Reprinted with permission from Howie Zechner. Cover photo and copyright © Howie Zechner.
For the second year in a row, Max Ruml came out on top when he successfully defended his AMA FIM North America Final crown at Perris Raceway on December 11th. The event once more served as the US qualifier for the 2022 Speedway Grand Prix Qualifying Rounds, with the top three riders going through the June 2022 rounds.
The event consisted of the traditional 16 rider 20 heat race format, with no semifinals or finals but total points haul determining the finishing rider.
Ruml topped the score chart on 14 points, one less than his maximum of 12 months before but enough to secure the win on the night. After a superb third to first charge in his opening ride and the defeat of pre meeting favorite Luke Becker in round 2, it took a brilliant effort by Broc Nicol in heat 16 to deny Max the perfect score. However, Luke Becker’s second place in heat 18 meant that a win in the next heat would secure victory. After initially taking the lead Ruml was surprised to briefly lose it to hard charging Chris Kerr, before taking it back and holding off his rival in closely fought battle to retain his title. Ruml earlier this year landed his first AMA National Speedway title, but it is fair to say this was a bigger victory with three European based Americans taking part.
Luke Becker, back from a successful third season in Europe may well be disappointed with second place but ultimately the night is all about qualification and that never looked in doubt. An opening ride win was followed by defeat from Max Ruml in round 2. After winning his next, a poor start in heat 14 temporarily brought pressure, but he eased by Austin Novratil and Dillon Ruml both going into turn 1 of lap 2 and never looked back. Chance of victory was effectively gone when Blake Borello pulled off a superb ride to win heat 18 but it was job done as far as the GP qualifications go.
Broc Nicol had a tougher time get third place and the last spot in the ’22 GP rounds. After an opening win, a second place behind Dillon Ruml and then third back of Becker and Chris Kerr left Nicol behind the 8 ball, 2 points adrift of qualifying at the intermission. However, his win over Max Ruml and Gino Manzares in heat 16 was crucial and victory in heat 17 secured a spot in the Rounds.
Experienced campaigners Aaron Fox and Chris Kerr both had fantastic nights, each scoring 11 points. Fox, with his three wins over one from Kerr, got 4th on the night. Dillon Ruml was next on 10. It was an up and down night for the former Plymouth rider with his best ride being the victory over Nicol in round 2.
All thoughts were with Gino Manzares who had a horrific crash in the final race of the night. After defeat to Becker in his opener, two impressive wins put him on 8 at intermission. However, third in his fourth race left him needing a win in heat 20 to force a run off with Nicol for third place. Fox got a blistering gate and set fast pace. Manzares in his never give up style gave the race his usual 110% up until his bike lifted going into turn 3 lap three. The resultant crash left Manzares needing medical attention and an overnight hospital stay. Though the full medical picture is still not 100% clear, a positive report Sunday morning posted by his family indicated that matters were looking much better.
Blake Borello and Alex Martin were next scoring 8 each. Both had one win on the night, beating big names, Borello defeated Becker in heat 18 whilst Martin had a stunning round the boards from the back win over Kerr. Most popular winner of the night was 62 year old Eddie Castro who was victorious in heat 11.
Racing throughout the night was outstanding and minimal track work was needed.
This was the fourth staging of the famous American Final at Perris since the event returned in 2018 after a 17 year hiatus. It ran without other classes at 7pm, whilst there was a full program of support classes at 4pm for the annual Track Championships.
In the 4pm show, there were also 8 riders vying for the last 2 spots in the American Final. Anthony Dion won his heat and the run off final. Michael Wells took the second heat whilst Sara Cords charged from third to first to win the Last Chance. Rees Todd was runner up in the final to claim the second wild card spot.
Mike Miller took a clean sweep to win the Division 2 Track Championship. Andrew Russell won the Division 3 title with Main and a heat win, Isaiah Canales took the other heat. Justin Almon and Jose Navarrete took a 250 Junior heat each before a superb first turn from Navarrete out him in front to win the final. Kensei Matsudaira won all 150 Mini speedway races from a handicap. Mike Jaudon of Colorado took a clean sweep in the popular Vintage Speedway class.
Thomas Chavira won a heat and a Main of the kids 50cc class, with Rey Resendez taking the other heat. Father Michael Resendez won the Hooligan class, Alex Martin Flat Track.
This was the last race of the year at Perris, but Bakersfield stages it’s Moto Festivel next weekend at 2pm on December. Perris returns after the Christmas break with its next race on January 15th 2022.
AMA FIM North America Final
1 Max Ruml 14
22 Luke Becker 13
98 Broc Nicol 12
46 Aaron Fox 11, Chris Kerr 11, Dillon Ruml 10, Gino Manzares 9, Blake Borello 8, Alex Martin 8, Russell Green 5, Eddie Castro 4, Rees Todd 4, Austin Novratil 3, Anthony Dion 3, Slater Lightcap 3, Rheten Todd 2.
Heat 1: Becker, Manzares, Martin, Re Todd.
Heat 2: M Ruml, Fox, Green, Dion
Heat 3: Kerr, D Ruml, Castro, Lightcap ret.
Heat 4: Nicol, Novratil, Borello, Rh Todd
Heat 5: Fox, Martin, Novratil, Castro
Heat 6: M Ruml, Becker, Lightcap, Rh Todd
Heat 7: D Ruml, Nicol, Green, Re Todd
Heat 8: Manzares, Kerr, Dion, Borello
Heat 9: M Ruml, Borello, D Ruml, Martin
Heat 10: Becker, Kerr, Nicol, Fox
Heat 11: Castro, Re Todd, Dion, Rh Todd
Heat 12: Manzares, Green, Lightcap, Novratil
Heat 13: Martin, Kerr, Rh Todd, Green
Heat 14: Becker, D Ruml, Dion, Novratil ret
Heat 15: Fox, Borello, Re Todd, Lightcap
Heat 16: Nicol, M Ruml, Manzares, Castro
Heat 17: Nicol, Martin, Lightcap, Dion
Heat 18: Borello, Becker, Green, Castro
Heat 19: M Ruml, Kerr, Re Todd, Novratil
Heat 20: Fox, D Ruml, Rh Todd, Manzares fell excluded
Wild Card Run Offs:
Heat 1: Dion, Mark Fillebrown, Tyler Moszer, Sara Cords fell
Heat 2: Michael Wells, Re Todd, Mike Miller, Fred Cook
LCQ: Cords, Miller, Cook, Moszer
16 Anthony Dion
173 Rees Todd
144 Sara Cords
168 Mark Fillebrown
214 Michael Wells excluded.
Division 2 Main
71 Mike Miller
182 Rudy Laurer
111 David Newsham
327 Tyler Moszer
103 Brent Smith
153 Brad Moreau (20) non starter
Division 3 Main
296 Andrew Russell
106 Isaiah Canales
220 Tom Bryant
175 Jake Myers
395 Nelson Soto
12 Mike Jaudon
28 Pat Litt
3c David Pieper fell remounted
138 Jim Sanders fell
163 Ron Davis non starter
250 Junior Main
48 Jose Navarrete
7 Justin Almon
150 Mini Main
74 Kensei Matsudaira (70)
22 Ryder Schultz
50cc Kids Main
28 Thomas Chavira
69 Rey Resendez
956 Michael Resendez
12 Patrick Hayes
Flat Track Main
30 Alex Martin
956 Michael Resendez
74 Kensei Matsudaira
32 AJ Bender