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American Speedway Final : Ermolenko Doesn't Lose Count and Advances to Next Round

June 14, 1987|TOM HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

Imagine how surprised speedway motorcyclist Sam Ermolenko was when he wheelied across the finish line at Long Beach Veterans Stadium Saturday night with what he thought was a victory in his last heat race, only to see starter Jerry King wave the white flag.

Ermolenko thought he had won the race on the quarter-mile track, giving him 19 points and the overall victory in the Nissan American Final in front of an estimated crowd of 8,000.

Did Ermolenko lose count of the four-lap race and prematurely celebrate? Or did King simply wave the wrong flag?

Fortunately for Ermolenko, it was King who lost count. Ermolenko scored 19 out of a possible 20 points to win the first qualifying round that leads to the world championship of speedway. Kelly Moran was second with 18 points, and there was a five-man runoff for the remaining three qualifying berths.

Rick Miler, Mike Faria, Robert Pfetzing, John Cook and Lance King all finished with 15 points after five rides, and a four-lap runoff was called to see who would advance to the next round in Bradford, England, on July 5.

John Cook won the runoff with Faria making a late charge to finish second with Pfetzing third. Miller was a distant fourth, and King fell on the first lap and failed to finish.

That meant that three Southern California riders--Cook, Faria and Pfetzing--will be in the field for the Overseas Final on July 5, a surprising turn of events in a race that is generally dominated by Americans who ride overseas in the British Speedway League.

Three of the favorites--Shawn Moran, Bobby Schwartz and King--failed to advance.

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