Off-Road Gran Prix : Roger Mears Wins Easily After His Streak Is Ended

Times Staff Writer

Roger Mears saw his all-race winning streak broken by Jeff Huber in a a 3-lap trophy dash Saturday night, but there was no stopping the Bakersfield veteran and his Nissan pickup in the 12-lap main event of Mickey Thompson's final Off-Road Gran Prix at the L.A. County Fairgrounds.

Mears won his fourth straight main event in a runaway manner before a turnaway crowd of more than 15,000. He started in the second row but before the leaders reached the second turn, Mears had his truck in front to stay. Despite a futile chase by Ivan Stewart and Steve Millen in a pair of Toyotas, Mears appeared superior in every respect. His $200,000 Electramotive Engineering truck was more nimble in bounding over the rough bumps, faster down the straightaway and sailed farther off the catapult-like rise at the start-finish line.

While trying to catch Huber's Ford pickup in the trophy dash, Mears had one flying leap that measured 80 feet before the Nissan came clattering down barely in time to negotiate the first turn. Before losing the trophy dash, Mears had won seven straight races at Pomona.

"I've never driven anything that takes off like that truck," Mears said. "A couple of times it got so high in the air that the front wheels started coming up and I couldn't see where I was going. I just hoped I'd hit about where I was aiming when I took off."

In the trophy dash, he was shuffled to the rear of the four-truck field when he missed a gear at the start. By the time he caught and passed Stewart and Millen, there was not enough time left to catch the front-running Huber.

Mears came back to score an easy win in his heat, but Huber was not so fortunate in his. Huber was leading when he became tangled in lapped traffic and this gave Millen a chance to move into the lead. As Millen crossed the finish line, his left rear fender fell off.

The enthusiastic crowd which jammed the Fairgrounds grandstand sat in on what was destined to be the season finale for the tight little course built inside the Fairgrounds' half-mile horse racing track.

The move from the Fairgrounds after three years was necessitated when work was begun to enlarge the horse racing track to accommodate night harness racing.

Scheduled races, instead of being held at Pomona, will be at the National Orange Show Stadium in San Bernardino on June 22 and Sept. 14. The fifth race in the Thompson series is July 20 at the Coliseum, where the first closed course was held in 1979.

"We hope that next year, when the new race track is completed, that we'll be back at Pomona," Thompson said, "but the one I'm looking forward to this year is the Coliseum. We've learned so much since '79 that I think it will be the best show we've ever put on."

The Orange Show course will be unique in that it will combine dirt and portions of the quarter-mile asphalt oval.

"I'm kind of looking forward to running on the Orange Show track," Mears said. "I raced midgets there a few years ago, but it'll be something entirely new when we get there with these trucks."

In a battle of the Arciero family, Frank capitalized on brother Al's misfortune to win the unlimited single seater main event. Al grabbed the early lead only to have his engine fail on lap 5. Frank took over at that point and was an easy winner over Greg George and Pancho Weaver. Former motocross champion Marty Tripes was an early challenger but he dropped out with a flat tire.

Craig Durfee, in the Ultra Stock class, and Tom Pries, in the Odysseys, were runaway winners in their finals.

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