Sam Ermolenko may never go back to his No. 1 motorcycle again.
After winning the first three races of the U.S. Masters Speedway motorcycle race at Carlsbad Raceway on Sunday night, Ermolenko’s main bike developed mechanical problems.
But Ermolenko, ranked third in the world, used his backup bike for his remaining two heats of the evening. And his second-string bike led him to a victory. Ermolenko had 15 points, one better than Steve Lucero’s 14. Lucero was coming off a win at the California State Championships at San Bernardino on Saturday night, while Ermolenko was second.
But Ermolenko wound up on top at Carlsbad. Each driver raced in five heats, getting three points for a first-place finish, two for second and one for third. Ermolenko was the only racer to compile a perfect score.
“Obviously, my second bike worked really well,” Ermolenko said. “But I thought my No. 1 bike would be better for this track. Usually my bikes go five or six races before they start having problems. And this one (his top bike) had four or five races on it.”
Ermolenko trailed Lucero, 14-12, going into the final heat. He needed a win to beat Lucero, and didn’t waste any time getting a jump on the competition. Ermolenko passed Lance King at the first corner, then led the rest of the race.
Ermolenko was confident after beating Mike Faria, one of the top drivers in the field, in his fourth race. They exchanged the lead for the first two laps, then Ermolenko overtook Faria on the third turn.
Dub Ferrell finished third to Ermolenko in the 16th event, the fourth heat for both drivers. The 31 year-old Ferrell, who has been involved in speedway racing since 1969, came out of retirement six months ago.
“I told myself I was going to do this,” Ferrell said. “I just got the bug to do it.”
Does Ferrell feel ancient, competing against a bunch of people in their late teens or early 20s?
“I feel like an old man sometimes,” he said. “But when I’m racing, I think I’m young.”