Motor Racing / Pat Ray : Shobert Faces Must-Win Race at Ascot to Retain Grand National Title
For the last 3 years, Bubba Shobert has been the dominant rider in the American Motorcyclist Assn.'s Camel Pro Series and Grand National Championships, winning the titles and collecting close to $500,000 in bonus money.
Despite his dominance on his Honda machines, he has never won on Ascot Park’s half-mile oval. The former Texan, now of Carmel Valley, has a pretty good idea why.
“In the past, every time we came to Ascot there was really no pressure on me to win,” Shobert said. “In the fall races, we always had a good point lead and just needed to run conservative and earn the points we could earn. In the spring event, it’s too early to think about points, so I’ve never really had to win there.”
That has changed this year, and when Shobert, 26, takes to the track in Saturday’s 30th running of the half-mile national event, he will need a victory if he is to keep the coveted No. 1 plate that goes to the AMA’s Grand National champion.
With only 2 races left, Ascot and the Sacramento mile Oct. 8, Shobert trails Harley-Davidson rider Scott Parker of Swartz Creek, Mich., by 16 points in the standings, 208-192. Another Harley rider, Chris Carr of Manteca, Calif., has an outside chance at the title and will be going for his third straight victory at Ascot. Parker also had national victories at Ascot in 1982 and 1984.
Said Shobert: “With 20 points going to the winner, I almost have to win Saturday night because if Scott runs well he could shut me out before Sacramento. Even if I win and he runs second, the best I could get would be a tie if I won Sacramento and he didn’t score.”
It is a situation that Shobert figures he should not be in. Two weeks ago, at Syracuse, N.Y., Shobert crossed the finish line first, but was disqualified when his bike failed to meet the minimum weight standard by 1 1/2 pounds. With Parker failing to score, Shobert would have taken the lead, 212-208.
Shobert, who already has clinched the 1988 Camel Pro Series, which included some dirt and some road races, and the $100,000 that goes with it, has appealed the disqualification but admits that his chances are not good.
“If you take the track record of people appealing AMA rulings, it doesn’t look too good,” he said. “I feel we have a strong case, as everybody has been having troubles with the scales all year long.
“With the Honda, we already have to carry 20 more pounds than the Harleys, so we really try to play it close, but with some margin for error. We figure that we lost 4 pounds in tire wear and that was the difference. No matter, I still feel people go to see a race, not one that is decided a month later.”
So Saturday night could be the night that the real Bubba Shobert shows up at Ascot. Win or lose, it will be his final bid for the No. 1 plate, because he does not plan to run for the Grand National title next season.
“I’ve just signed with Honda again for next year, but I’ll only compete in the Camel Pro Series,” he said. “I’m going to give up running all the dirt races. It’s just too much racing.”
The announcement should put to rest rumors that Shobert would be heading for Europe next season to compete in the World 500cc series.
“I would have liked to race in Europe, but Honda of Japan was too interested. They feel they need me here,” he said.
MORE MOTORCYCLES--Bubba Shobert is battling for still another title. With only the race at Sears Point left on the schedule, he is leading the Superbike series by 8 points, 105-97, over Suzuki’s Doug Polen. . . . Motocross riders of the Continental Motorsports Club will hold their regular session at Ascot Park on Friday night. Then Sunday, CMC will run the third event of the 7-race Trans-Cal fall series at Sunrise Valley Park in Adelanto, Calif.
In Speedway competition, Lance King, former California champion, and Mike Faria, the current title holder, will return to California for the 21st annual state meet Sept. 28 at Inland Motor Speedway at Glen Helen Park in San Bernardino. Both riders spent the summer racing in the British Speedway League. Their biggest challenge figures to be Bobby Schwartz, who has been the dominant rider at almost all Southland tracks this season. Last Friday night at Costa Mesa, Schwartz emerged as the top man after the fifth and final qualifying race for the U.S. Nationals that will be held there Oct. 8. Schwartz wound up with 88 points and edged Steve Lucero by a point.
The 12 other qualifiers are: Dubb Ferrell, 61 points; Gary Hicks, 60; Billy Hamill, 55; Brad Oxley, 53; Eddie Ingels, 52; Alan Christian, 46, Bart Bast, 44; Scotty Browen, 43; Phil Collins, 38; Greg Hancock, 37; Jim Sisemore, 32 and Luis Kossuth, 31. The 2 other starters will be Sam Ermolenko and Robert Pfetzing, who earned their spots in the American Speedway Final at Long Beach in June.
Regular speedway programs are scheduled tonight at Ascot Park’s South Bay Speedway and Friday at Costa Mesa, where some of the national qualifiers who are not regulars are expected to try to get some time on the track before Oct. 8.
SPRINT CARS--The World of Outlaws’ winged sprint cars will make their annual appearance at the Santa Maria Speedway Friday and Saturday nights, with Steve Kinser of Bloomington, Ind., seeking his fourth straight victory since the series moved into California 2 weeks ago.
So far, Kinser, the defending and 8-time World of Outlaws champion, has earned top honors at Fremont and Chico, and last Wednesday night was the winner at Kings Speedway in Hanford. His leading challengers are tour regulars Bobby Davis of Memphis, Tenn.; Dave Blaney of Hartford, Ohio; the Swindell brothers, Sammy and Jeff, of Tennessee, and Andy Hillenburg of Broken Arrow, Okla.
Brent Kaeding of Campbell, Steve Kent of Fresno, Jimmy Sills of Placerville and Tim Green of Sacramento are the leading California entries in the eighth annual running of the race on the high-banked one-third mile speedway.
While the Outlaws are at Santa Maria, the wingless machines of the California Racing Assn. will be at Baylands in Fremont for programs Saturday and Sunday nights. Ron Shuman has a 70-point lead in the Parnelli Jones-Firestone season standings over runner-up Mike Sweeney. Also racing will be Walt Kennedy, who won his first race of the season last Saturday night at Ascot Park after many near misses. Kennedy’s victory also was the first for a Ford-powered machine in the CRA this season. The races will be the last for the CRA there, since the complex will close after this season.
STOCK CARS--Saugus Speedway will hold the 14th running of its Fall Spectacular Saturday night with a pair of 75-lap events for the NASCAR sportsman cars and 2 50-lap street stock races on the Figure-8 course, as well as a destruction derby. A purse of $22,120 plus $750 in lap money is posted for the sportsman drivers. Street stock drivers will be after $13,285. Dave Phipps, a 3-time Saugus sportsman champion, is among the drivers to beat. Also returning will be Jimmy Insolo, a former Saugus and Winston West champion and 4-time Spectacular winner who will be trying for a record fifth title.
Two championships will be determined in the final night of regular-season racing at Cajon Speedway Saturday night when pony, bomber and street stocks race. In the pony division, John Busath of Ramona leads Gary Hartsuyker of Santee by 35 points. In the bombers, Bob Weickey of Spring Valley holds a 175-point edge on Curt Tarasen of Ramona, who led most of the year. Jerry Gay has already wrapped up the title in the street stock division.
Hobby and mini stocks will race Friday night at Ventura Raceway. . . . About all Ron Meyer of Anaheim has to do in Sunday night’s Winston Pro Stock feature at Ascot Park is finish and he will win the championship from Riverside’s Fred Estrada. With 26 points going to the winner and a 2-point drop for each position, Meyer holds a 26-point lead. Also on the program will be the bomber, Figure 8 and oval cars, and the hobby stocks.
POWER BOATS--The unlimited hydroplanes will wrap up their 1988 season this weekend with the running of the $161,000 Budweiser Las Vegas Silver Cup on Lake Mead. Headlining the entries are Miss Budweiser, driven by Tom D’Eath; Mr. Pringles with Scott Pierce, Miller High Life with Chip Hanauer, and Oh Boy! Oberto with George Woods.
Woods’ piston-engine entry won last Sunday’s race on San Diego’s Mission Bay by default when his was the only boat to finish the final heat. In the driver standings, Pierce has a slight lead over D’Eath, whose 3-race winning streak was snapped when his boat stopped during the final heat. Miss Budweiser is the leader in boat points.
The 200-m.p.h. top-fuel drag boats will be in action Saturday and Sunday in the $23,000 Miller High Life Fall Classic races at lower Castaic Lake. Qualifying will be held Saturday, eliminations on Sunday. . . . The Western Regional Summer Finale for both amateur and professional jet skiers will be held Saturday and Sunday at Marine Stadium in Long Beach. There will be closed-course, slalom, freestyle and drag race competition.