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Speedway Bikes : Cook Records Perfect 5 for 5 in U.S. Final

Times Staff Writer

Only six years ago, speedway motorcyclist John Cook of Roseville, Calif., had reached a dead-end in his attempt to launch a racing career in the British Speedway League.

Cook had failed to reach the five-point minimum average for foreign riders in the league in his rookie season at Hull. He had been denied a work permit to compete in the league after averaging only 3.65 points (out of a possible 12) in each meeting.

But three-time world champion Barry Briggs convinced British racing promoters that Cook deserved another chance after he won the U.S. Long Track championship at Ascot Park during the offseason.

Given a second chance, Cook, now 23, has developed into one of the top riders overseas and showed Saturday night that he’s equally good at home by winning the Nissan American Final in front of 11,500 fans at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach.

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Cook won all five of his heat races to finish with 15 points and became the fourth consecutive rider to win the event with a perfect score. Dennis Sigalos won with 15 points in 1982 and 1983 and Bobby Schwartz turned the trick last year.

Sam Ermolenko, the leading points rider in Southern California this year, finished second with 13 points and Shawn Moran was third with 12 points. Four riders--Schwartz, Rick Miller, Lance King and Kelly Moran--finished in a tie for fourth with 11 points.

The 16 riders were competing for five berths in the next qualifying round on July 14 at Bradford, England, meaning that a four-lap runoff was necessary to select the final two riders.

King, who finished third in the world championship last year, won the runoff with Miller gaining the second spot. Schwartz was third and Moran had to settle for fourth after crashing on the second lap.

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