29-25. It was in the heat race 10 in the fourth round that Northern team riders Marcucci and Janniro cracked it open with a crushing one-two finish picking up five points bringing the score to 34-26.
In heat race 14 the South team used their Joker option with Charlie Venegas. The Joker can be used by any team if they trail by more than six points. The Joker's points if they win are doubled for that race and a rider can only be used as the Joker once. It was a good call for the South and Venegas won the race picking up six points instead three for his win bringing the score to 49-38, the South still trailing.
But by the last heat race the Southern team had closed the gap to 59-52, trailing by just seven points going into the bonus main events when scoring points increased.
The North sent Janniro and Hedden into the B main event, and the South sent Blair and Faria to face them. Janniro picked up the win, Faria was second, Hedden finished third and Blair was fourth. This brought the score to 65-56 with the North still in the driver's seat. In the A main event, with the scoring now doubled, the North sent the hot riding Marcucci and Auburn's Bast to the line against the South's Venegas and Fox.
Out of the gate on turn one Marcucci had a little trouble and spun out in the turn and Bast took the lead. Venegas was right on his tail but Bast would not give to the pressure. Bast took the checkered flag after four laps with Venegas just a bike length behind. Fox was third, and Marcucci was fourth. Bast and Marcucci added nine points to their tally and Venegas and Fox added nine points to their teams score making the final score for the evening 74-65 and the North winning the 2012 North vs. South Challenge.
The overall tally since 1991 has the North leading the South 14-8. Bast, with 22 points, was the high scorer for the evening. Bast also has participated in every North vs. South Challenge but one in 2006 because of injury. Venegas was the high scorer for South Friday night with 19 points. The North gets to claim bragging rights, but the racing camaraderie is what the riders will really take away from the track Friday night. There were lots of smiles, fun, and renewed friendships, and for the riders there are really no winners or losers at the North vs. South Challenge. The fans are the real winners treated to a great night of
Division I scratch speedway racing.
2012 North vs. South Scoring
North 74 South 65
North-Bart Bast 22, Alex Marcucci 18, Billy Janniro 15, Tommy Hedden 10, Bob Hicks 6, Bryan Yarrow 3.
South-Charlie Venegas 19, Aaron Fox 17, Mike Faria 12, Buck Blair 8, Bobby Schwartz 7, Russell Green 2.