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They keep the wheels turning at Fast Fridays

Pit crews provide mechanical expertise and moral support
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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You won’t see Bill Warnock racing around the track at Fast Fridays anymore, but what he does is just as vital to the speedway motorcycle circuit. Warnock owns 10 bikes, ridden by some of Fast Fridays’ top riders, including Tommy Hedden. On race night he helps make sure the show goes off without a hitch, from behind the scenes. Oil changes, tire changes and moral support are just a few of the things pit crew members, like Warnock and others, do to keep the wheels turning. Warnock said it’s his love for speedway racing that keeps him coming back to the fairgrounds in Auburn each week. “I used to race, but I got too old and got hurt a little bit,” Warnock said. “I enjoy the sport and helping people.” From the sidelines he has seen riders triumph to victory and take some serious spills. “One time a bike took off without the rider on it and hit the wall,” Warnock said. Andy Gilbertson of Cameron Park is Hedden’s mechanic. He said on any given night he will change Hedden’s tires up to six times, or after each heat. “I babysit,” Gilbertson said. “I change gears, check adjustments. He is constantly changing stuff. It might be part of what holds him back. He thinks too much.” Duane Yarrow, Dale DeFreece and Steve Marynse all have sons who race. They said they enjoy sharing the racing experience with their children, but allow them to prep their bikes on their own. “My son preps his all by himself during the week,” DeFreece said. “We just get to hang out with our kids. It’s a real big family sport.” Charlie Venegas, a top rider at Fast Fridays and the national extreme ice racing champion, has found his ultimate pit chief in his brother Dennis. “My brother has been my largest supporter and sponsor over the years, even though all of my sponsors have been great,” Venegas said. “There have been a lot of ‘Hollywood’ mechanics that have worked for me for one night and I fired them. They want to go out and push the bike around when they haven’t worked on it all week.” Each week Dennis keeps Charlie’s bikes at his home in Vallejo and drives them to Auburn. Charlie flies in from Southern California, where he races during the week, with all of his equipment ready to go. Charlie said his brother knows the ins-and-outs of speedway bikes and what to do under pressure. “I think I don’t even have to say what I am thinking,” Charlie said. “He knows. Having that kind of relationship is really hard to find.” Dennis said that means knowing what to do even when Charlie crashes. “Even if he crashes my first priority is getting the bike ready to go again,” Dennis said. “If he wasn’t my brother I probably wouldn’t be doing it anymore. It’s about family.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com