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Sonoma County Fair flat track racing thrills riders, spectators

  • Joe Thomas competes in the Short Track Motorcycle races at Friday's Sonoma County Fair. (CONNOR JAY/ The Press Democrat)

The Friday night lights shined on Chris Beck Arena at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and amidst the smell of corn dogs and sight of neon lights on the carnival midway, the roar of motorcycles was at the forefront.

By all accounts the noise of the engines and smell of motorcycle exhaust was welcomed by fans and riders alike.

After a 30-plus year hiatus of racing at the fair, amateur and professional flat dirt track motorcycle racing was back as riders from a wide spectrum of ages guided their bikes around the one-eighth-mile track in front of several thousand appreciative fans at the Scott Sports Championship Dirt Track Series.

Short Track Races

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“Everyone is happy we restarted this event — except my wife,” event promoter Bob Bellino said with a chuckle. “We decided to restart this event because the sport is so cool. The fans here were missing it.”

The event featured riders in six different engine classes, four age classes and one vintage class battling for points and cash.

The top three engine classes — 251cc-open, 201cc-250cc and 86cc-200cc — each have A, B, and C divisions.

Bellino's Circle Bell Motorsports coordinated the races. The event was sanctioned by the Scott Sports Championship Dirt Track Series and American Motorcycle Association's District 36.

“It's a well-run event. Bob does a wonderful job. Everyone works together, even competitors,” rider Chris Baker, 49, of Petaluma said. “After 29 years out of racing I got the itch to go back into it. Racing just gets under your skin.”

Most of the riders are local, and most of the winners will only take home a trophy.

The winners of the few main professional events took home a few hundred dollars.

Clearly the event was not about winning a lot of cash, but about pride and camaraderie among the racers.

“I grew up in this town and racing was big in the 70s,” said Brian Pecor, 57, owner of the Motorcycle Shop in Santa Rosa. “To see a resurgence of racing in small venues like this makes sense for everybody.”

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