Motor Racing : Faria Enters Speedway Nationals at Costa Mesa on a Hot Streak


There have been years when speedway motorcycle rider Mike Faria did everything right all season long, then fell short in the United States Nationals.

This season things have pretty much gone all wrong for the 30-year-old rider from Colton, but Saturday night on the tiny Orange County Fairgrounds oval at Costa Mesa, Faria may have his best chance yet to win the elusive national championship.

Faria will go into the nationals on a month-long hot streak.

He won the three-race Budweiser series at Speedway USA in Victorville, sweeping the card on the final night. Then he won the Ascot track championship for the second year in a row. And last Saturday night, he won the California State title at San Bernardino.


“I hope it’s a trend,” Faria said. “I know I can do it. I’ve had my chances before but I’ve always had mishaps. Somehow I always came up short, but that’s the way racing is.”

In 1985, Faria was deadlocked with Alan Christian going into the final round of heats. If each won his heat, there would be a runoff for the championship. Faria started in the second position, just outside Mike Curoso, who was out of the running.

“We went into the first corner together and he kept coming out on me,” Faria said. “When he ran into me, it derailed my chain and I went down. But because I was the only one down, there was no restart. It was a terribly disappointing moment at the time.”

The three points Faria lost there not only cost him a runoff with Christian, the eventual winner, but dropped him back to third place.

Faria also finished second in the 1982 nationals to Shawn Moran and in 1983 to Kelly Moran.

“It always seemed when the night was over, I was a point or two short,” Faria said.

Before this season, Faria was the leading point winner on Southern California tracks for four of the last five seasons. In 1985 he was second to Steve Lucero.


“This has not been a good year,” he said. “It started off badly when a friend dropped his helmet on me and knocked my teeth out. And then I fractured my shoulder in June at Ascot and was out for a month. Even when I got back, I wasn’t feeling right for a long time.”

The incident resulting in broken teeth occured at Costa Mesa.

“A friend rode his bike to the track to watch me, and he was up in the stands, leaning over the rail when I came in,” Faria said.

“He said, ‘Here Mike, take my helmet,’ but I was cleaning my goggles. I raised my hand and told him to wait a minute, but when he saw my hand he thought I was taking his helmet and he let go. It hit me right on the nose and knocked some teeth out.”

Faria would particularly like to win Saturday night to gain some leverage in signing with a British Speedway League team next year.

“I’ve never ridden in Europe for a season and I would like to give it a chance,” he said. “But it’s like everything else when you have a family. You have to go where the grass is greener. I’ve ridden over there in a couple of Overseas Finals and in a test match for the U.S. and I think the atmosphere is really great. I know it makes Americans better riders when they go to England because they race all season against the best in the world.

“When you stay home, you race against some really good riders but they’re the same ones every night and you tend to reach a plateau and stay there. I think a season in England would make me a much better rider.”


Faria’s chief rivals Saturday night figure to be defending champion Bobby (Boogaloo) Schwartz, who also was high-point man this season on Southern California’s four tracks, and Kelly Moran, a two-time U.S. champion who spent the year riding in England.

Moran is a replacement for Sam Ermolenko, the American Speedway Final winner and third-place finisher in the recent World Championships in Amsterdam. Ermolenko broke his arm and injured a leg in a spill three weeks ago in Denmark.

The most important of Saturday night’s 20 heats may be the first one. It will have Bob Ott, last year’s state champion, on the pole, with Faria No. 2, Moran No. 3 and Schwartz No. 4.

“There’s nothing like starting off against the best,” Faria said. “I wouldn’t have believed it but I was there when the 16 names were put in a hat and we drew for position. Everybody better get there early. The first heat could be the decider.”

In the nationals, each rider is in five heats, racing every other rider once.

ROAD RACING--Chip Robinson, who replaced owner Al Holbert as primary driver of Holbert’s Porsche this season, can clinch the International Motor Racing Assn.’s Camel GT championship Sunday at Columbus, Ohio, by at least staying close to Price Cobb, his nearest pursuer, in the Ford Dealers 500. All Robinson needs is to finish one position behind Cobb to collect the $100,000 championship prize. If he fails, he will get another chance in the season finale Oct. 25 at Del Mar. . . . Chris Cord, 47, of Beverly Hills, and Tom Kendall, 20, of La Canada, clinched the GTO and GTU championships, respectively, with second-place finishes last Sunday at Watkins Glen, N.Y. Cord, who took over Dan Gurney’s Toyota Celica Turbo after Dennis Aase was injured while testing the car, won his first title. For Kendall, who drove a Mazda RX-7, the championship was his second straight.

STOCK CARS--The NASCAR Southwest tour will race Saturday night on Cajon Speedway’s 3/8-mile paved oval as the El Cajon track ends its season. Dennis Dyer of Palmdale was a surprise winner last April at Cajon. The favorites Saturday night are Ron Esau of El Cajon, a former track champion and defending Southwest tour champion; Mike Chase of Reno, who holds a 45-point lead over Roman Calczynski of Sepulveda, and Rick Carelli of Denver, who was leading last April’s race when he was involved in a wreck 13 laps from the finish. All drive Chevrolets. The Southwest tour will end Nov. 7 at Riverside. . . . Factory stocks will compete in a 150-lap enduro Saturday night at Saugus Speedway, followed by a destruction derby. . . . Ascot will hold an international enduro for foreign and domestic stock cars Sunday night. It will be 150 laps on the road course for 99 starters.


MOTORCYCLES--The Police International Olympics road race will be held Sunday at Willow Springs Raceway with 100 officers from 15 countries racing 10 laps on the 2.5-mile road course in Rosamond. Qualifying will be held Friday. Defending champion is Rick Williams, a patrolman from Apache Junction, Ariz., who edged out Marc Granie of France. Also on Sunday’s program will be a Formula USA race, featuring defending champion Earl Roloff and Yoshimura-Suzuki factory rider Scott Gray.

SPRINT CARS--Former California Racing Assn. champion Eddie Wirth, who won his fourth race in five starts last week in Phoenix, will return to Ascot Park Saturday night for a Parnelli Jones Firestone/CRA series race. Only Stan Atherton, who has replaced the retired Bubby Jones in Bruce Bromme’s Nance, broke Wirth’s streak. Defending champion Brad Noffsinger moved 16 points ahead of Mike Sweeney in season standings.

CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE--Three famous French Grand Prix cars will be on display Sunday at the Newport Beach Concours d’Elegance at Aldrich Park on the UC Irvine campus. The cars, a 1913 three-liter Peugeot, 1919 Indy 500 Ballot and 1927 1.5-liter Delage, are owned by Tommy Milton III, grandson of the two-time Indy 500 winner. This will be the final Southern California appearance of the cars, which have been in the Briggs Cunningham Museum at Costa Mesa. The museum is being moved to Naples, Fla.