Speedway stars clash tonight

Hancock chasing record eighth title while Janniro looks to defend crown
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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The storylines and subplots are endless for tonight’s second round of the AMA National Speedway Championship Series at Fast Fridays. But the bottom line is simple for Fast Fridays regular Billy Janniro — the fastest man wins. “This is definitely the highlight of the season,” said Janniro, the defending national champion. “It’s about pride. Everybody wants to step up a bit more for these races. This is where it all happens. It’s a good field, it’s all scratch racing, so may the best man win.” Janniro faces a serious challenge as he defends his 2008 national championship — the first of his career. Seven-time champion Greg Hancock holds a slim lead on Janniro in the championship series after he was perfect in the first round last month in Costa Mesa. Hancock is flying in from Europe — where he races professionally — for each of the three championship series races this season. The 39-year-old is currently tied with Auburn’s Mike Bast for the most national championships in AMA history at seven. Hancock, who races for teams in Poland and Sweden, is currently third in the World Championship points race. He won the World Championship in 1997. Janniro cruised to last year’s title, winning all three rounds in dominant fashion. Auburn’s Bart Bast took second. The 29-year-old Janniro returned to his hometown of Vallejo this year after racing in England for several years and is now racing regularly at Fast Fridays, where he’s been beaten only once this season in a main event. “He always brings it, so everybody out there’s got to match his speed,” Foresthill’s Kenny Ingalls said of Janniro. “It’s definitely nice having him out there every week.” Hancock was a mentor of sorts for a young Janniro when the two were teammates on the Coventry speedway racing team in England, along with fellow American Billy Hamill. Now the two are friendly rivals, dueling to see who is the fastest American on a speedway bike. “It’s never easy when Greg Hancock’s in the picture,” Janniro said. “He brings a lot of experience — he’s been doing this for 20 years. Greg won the first round and I’ve got to beat him to gain some points back. It’s going to be a tough day, but we’ll go out there and see what we can do.” While Hancock and Janniro are the clear favorites for the championship, there are several promising riders right on their heels. Ingalls was outstanding in Costa Mesa, taking third place in the A-Main final and earning 16 points on the night. He sits in third place heading back to his home track. “Last year at the last championship series race I was third, too, so I’m keeping it consistent,” Ingalls said. “I’ve been over to Europe to race a few times now and the competition over there really helped me step up. Coming back, it raised my game to a new level. I know I can compete with them.” At age 17, Ricky Wells has seen success at Fast Fridays before and could be a factor in the national championship race. The two-time under-21 national champion from Yorba Linda sits in fifth place after the first round. Bart Bast needs a big night to get back into the mix after scoring 10 points in the first round and Charlie Venegas is hoping to bounce back strong after amassing a disappointing eight points in the Costa Mesa Opener. Reno’s Mike Faria, who was fourth after the first round, will not ride tonight for personal reasons. The gates at Fast Fridays open at 6:30 p.m. and racing begins at 8, with 20 races on the schedule.