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U.S. Riders Chosen in Political Process

June 03, 1993|SHAV GLICK

The North American Speedway Qualifier, scheduled for last Saturday night at the Speedway USA track in Victorville, was canceled at the last minute, forcing the American Motorcyclist Assn. to handpick its five American riders for the countdown to the World Individual Final.

The five riders who will compete in the Overseas Final on June 13 at Coventry, England, are Sam Ermolenko of Cypress, Greg Hancock of Huntington Beach, Ronnie Correy of Fullerton, Bob Ott of Torrance and Billy Hamill of Monrovia. All were members of the U.S. squad that won the World Team championship last September in Kumla, Sweden.

All are also riding in Europe, although Hamill is dividing his time between the Southern California circuit and league competition in Sweden and Poland. The others are regular members of the British Speedway League.

The cancellation developed from a conflict between the Speedway Racing Assn.--which sanctions competition at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, Glen Helen Park in San Bernardino, Lake Perris and Speedway USA--and the AMA, which is the sanctioning body for international events staged in the United States.

"The riders and other promoters felt it was in the better interest of the SRA that we not race under AMA sanction," said Gene Woods, Speedway USA promoter. "As a group, we will seek to join the FIM (world sanctioning body) before next year's race. This is two years in a row we have not had an American qualifier. It isn't fair for Southern California riders who stay home not to have a chance at the world championship.

"I have no quarrel with the five riders chosen, but it would have been fairer if they won their chance in competition, instead of being selected by the AMA."

Last year, the qualifier was scheduled for Ventura Raceway before it was canceled by Harry Oxley, the event promoter, in a dispute with the AMA over finances.

The big loser in the selection is Chris Manchester, the United States champion from Hesperia. The lack of an American qualifying race also deprived such veterans as former U.S. champions Brad Oxley, Mike Faria, Bob Schwartz and Steve Lucero of an opportunity to race for the world championship.

Two of the nominated riders, Ermolenko and Correy, rode in the World Final last year at Warsaw, Poland, along with Rick Miller of Reseda, who has retired after 10 years of riding in England. Ermolenko, who was in his sixth World Final, crashed in his fourth heat and finished eighth. Correy finished 12th.

Gary Havelock of Great Britain will be the defending champion when this year's final is held Aug. 28 at Poking, Germany.


Ron Hornaday Jr.'s streak of three consecutive NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour victories was ended by fellow Saugus Speedway alum Bob Lyon last week, but Hornaday, a Palmdale veteran, will be back Saturday night at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, looking to extend his lead in the All-American Challenge series for late model stock cars.

Hornaday retained a 1,098-1,059 lead over Doug George with an eighth place finish at Tucson Raceway Park. Lyon, a former Winston Racing Series driver from Newhall, ended an 84-race winless streak by bringing his Chevrolet home in front of rookie Jim Inglebright by 0.06 seconds--equaling the closest finish in Southwest Tour history.

Saturday night's Coca-Cola 100 on Mesa Marin's half-mile paved oval will be race No. 8 in the Southwest Tour.

Motor Racing Notes

OFF ROAD--The course for the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 has been radically altered because of recent rain in Baja California that wiped out several existing roads. The race will start Saturday near Ojos Negros, 25 miles east of Ensenada, and will end at Santo Tomas, 28 miles south of Ensenada. The change has cut the distance from 500 to 441 miles and also eliminated the ceremonial start in downtown Ensenada. Motocross and stadium off-road veteran Rick Johnson will make his Baja debut in one of John Nelson's Class 8 trucks.

SPRINT CARS--The Budweiser Golden State Challenge series for winged sprint cars will make its final appearance of the season at Santa Maria Speedway on Saturday night. Steve Kent of Fresno has won three of the first six races. . . . The California Racing Assn. is taking a couple of weeks off to recuperate from its Midwestern tour. Davey Hamilton of Boise, Ida., won last week at Tucson, where Lealand McSpadden won his 115th heat, moving past Jimmy Oskie as No. 2 in the CRA. Dean Thompson is the all-time heat winner with 123. The CRA's next race is June 19 at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix.

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