Hall and Pagnossin forge friendship at Hannegan

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 7, 2014 

14 Racing HALLS

Brandon Hall (724) tries to get ahead of two riders on the first turn during his race at Hannegan Speedway Thursday June 30, 2011 in Bellingham.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

The kinship between Brandon Hall and Tyler Pagnossin originated not at Hannegan Speedway, but on a dirt mound in a backyard nearly 10 years ago.

Hall, 16, and Pagnossin, 17, had no choice but to grow up together. It was a decision made for them given the tight relationship between their parents, and the two were already riding their bikes alongside one another at the age of 6 and 7, respectively.

"We've been friends since we were born," Pagnossin said in a phone interview.

Added Hall: "I started going to his house every single day when I was 3 years old."

Not much has changed since then, Hall said, other than the size of the bikes and the pile of dirt they now call a track.

Both Hall and Pagnossin basically grew up at Hannegan Speedway, starting racing there in the 9-11 age division seven years ago. And ever since then, the two have been mainstays at the track, again embarking on another season when Hannegan opens on Thursday, May 8. The two will compete in the 450 B and Open B classes together, furthering the already-vast amount of races they've competed in.

But to call them competitors isn't necessarily accurate, both said. A rivalry, despite the countless amounts of races they've waged with one another, doesn't exist.

"I'd never shove him high in a corner. Too good a friend to mess with," Hall said. "What it comes down to is riding with your best friend. ... I don't think there have been more than five races I haven't raced against him."

Like a routine that is better left undisturbed, Pagnossin said the two prepare for races together, line up next to one each other in the blocks to only then dissect their performances afterward.

It's always been that way, regardless of the difficulties the sport has presented the two, and it's presented a fair share to both.

Pagnossin tore his ACL last season, and Hall broke his arm a few years back during a training run. Upon breaking his arm, Hall, in making his walk away off the track, passed Pagnossin and offered a few words of encouragement.

Although it turns out that the two are more in-tuned with one another than seems possible.

"I said 'You better not wreck tonight. You better win,'" Hall remembered. "Dad got a call that he just totally wrecked in the whoops. Don't wreck and go win, and sure enough he wrecks."

That memory sparked a laugh between the two, albeit their opportunities for such moments like that are becoming less and less.

Both acknowledged their years at Hannegan are coming to an end.

"Mostly for myself, you start to realize that racing isn't going to last forever, especially when you move on from high school and go to college," said Hall, who attends Ferndale High School.

And yet the anticipation for Thursday's is still ever present for both.

"You can't focus all day long," Hall said. "All you think about is getting to the track at night while sitting in school Thursday."

Pagnossin, despite having an overall-season championship under his belt, said he still feels the nerves course through him before competition. What calms him down? Looking to his friend right beside him.

HANNEGAN CELEBRATES 40 YEARS

The dirt at Hannegan Speedway has been rustled and torn for decades.

Ryan Garr, the motocross chairman at Hannegan, has been around for many of them, both as an orchestrator and as a competitor. He's seen the track become a mainstay in the community, offering spectators an experience that is created solely by those who seek nothing in return.

"The club is ran by all volunteers. ... It's always been that way," Garr, 31, said in a phone interview. "They put everything into that track. If we had to pay those people, we wouldn't be able to survive."

Garr acknowledged the volunteer-based work force has saved Hannegan from suffering the same fate several of its fellow tracks have through tough economic climate.

And yet what continues to motivate him, personally, to willfully give his time is the memories he had with his father - the same memories Hall and Pagnossin have been building for years together.

"Most of my memories were from growing up out there, and dad would pick me up after school Tuesday and Wednesday and we would head out there," Garr said. "He'd be working on the track."

Hannegan hasn't been completely unaffected by the economic climate of the past several years, seeing its fan base slowly dwindle. That's been difficult, Hall said, his memories trekking back to when he was a young boy looking out to a packed grandstands.

"It's a little bit heartbreaking to see the rider count go down every year a little bit," Hall said. "Lots of people would come to watch. It's kind of declined. I want more than anything for the place to pick back up every Thursday night. ... You just want everyone to be there."

Garr, who once considered a return to the track as a racer, has come to believe that it's in the best interest for the track that he continues in his role as motocross chairman. It's where he believes he can make the most impact so that Hannegan doesn't become a financial casualty like so many other tracks have.

Other motives are present, too, for Garr, like one day seeing his children ride on the track he now calls a home.

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.

HANNEGAN SPEEDWAY OPENING NIGHT

When: 5 p.m., Thursday, May 8

Where: Hannegan Speedway

Prices: $8 for general admission. Children ages 5 and under are free.

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