Chris Carr and Scott Parker, Harley-Davidson teammates, have dominated the American Motorcyclist Assn. Grand National dirt-track series for the last five years.
Carr edged Parker for the championship last year and is the early leader this year. Parker won the previous four championships, with Carr the runner-up three times.
Ricky Graham, 35, in his 15th season as a pro, wants to put an end to the Carr-Parker run. And he wants to do it on a Honda with no factory support.
Graham was the Grand National champion in 1982 as a Harley-Davidson privateer and in 1984 as a factory rider for Honda.
"I'm back up on a level where I can beat them," Graham said as he prepared for Saturday night's half-mile national championship race at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds. "I'm in better shape, I'm more focused and I'm looking forward to Pomona, which is one of my favorite tracks."
After three races in the 19-race series, Carr leads with 43 points to 39 for Parker and 31 for Graham. That's the same order they finished in last year.
Graham also will ride a Harley on Saturday night in the new 883 series, which combines five road races and five dirt-track events on stock Harley-Davidsons.
"I've been wanting to get into road racing and this offers me a great opportunity," Graham said. "It makes for a busy evening, riding in two classes, but I've done it before.
"The real thrill, though, is racing the factory Harleys on even terms on the dirt on my Honda."
In the 25-lap main event, Graham led 23 laps before losing at the finish to Parker.
After winning his two championships, Graham suffered from what he calls "racing burnout" and went into a slump that dropped him from contention. He hit his low point in mid-season of 1991 when he was fired by his bike owner, Skip Eaken.
"I was actually out of racing, driving around the country sightseeing in my motor home, when I got a call from Johnny Goad, who was looking for a rider," Graham said. "We got to know each other in '91, and we had a good year last year. This year we're going for the championship, and I don't see any reason why we can't break up Carr and Parker, even though they're great riders on exceptional equipment.
"I won as a privateer once--only four riders have ever done it--so I figure I'm the one who can do it again."
The Mickey Thompson Stadium Off-Road series reaches its halfway point Saturday night in the Rose Bowl with the most competitive Grand National sport truck class in history.
In four events, there have been four different winners, and the points leader is not among them.
Former motocross champion Rick Johnson won the season opener in a Chevrolet at Anaheim, followed by Ivan Stewart in a Toyota at San Diego, Roger Mears in a Nissan at Seattle and Roger Mears Jr. in another Nissan last Saturday night at Tempe, Ariz. Rod Millen, the defending champion in a Toyota, retained his points lead with a second-place finish to Mears Jr. Millen has 196 points to 184 for Johnson.
It was the first main-event victory for the younger Mears, 28, a second-generation driver from Bakersfield who has raced for four years. By contrast, Stewart's San Diego victory was a record 15th for the stadium series.
The return to the Rose Bowl after an absence of a year was necessitated when the Coliseum became unavailable because of reconstruction.
Motor Racing Notes
INDYCAR SERIES--The eight-race American IndyCar Series will get under way Sunday with the sixth annual Champion Spark Plug Los Angeles Grand Prix at Willow Springs Raceway. The $43,000 race of 152 miles over a 2.5-mile road course will feature pre-1993 Indy cars. Rod Bennett of Campbell, Calif., will open defense of his championship against a field that includes Johnny Unser of Albuquerque, N.M., last year's Los Angeles winner; Bill Tempero of Ft. Collins, Colo., the 1990 race winner and two-time AIS champion; and local favorites Dan Velasco of Lancaster, Sherif Fathy of Palmdale and Billy Felts, a former sprint-car driver from Rialto. Qualifying is scheduled Saturday, with the main event at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Also on the program are Formula 2000, Formula Mazda and Pro Russell races.
MIDGETS--The United States Auto Club western regional main events for midgets and three-quarter midgets Saturday night at Ventura Raceway will be part of the ESPN Saturday Night Thunder series. Both classes will also race tonight at Bakersfield Speedway.
SPRINT CARS--Winged cars of the Golden State Challenge series will be at Santa Maria Speedway on Saturday night, featuring former champion Brent Kaeding and points leader Steve Kent. . . . Defending California Racing Assn. champion Lealand McSpadden heads east for the CRA's annual tour this week after winning his fifth consecutive race Tuesday night in Wichita, Kan. Races are scheduled today and Saturday at Eldora Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pa., and Tuesday in Grandview, Pa. . . . Steve Kinser went 252 consecutive World of Outlaw races--dating to May 30, 1988--before failing to qualify for a main event last week at Eldora Speedway, but he came back to win the next one in his hometown of Bloomington, Ind.
MOTORCYCLES--Charlie Venegas, world ice-racing champion, has joined the weekly speedway circus that runs Wednesday at Glen Helen Park in San Bernardino, Thursday at Lake Perris Raceway, Friday at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa and Saturday at Speedway USA in Victorville.
STOCK CARS--NASCAR sportsman cars and Grand America modifieds of the Winston Racing Series will be featured Saturday night at Saugus Speedway, along with a train race. . . . Sportsman cars will also run Saturday night at Cajon Speedway and Imperial Raceway, near El Centro. . . . Street stocks will return tonight to Ventura Raceway.
MISCELLANY--The San Diego Automotive Museum will salute the Indianapolis 500, featuring cars that won or raced in the 500, from Monday through May 31. Also on display will be racing paintings by Hector Cademartori. . . . The Sports Car Club of America's Valvoline pro solo championship series is scheduled for Pt. Magu, near Oxnard, on Saturday and Sunday.