Industry Press Releases Racing

Nicol Turns Up The Heat at Kern to Win AMA National Speedway Championship Round 1

Information from an AMA National Speedway Championship Press Release

Photo courtesy of Dale Miller

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (June 22, 2024) — Broc Nicol made a big statement in Kern County, reeling off 6 straight wins to take the win and top points as the 2024 AMA National Speedway Championship Series kicked off. Speedway, for a sport that is often regulated by weather, most notably rain, had other elemental factors on race day that put the ‘Bake’ into Bakersfield! High temperatures meant that when gates opened, weather was around 107 degrees Fahrenheit, just over 40 centigrade! Though temps cooled to a chilly 100 when the racing started, the racetrack, though on the grippy side, did not experience a single heat of that notorious Paris/Dakar rally type dust bowl.

The Grand Prix format was once again used with a 16-rider main program, albeit utilizing the former GP points scoring system for the 3-round series. Ahead of the first heat, the oversubscribed event and series meant that a runoff had to be held for the final places. Charlie Trana made it through that race with ease with Greg Moore riding the deep and sticky outside line to get by Rees Todd to become the second qualifier. An early fall from Justin Almon, who has been showing much improved form all season, ended his night early.

Onto the main show itself, eleven-time AMA champ Billy Janniro showed he wasn’t letting up in his quest for 12 with victory over former Wolverhampton Wolf Chris Kerr to kick things off. Heat two had defending champion Max Ruml coming head-to-head with Nicol. When Ruml beat his big rival with relative ease, one could be forgiven for thinking that Mad Max would be set for another big night after so many big scores in the series over the last three seasons. However, as we know, anything can happen in speedway. USA’s two recently returned SGP2 riders met in heat 3 with Alex Martin using the outside to his advantage to lead home Slater Lightcap. Louie Mersaroli, perhaps the most under the radar star of American speedway led home Austin Novratil, the ultimate showman, to round out the first set of heats.

Martin went two for two in winning ahead of Mersaroli in heat 5. He didn’t know it at the time, but the 19-year-old would be the only unbeaten rider by the end of the round. Heat 6 saw Max Ruml hit immediate bikes trouble and suddenly the event and series took on an early twist. Ruml, to his credit, completed 4 laps on a very sick sounding bike. Seventeen-year-old Trana was the impressive victor over Lightcap and Kerr. Heat 7 was another blockbuster and the first sign of Nicol’s big night ahead, as he led from Janniro from veteran Bart Bast. Novratil ran an impressive heat 8 leading home Russell Green.

Back into the action for round 3, and it was Ruml who resumed business as usual ahead of Novratil in heat 9. Kerr got his first win of the night, moving up to 6 points by heading home Bast in heat 10. Janniro stopped anyone from being able to go perfect all night by taking heat 11 from Martin. Nicol won heat 12 with Lightcap scoring his third second place of the event. Nicol, Janniro and Martin were all tied on 8 for the lead at this point.

After a break for track prep, Nicol went from the inside gate to win heat 13 from Trana and Timmy Dion. Kerr made it two in a row in 14 with Green and Mersaroli finishing in the next spots. Janniro kept on 11 points at the joint top of the leader board (with Nicol) next out with victory over Novratil and Lightcap. Max Ruml took his third win of the event in heat 16 with the impressive Martin in second place.

The final round of heats roared into action with Lightcap finally getting onto the winner’s board over Green in heat 17. Nicol led home Martin and Kerr in 18. The win meant that due to his round 2 defeat of Janniro, Nicol would be getting first gate choice in the semifinals. Janniro and Ruml had an epic battle in heat 19 but it was the 11-time champ and former Coventry Bee who came out on top. The heats were rounded out with a popular win by Blake Borello, who up to that point had endured a tough evening. Eddie Castro led the first running of heat 20 but a fall on turn 4 brought out the red flags and an exclusion.

Semi Final 1 was loaded with Nicol, Ruml, Lightcap and Novratil all in it together. This line-up could be your main event at any typical Southern California speedway track. Nicol made no mistake with another fantastic start and his fifth win in a row. Ruml booked his spot in the final with second place with Novratil in third after a late charge. Semi Final 2 saw Janniro, Martin, Kerr and Trana, an all-Northern California race. In the first staging Martin went down hard in turn 1 and took a while to get up. Referee Steve Lucero correctly called all riders back for the rerun, where Janniro again got the best start. Kerr slotted into second with Trana third while Martin struggled with mechanical issues on his back up bike. While Janniro cruised to his fifth win on the night, Trana attacked Kerr hard on the inside, but Kerr fended off the challenge to get the last place in the big final.

With the series ‘big three’ all together, there was much anticipation for the final and bragging rights heading into round 2. It was Nicol who got the start from Janniro and Ruml. Janniro briefly challenged Nicol and Ruml made a daring late charge on Janniro, but positions held with Nicol claiming first blood and a slender 1-point series lead going into round 2.

The series resumes at Industry Hills Speedway on Saturday, August 3rd and concludes at Fast Friday’s Speedway on September 21st.

There was a limited support program with each class’s winner taking all three races in their division. Local rider Isiah Canales won Support, Jameson Hutchison 250 Junior and Riley Rearick 150cc Mini.

There was also a final Division 1 race for the ‘Red White and Blue Young Guns Helmet,’ sponsored by the band ‘WhiteStar.’ The race featured the four riders who were also entered into the early evening run off. It consisted of the ‘1 lap and eliminate last place’ format before the final two contenders took part in a two-lap match race for the win. Greg Moore was the first eliminated with Justin Almon (the current helmet holder) out in leg two. Charlie Trana capped off a big night winning the final head-to-head from Rees Todd.

The event was once more brought into being by Mike Helm, son of the late and legendary Digger Helm,  a local Flat Track and race car racer and the original speedway promoter in Bakersfield in the 1970s. Helm Junior brought on board event partners and a beautiful perpetual trophy as a nod and tribute to his much loved father.

Kevin Harvick’s Kern Raceway speedway program takes a summer break and returns for action mid-September with late year events including the AMA FIM North America Final and the AMA Under 21 National championship.