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The roar of engines has been missing for nearly two weeks from the Santa Maria Raceway.

That will change Saturday when action picks up at the track on the north side of the Santa Maria River.

Things will really kick into high gear next weekend when, on Saturday, July 29, the Raceway stages its first AMA (American Motorcycle Association) Speedway Motorcycle National Championship.

After a full night of racing on July 8, the Raceway was dark last week — quiet so it wouldn’t conflict with the Santa Barbara County Fair.

They’re taking the coming weekend off from racing, too, because of Paso Robles’ Mid-State Fair but there will still be plenty of action on the track.

“We’re holding a Funday/Practice Day Saturday,” said Raceway Event Director and General Manager David Castaneda. “We’ve invited Mini Dwarf Kart drivers to come out for some practice Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. then later, from 4 until 8 p.m. we’ll have an open practice for our regular Raceway drivers.”

The big news is the AMA Speedway Motorcycle National Championship racing.

“We now have three tracks on the Raceway grounds,” said Castanada. “We have our 1/3-mile dirt track and our 1/10-mile Kart track in the infield. We’ve now added a 300-meter motorcycle track that we built specially for the AMA motorcycles.”

The new motorcycle track has a decomposed asphalt surface, exactly like the ones found on the European racing circuit.

“We made it a European style track specifically for the AMA,” said Castanada. “This way our American racers can get qualified for European racing."

The top AMA racers actually spend about eight months of the year over in Europe, competing in top leagues in Poland, Sweden, Denmark and England.

The USA team is unique in that it is the only country that has to fly in riders for the competition. In previous years the majority of the five-man team has been European based with only one or two US based riders flown in to make up the squad. Traditionally the US based riders have had a hard time making an impact.

This year, the Americans are making a significant dent in the European superiority and now four of the five members of the US team are Americans. England’s Ricky Wells is the only non-American.

“We had AMA officials out here when we built the motorcycle track last year. After a few successful events last season, Santa Maria was approved to host its first AMA Championship event this year,” said Castanada.

The races will be the second round of four races in the national series.

Castanada says the top 16 national racers will be coming.

We have seven-time national champion Billy Janniro coming,” said Castanada. “Janniro is currently three points behind Round 1 winner Luke Becker, who will also be here. Among the other top racers will be Gino Manzares, Broc Nicol and Dillon Ruml.”

In addition to the AMA series, the night will also feature Extreme Sidecar racing.

“I think Extreme Sidecars are the most fun,” said Castanada. “It’s not really a sidecar, at least not what you’d think of when you think of a sidecar. You have a driver and a ‘hanger’. The hanger does just that.

"He’s riding on a metal plate that’s attached to the sidecar. He has to hang way out, just inches off the ground to counterbalance the driver and motorcycle.”

The program will be filled out with Vintage Speedway Bikes, Pit Bikes, Speedway Junior motorcycles, a kids division with motorbikes that have between 50cc and 85cc engines and a Run-What-You-Brung amateur division.

“Anyone can come out, bring their dirt bike, helmet and some safety gear and go for it,” said Castanada. “It’s really going to be a fun day.”

“The success of our program has culminated in this event,” said Raceway promoter Mike Kappmeyer in an email to the Times. “We look forward to hosting the AMA Nationals this year and in the future.”

“This is a very important event for our area and we will have a great track for these riders to run, and a great event for our fans,” said Castaneda. “We can’t wait.”

Gates open for the AMA Speedway National Championship Round 2 at 4 p.m. with racing starting at 5 p.m.

Adult tickets are $22. Tickets for children age six to 12 are $6 with children five and-under admitted for free.

Free camping (no hookups) is available by reservation. Call (805) 245-3585 to reserve a camping spot.

For more information, visit the Raceway website at

Elliott Stern is the Sports Editor for the Santa Maria Times. If you have a story idea or photos that you would like to share, you can email him or connect with him on Twitter @SMTSidelines


Senior Sports Reporter