Motor Racing / Shav Glick : Ward Tries to Start and Finish Series With Wins

Jeff Ward hopes to start one motocross season with a win Saturday night at Anaheim Stadium and then conclude another with a win Sunday afternoon at Carlsbad Raceway.

“It will keep me busy, but I’m looking forward to both races,” Ward said. “I’m in the best shape of my career and one race will help the other. Especially if I win.”

The 2-time national Camel Supercross champion from Mission Viejo will be opening his bid for a third title in the stadium series when he rolls his 250cc Kawasaki to the line Saturday night in the Coors Extra Gold Super Challenge. That’s the opening event of a $500,000, 15-race American Motorcyclist Assn. schedule that will pay $50,000 to its champion.

Sunday, in the Continental Motosport Club’s Golden State Nationals, Ward will attempt to make a clean sweep of the 4-race winter series on the track made famous as the site of the United States Grand Prix for many years. Ward won his third straight Golden State moto last Sunday at Sunrise Cycle Park in Adelanto, clinching the series championship. Earlier, he had won at Glen Helen Park in San Bernardino and Sandhill Ranch, near Stockton.


“There’s a big difference in riding in a stadium and outdoors, but at the start of a season it’s important to get used to riding at racing speeds, with other guys on the track,” he said. “You can practice all you want, but racing is totally different. I feel I’ll get a lot out of the Golden State series because of that. I’d rather make a mistake and fall down there than have it happen at Anaheim.”

Ward has used the Golden State Nationals as a successful tuneup before, having won the CMC 125cc class in 1984 en route to the AMA national outdoor 125cc championship the same year.

Brad Lackey, who won the world 500cc championship in 1982 on a Suzuki, also used the Golden State Nationals as a prep that year. After winning the California series he went to Europe and became the only American to win the world 500cc title.

At Anaheim, Ward will be challenging his longtime nemesis, Honda factory rider Rick Johnson of El Cajon, the defending Supercross and Anaheim champion. Ward and Johnson have won the last 4 Supercross titles, Ward in 1985 and 1987, Johnson in 1986 and 1988. Johnson has also won 5 outdoor championships, the 250cc in 1984, 1986 and 1987 and the 500cc in 1987 and 1988.

Only Bob (Hurricane) Hannah, who won Supercross titles in 1977, ’78 and ’79, has won more stadium motos than Ward or Johnson.

“The ankle I dislocated late last season is feeling pretty good,” Ward said. “I don’t have complete mobility, but I keep it taped tight and if I watch how I land off jumps and use my knees more, it doesn’t bother me. I’ve been working out harder than ever to be in top shape for the first (stadium) race and I’m really looking forward to it.

“Last year, I started the season with one ankle pretty sore from an injury late in 1987 and still I was only 9 points behind Johnson with 2 races to go when I hurt the other ankle and had to quit. If I could have won those last 2, I had a good shot at catching Johnson. I want to get out of that second-place rut I was in last year.”

Ward finished second in 7 successive main events last year, 6 times behind Johnson. When he missed the final 2 races, Ward dropped to third as his Kawasaki teammate, Ron Lechien, finished second. Ward came back later in the year and won his second outdoor 250cc championship. He previously had won it in 1985.

The format for Saturday night will be 3 heats, 2 semis, a last-chance qualifier for 1 spot--all 8 laps--and a 20-lap main event for 21 riders in the championship 250cc class, plus a modified program for 125cc riders.

Ward is starting his 11th season with Kawasaki and although this is the final year of his contract he hopes to remain with the Japanese manufacturer.

“I’ve been with them so long that the people down at Kawasaki are like my family,” he said. “We’ve had a great relationship and that’s one reason I want to have a championship season this year, to finish off one contract a winner and then get a new one.”

OFF-ROAD--The Gordon family, father Bob and son Robby, will begin defense of desert racing championships Saturday when the 16th annual Parker 400 opens the High Desert Racing Assn./SCORE International championship series near Parker, Ariz.

Bob, driving a Chevrolet-powered single-seater, is defending overall winner of the Parker 400. Robby, driving a Ford truck, is defending series champion. Last Saturday night, with 64,948 looking on at Anaheim Stadium, the younger Gordon won his debut in a Toyota pickup in the stadium sports truck class.

The Parker race, limited to 500 vehicles by the Bureau of Land Management, will start at 8:30 a.m. from Vidal Junction, west of Parker.

COPPER CLASSIC--Four classes of racing cars--midgets, supermodifieds, champ cars and stock cars--will compete this weekend in the 12th Skoal Bandit Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway. . . . Bob Frey, the only 4-time winner in the event’s history, will double up in the United States Auto Club’s Valvoline Silver Crown series 50-miler for champ cars and the USAC/Jolly Rancher 25-miler for midgets. All of Frey’s wins have been in sprint cars, but that class was replaced this year by the Silver Crown division. . . . Finals in all classes will be held Sunday. A. J. Foyt, who won the first race at PIR in 1964, will drive a Chevy Camaro in the 40-mile stock car race.

FORMULA ONE--The United States Grand Prix, left without a home when Detroit switched to Indy cars, will be run June 4 through the streets of downtown Phoenix. The Phoenix city council signed a 5-year contract with Bernie Ecclestone, executive vice president for the Formula One governing body. The city is committed to an expenditure of $2.9 million for the first race.

IROC--Indy car drivers Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan and Al Unser Jr., and Winston Cup stock car drivers Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt, have been named for the 12-driver Budweiser International Race of Champions series, which will start Feb. 17 at Daytona Beach, Fla. Unser is defending champion in the 4-race series for identically prepared Chevy Camaros.

AWARDS--Carroll Shelby, 66, received the Golden Gear award for “advancing excellence of the automobile” by the Washington Automotive Press Assn. Shelby, a former driver, developed the Cobra sports car for Ford in 1962 and subsequently designed specially-prepared Mustangs and more recently, Dodges, at his plant in Whittier.

NEWSWORTHY--The family of the late Jim Hurtubise extends its appreciation the floral tributes, sympathy cards and Mass cards.