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Off-Road Gran Prix : Millen Wins the Title but Is Upstaged by a Youngster

September 14, 1986|PAT RAY | Times Staff Writer

SAN BERNARDINO — It seems unlikely that a driver can win both the feature race and the series championship and still be upstaged.

But that is exactly what happened to Steve Millen Saturday night in Mickey Thompson's Off-Road Gran Prix before 12,133 fans at the Orange Show Fairgrounds.

Millen drove his Toyota truck to a wire-to-wire victory in the 10-lap main event, wrapping up the season's championship with one race remaining. But the driver of the hour was 17-year-old Rob Gordon, who was competing in only his eighth off-road race and his second closed-course event.

Gordon, a senior at El Modena High School, scored his second major victory in a week in the co-featured race for super 1,600 buggys.

Last Sunday, driving with Frank Arciero Jr., Gordon was the overall winner in the Frontier 500 at Las Vegas.

In Saturday night's race, Gordon did what many teen-agers do: He asked to borrow his father's car.

It should be mentioned that Dad, in this case, is Bob Gordon, who won this championship last year.

"I told my Dad that in the Riverside race my car was underpowered," Rob Gordon said, "and he said, 'I'll sit this one out, and we will see what you can do in mine.'

"I missed a shift in my heat and had to settle for second place, but it put me just where I wanted to be in the feature, on the pole."

Gordon wasted no time jumping into the lead and pulled away from the field. David Bonner of Orange was second, and Brad Castle of Bellflower was third.

In the truck feature, Millen, who started from the pole, jumped into the lead and was never headed as he defeated Glenn Harris in a Mazda and Ivan Stewart, Millen's Toyota teammate.

While Millen had an easy time of it, defending series champion Roger Mears of Bakersfield had nothing but problems with his Nissan.

Mears, who hasn't won a race in the series this year, had to start last in the field. In attempting to charge through the other vehicles, he rolled his machine over on the seventh lap.

After the vehicle was righted, Mears charged off again, only to take a hard flip just after the infield jump, with his truck winding upside down on the guard rail.

Despite the hard landing, Mears escaped with only bruises and a bump on his head.

Main event winners in the other classes were Eddie Brown in Odyssey, Jimmy White in 3-wheel ATV, Vince Tjelmeland in Ultrastock and Ray Cook in 4-wheel ATV.

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