The American Speedway Final, perhaps the most important event in U.S. speedway motorcycle racing, will be held Saturday night at Ventura Raceway.
The qualifying event to select five American riders to compete in the Overseas Final on June 12 in Coventry, England, resumes after a two-year absence. Qualifiers in England will ride in the World Speedway Final on Aug. 20 in Vojens, Denmark.
Sam Ermolenko, the world and national champion from Cypress, is seeded into the Overseas Final and will not compete in Ventura. Ermolenko, one of the top-ranked riders in the British League, came home last September to add the U.S. championship to the world title he won in Germany.
He is the third American world champion, joining Jack Milne of Pasadena and Bruce Penhall of Balboa.
Ermolenko is recuperating from a serious leg injury suffered five weeks ago in an accident at his home track in Wolverhampton, England. The injury aggravated an injury that had sidelined him much of the 1992 season, but he expects to resume racing in the British League before the Overseas Final.
Other British League riders from Southern California will be in the Ventura field, including Chris Manchester, 1992 national champion from Hesperia; Greg Hancock of Newport Beach, Billy Hamill of Monrovia and Ermolenko's younger brother, Dukie.
Josh Larsen, another Newport Beach rider who competed for three years in the British League before returning to Southland tracks this season, is one of the favorites.
Southern California speedway specialists challenging the British riders on Ventura's renovated 350-meter high-banked oval include former national champions Mike Faria, Brad Oxley and Bobby Schwartz; plus Charlie Venegas, an ice-racing champion, and Northern Californians Jim Sisemore and Bart Bast.
Canadian champion John Kehoe also will ride in the round-robin competition that matches 16 riders in a series of four-lap heats.
The American Final, which has been held in such venues as the Coliseum, Anaheim Stadium and Long Beach Veterans Stadium, has not been contested the last two years because of a contractual dispute between the American Motorcyclist Assn. and the Southland sanctioning body, International Speedway, Inc.
Motor Racing Notes
STOCK CARS--Saugus Speedway will hold a NASCAR Winston Racing Series program Saturday night for sportsman, Grand Am modifieds and street stocks. . . . Street stocks and IMCA modifieds will run Friday night at Ventura Raceway. . . . American V8 modifieds and pro-mod stocks are scheduled for Sunday at Willow Springs' Kern County Raceway.
MIDGETS--The U.S. Auto Club western regional full midgets and three-quarter midgets will race Saturday night at Bakersfield Speedway in Oildale.
MOTORCYCLES--The Toyota Challenge, an American Motorcyclist Assn. road race championship event, will be held Saturday and Sunday at Laguna Seca Raceway, on the Monterey peninsula. A 750cc supersport race of 35 miles will be the feature on the Saturday program, with Harley-Davidson twin sports, 600cc supersports and the Camel superbike main events on Sunday. Australian Tony Corser, who won the Pomona superbike race last month, will be favored over Steve Crevier of Canada, Takahiro Sohwa of Japan and American veterans Jamie James and Fred Merkel in the superbike feature. . . . Four-time champion Scott Parker moved ahead of Chris Carr in the AMA Grand National dirt track series with his victory last week at Pomona. It was Parker's fourth victory on the horse racing oval. The series moves to DuQuoin, Ill., May 29.
RALLY--National champion Paul Choiniere of Shelburne, Vt., and co-driver Jeff Becker of Great Neck, N.Y., repeated last year's victory in the Rim of the World Rally last weekend in the Angeles National Forest west of Palmdale. Driving an Audi Quatro, it was their first victory this season in the Sports Car Club of America's Michelin Pro Rally series. Jeff Zwart, formerly of Costa Mesa, and co-driver Tony Sircombe of Corona del Mar, finished second in a Porsche Carrera.
NECROLOGY--Tom Nuckles, 66, owner of the Lotus-Porsche that launched the career of George Follmer in the mid-'60s, died last Thursday in Pasadena of cancer. Follmer, who won the 1965 U.S. Road Racing Championship in Nuckles' car, went on to win the Can-Am and Trans-Am championships in the heyday of American sports car racing.