Team USA Speedway of Nations duo Luke Becker and Broc Nicol scorched to a stunning 6 ride maximum to take the 2022 AMA National Pairs Championship at Kern County Raceway, Bakersfield on February 19th.
Becker and Nicol added the 2022 title to their 2020 and 2021 wins, and this one had the added competition of visiting overseas riders Gleb Chugunov and Michal Curzytek from Sparta Wroclaw, the Polish league champions. The international duo took advantage of the scheduled race as part of their Californian preseason training camp with four-time World Champion Greg Hancock.
The event, staged at Bakersfield for the first time, got a record entry of 12 teams. The race format had the teams split into 3 groups of 4, with a round robin format. The top 4 ranked teams were in Group A and whilst all of these teams were seeded past the group stage, the crucial gate choice and preferential draw was at stake. The rest of the teams were divided into Groups B and C, with the top 2 from each qualifying for Quarter Finals. With the 4,3,2,0 scoring system in force, it was sudden death elimination races from the Quarter Finals onward.
Group A was considered as the Group of Death, with four championship contenders entered in. Any thoughts that the visiting Wroclaw duo may have it tough adapting to the 1/8-mile track were immediately dispelled as they roared to a 7-2 maximum victory over Dillon Ruml and Aaron Fox. Next up Becker and Nicol showed they meant business with a 7-2 over Max Ruml and Chris Kerr.
Round 2 began with a blockbuster heat. Becker had the lead, but Nicol was at the back of close pack with Dillon Ruml and Fox seemingly reigniting their campaign. Nicol went high and wide on laps 3 and 4 and Becker, sensing this, slowed his opponents down just a touch to bring Nicol to the front for the win and another 7-2. Fans barely had time to catch breath before another instant classic. Max Ruml got a superb start over Chugunov and Curzytek and for a moment, Kerr edged ahead of the Russian Polish duo before dropping to fourth, a close fourth albeit it. Then Curzytek found blistering speed to raw inside of Ruml at the end of lap three. Max however kept Chugunov honest and held him back to third, a 6-3 win to the Wroclaw duo resulted.
Max Ruml and Kerr bounced back with an instant 7-2 over Dillon Ruml and Fox to start round 3. Becker and Nicol out gated their international opponents in the final group heat, Curzytek fell and remounted whilst Chugunov latterly dropped off the pace.
Group B saw a sensational 3 ride maximum from rising stars Rheten Todd and Alex Martin, who took their bracket with ease. Also qualified were legend Fast Eddie Castro and Rees Todd, who scored 16 points in their three rides. Sara Cords and Jonny Oakden ended their round with a 7-2 but their overall haul was 11 points, not enough to transfer. New 500cc rider Justin Almon was a solo replacement for the late illness withdrawal of Wilbur Hancock and Fred Cook. Hancock and Cook, sons of famous speedway fathers, and each with Swedish mothers, planned to race under a Swedish flag. Almon, called in much like Sweden’s Phillip Hellstrom-Bangs in the Speedway of Nations, gave his all but could only muster four points.
Group C was closely contested at the top. Comeback legends Buck Blair (3 ride maximum) and local rider Randy DiFrancesco, father of Supercross Futures series leader Ryder, scored 19 out of 21. Their last round 6-3 win over previously unbeaten Russell Green and Anthony Dion gave them a 2-point group win. Bakersfield brothers Brad and Robbie Sauer ended on 11, including a last round win by Brad. Dustin Schroeder and Greg Moore scored 7.
So next up were quarter finals. No points carried and simply put, one fall or engine failure could end your night. Becker and Nicol scored their fourth 7-2 maximum in a row, this time over Castro and Rees Todd. Dillon Ruml and Fox finally got their night going with a 7-2 over Blair and DiFrancesco. The international duo of Chugunov and Curzytek kept the 7-2 win trend over Green and Dion though it must be noted that Green was right on the tail of the Wroclaw duo. Max Ruml and Kerr ended the quarter finals with yes, you’ve guessed it, a 7-2 maximum ahead of Martin and Rheten Todd.
The semi finals saw a Group A reunion and the continuation of the maximums. Top seeds Becker and Nicol saw off the challenge of Dillon Ruml and Aaron Fox. Chugunov and Curzytek were the victors over Max Ruml and Kerr. Max and Kerr did get some consolation with a….7-2 win over Dillon and Aaron in the Bronze medal heat.
So, heat 26 of the Pairs was the final. It was a tense affair ahead, Becker and Nicol took gates 2 and 4 and launched stunning simultaneous gates to settle into 1st and 2nd coming out of turn 2. The event was raced at a blistering pace, but the Wroclaw superstars simply did not have an answer this time. Becker and Nicol ran a perfect four laps and punched the air in delight to take their third consecutive AMA National Pairs title.
The event served up a level of racing not seen in the US for perhaps a decade. The addition of Chugunov and Curzytek created worldwide interest in the event and though American riders took the victory, American Speedway, forging vital links to the worldwide speedway scene, was the real winner. Chugunov and Curzytek raced in the home track Bakersfield Bandits team race bibs.
If the 26 Pairs events were not enough, there was an additional 17 heats in supporting classes.
Justin Almon after his Pairs foray won all Division 2 races. Jake Myers likewise took the sweep in Division 3. Mike Jaudon won two Vintage heats, his travelling companion on their Colorado to Bakersfield road trip, Pat Litt, won the other heat and the Main Event. Nick Hohlbein once again swept both of his 250cc Junior heats and the Main Event, Jose Navarrete taking the other heat. Jackson Joiner swept the Rod Lake 50cc kid’s class.
The monthly KCRP race program is back on March 26th with a Speedway / Flat Track Double header. This event features a round of the 2022 League series with the Bakersfield Bandits as the defending champions,
AMA NATIONAL PAIRS CHAMPIONSHIP
Group A. Luke Becker (4,3’,3’) & Broc Nicol (3’4 4) 21+3. Gleb Chugunov (4 2 2) & Michal Curzytek (3’4 0) 15+1. Max Ruml (2 3 3’) & Chris Kerr (0 0 4) 12+1, Dillon Ruml (2 2 0) & Aaron Fox (0 0 2) 6.
Group B. Alex Martin (4 4 4) & Rheten Todd (3’3’3’) 21+3, Rees Todd (4 4 2) & Eddie Castro 3’3’0) 16+2, Sara Cords (2 2 4) & Jonny Oakden (0 0 3’) 11+1, Justin Almon (2 R 2) 4
Group C. Buck Blair (4 4 4) & Randy DiFrancesco (2 3’ 2) 19+1, Russell Green (3’4 3) & Anthony Dion (4 3’ 0) 17+2, Brad Sauer (3 R 4) & Robbie Sauer (0 2 2) 11, Dustin Schroeder (2 2 3) & Greg Moore (R 0 -) 7
Quarter Final 1: BECKER, NICOL, Castro, Re Todd
Quarter Final 2: FOX, D RUML, Blair, DiFrancesco
Quarter Final 3: CURZYTEK, CHUGUNOV, Green, Dion
Quarter Final 4: M RUML, KERR, Rh Todd, Martin fell remounted
Semi Final 1: BECKER, NICOL, D Ruml, Fox
Semi Final 2: CURZYTEK, CHUGUNOV, M Ruml, Kerr
Bronze Medal Race: M RUML, KERR, Fox, D Ruml
AMA NATIONAL PAIRS GRAND FINAL
22 LUKE BECKER
98 BROC NICOL
8 Michal Curzytek
2 Gleb Chugunov
DIVISION 2 MAIN EVENT
137 Justin Almon
220 Tom Bryant
106 Isaiah Canales (exc tapes)
DIVISION 3 MAIN EVENT
175 Jake Myers
106 Isaiah Canales (30)
220 Tom Bryant
113 Tony Rutledge
28 Pat Litt
12 Mike Jaudon
106 Isaiah Canales
177 Mark Hitchcock (non-starter)
250 JUNIOR MAIN
29 Nick Hohlbein
48 Jose Navarrete
28 Kage Tadman
123 Catherine Moore
ROD LAKE 50cc KIDS MAIN
26 Jackson Joiner
109 Axle Absher
819 Charlie Absher
38 Jayden Rice