World Speedway competition came to Southern California last weekend and after 23 events involving 18 of the world’s fastest riders Americans swept the podium at the Monster Energy World Invitational. In front of a record crowd inside Industry Racing’s Grand Arena, Americans Billy Janniro, Greg Hancock, Ricky Wells and Billy Hamill (pictured above) took the four top spots in a night of fierce racing.
Withstanding sub 50-degree temperatures the capacity crowd enjoyed the drama and excitement of the 20 events leading up to the semi-finals and final. Throughout each set of heats, the crowd was on its feet, and giving the riders all the support they could ask for. When it was all said and done, American rider Billy Janniro, stood atop the podium for one of the biggest wins of his career.
“Monster did a great job tonight,” said Janniro (pictured right). “I don’t know how many thousands of people were here, but it was awesome. To win in front of everyone and for these Europeans to be here, it was a big achievement. I’m very happy.”
Ultimately, American rider Ricky Wells garnered the top seed going into the semi-finals, winning four of his five events. He was joined by fellow Americans Janniro, Billy Hamill, Greg Hancock, and Charlie Venegas, along with Brits, Edward Kennett and Scott Nicholls, while Swede, Antonio Lindback, rounded out the top eight riders that featured just three international competitors.
“It was a good start to the night, I couldn’t complain too much,” said Wells. “I had a good setup and good people behind me and everything was just working really well for me. I think I started off the night really fast and carried it through.”
With exceptional talent filling each semi-final, the action was sure to be some of the best of the evening as only the top two finishers from each would advance to the Final and the chance to be named winner of the inaugural Monster Energy World Speedway Invitational.
In semi-final 1, Hamill made an impressive move coming out of the second corner to vault from third to first place heading into the third turn. He fended off Wells for the entire race, as the pair pulled away to solidify their spots in the Final.
Semi-final 2 became a showdown between Janniro and Hancock (pictured right), with both riders battling for the win and leaving their fellow riders well behind. The duo crossed the line mere inches apart to make it an all-American Final.
The culminating race of the night became a battle of track position, with each rider’s chosen lane at the start setting the foundation for a chance at victory in a four-lap sprint to the finish. As the top seed, Wells had first pick and selected the third lane, with Janniro lining up next to him in the second lane, Hamill on the far inside, and Hancock on the far outside.
As the starting ribbon rose, Janniro positioned himself in the lead with a quick move inside as the riders jockeyed for momentum. He was closely followed by Hancock, who put forth an impressive challenge throughout the entire four-lap race but couldn’t generate enough speed to make a pass. Behind them, the battle for third was equally as exciting with Wells slipping past Hamill on the final lap to claim the third spot on the podium.
“I really wanted to win this one. This is the biggest event we’ve had here in the U.S. since the late ’80s,” exclaimed Hancock. “This is one of the greatest events to be a part of for me, having Monster on board to support the sport here in the states. They have lifted this sport so much and for American Speedway this was a big hit. Just look at the crowd that turned out. I could talk all night about it. We’re really grateful.”
In addition to the star-studded international battle of pros, the future of American Speedway also put on a show on the packed crowd with Mini 150cc and Junior 250cc competition. Courtney Crone provided one of the most memorable moments of the evening when she took the victory in the Mini 150cc class. Max Ruml was dominant in the Junior 250cc class, winning each heat and the main event.
“This was the start of something great for American Speedway,” boasted Hamill. “Monster has come on board and revived speedway, recognizing it’s a pure form of racing like we saw tonight. It’s very promising for our young riders and I think more kids that do other disciplines will take a long hard look at racing speedway now and see it as a big opportunity.
“This is a great spectator sport,” concluded Hamill. “There isn’t a bad seat in the house, even with a big crowd like we had tonight. Its no-holds-barred racing and something I’m proud to be a part of, and I think this is something we will build off of here in America.”
World Speedway Invitational
1. Billy Janniro
2. Greg Hancock
3. Ricky Wells
4. Billy Hamill
1. Max Ruml
2. Broc Nicol
3. Dillon Ruml
1. Courtney Crone
2. Maverick Molloy
3. Wilbur Hancock
Photos by Simon Cudby.