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Speedway Motorcycle Racing American Final : Shawn Moran, Broken Ankle and All, Leads Qualifiers

Times Staff Writer

Shawn Moran looked like one of “Jerry’s Kids” as he stood for the rider introductions Saturday night at the American Final of speedway motorcycle racing in Long Beach Veterans Stadium.

The 24-year-old rider from Huntington Beach had broken his right ankle only nine days ago and hobbled around with the aid of crutches. But once the racing started, the competition seemed to be just what the doctor ordered.

Moran scored 14 points in five heat races before 9,500 fans to win the first world-championship qualifying round for American riders.

Lance King, Sam Ermolenko and Bobby Schwartz tied for second with 13 points, and King won a four-lap runoff to finish second.

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Ermolenko was second in the runoff to finish third and Schwartz was fourth. Kelly Moran, Shawn’s older brother, scored 11 points and was fifth. The top five riders advance to the Overseas Final on June 29 in Coventry, England.

Moran was wearing a boot that was sliced from the top to the sole so that a specially-fitted fiberglass cast could be squeezed into the boot. He then taped the cast to his riding boot. The injury didn’t seem to bother him, but then Moran seems to perform at his best under adverse conditions.

Only three years ago, Moran became the first American rider to win the World Long Track title despite racing with a broken leg. He previously qualified for the World Final in 1984 in Sweden.

Moran was the only undefeated rider at intermission, thanks to an assist from his brother. The two combined to hold off Miller in the eighth heat to finish first and second.

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When Shawn came back to win the tenth heat race, he had a perfect score of nine points. Schwartz was next at eight points after he was upset in his third ride of the night by journeyman Keith Chrisco. Chrisco was riding a bike that he recently bought from Dennis Sigalos, who has retired after winning the American Final in 1982 and 1983.

The hard-luck rider of the night was John Cook, who won the qualifier last year with a perfect score of 15 points. Cook fell in his second race trying to catch Schwartz and then experienced engine problems in his next ride. He failed to score a point in either race.

He also crashed in his final race of the evening and finished with a disappointing five points. Miller also failed to qualify by scoring only nine points.

The third heat race was the most exciting of the night. Kelly Moran got a good start and held off a hard-driving Ermolenko to gain the win.

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