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.