Speedway motorcyclist Alan Christian, known as "the king of Costa Mesa", finally took the throne Saturday night at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.
Christian, with an assist from journeyman rider Mike Curoso, won the U.S. Championship with 14 points before 8,971 fans. Bobby Schwartz was second with 12 points and Mike Faria third with 11.
Christian, 29, of Huntington Beach, was tied with Faria with 11 points after four rounds, and it appeared that the title might be decided by a runoff for only the second time in the 18-year history of the event.
Christian won his final ride to finish with 14 points and then watched Faria tangle with Curoso in his last ride, lose his chain and finish last in the four-lap race.
The turnaround dropped Faria to third place and left Christian as the champion. So finally, the rider who once won 13 consecutive scratch main events on the tricky, 190-yard track had the elusive title.
"This was way overdue," Christian said. "I took the same attitude tonight that I have all season. Whatever happened was going to happen.
"I never prepped a bike for a race like I did for tonight's race. I took apart every nut and bolt before the race and felt I was ready. I also got a little luck for a change."
Christian had finished second twice and third in the event and finally stood on top of the rostrum at the end of 20 heat races. Faria had also finished second on two occasions and was bitterly disappointed at the finish.
Faria: "Mike (Curoso) kept hitting me on the first turn in my last race, and then I threw my chain. I'm really disappointed. I figured on winning that race and then taking my chances in a runoff."
Schwartz was another rider who figured to have a good chance at winning his first championship. He won his first three races, but then spun out in his fourth ride and failed to earn a point.
It was also a bad night for the favorites. Kelly Moran, two-time defending champion, was never factor, finishing with only six points. Sam Ermolenko, who was third in the world championship in August, finished tied for fifth with Lance King and John Sandona with nine points.