Vince Malone is a man driven by a mission in these final days of Champion Speedway.
For one, the Sparks driver looking to reel in the Late Model Sportsman class championship for the track's final. For another, he wants to take care of some unfinished business and win a championship that 14 years ago tragically eluded his father, Hal Malone.
"He's there driving with me every race. The colors of my car are the same as his. This is his old number (No. 12). His name's on the car and his picture is in here," Malone said Saturday night, pointing inside his car to a photograph of his father, who drove at the Carson City track from 1975 until his death at age 32 in a work-related accident in 1991.
"He was in first-place - on his way to the championship - when he died. I want to win this for both of us and for my family."
Young Malone had just helped out his cause by winning the second half of the Sportsman's "Twin 25s" double main event show, a 25-lap victory in which he led chief rivals Joel Worley and Al Goss to the checker flag. A mere nine points now separates the three drivers in the season standings - Goss, bidding for his third straight championship and fourth in five years, leads with 477, ahead of Malone's 471 and Worley's 4688.
"I want to reel him in and win the championship in the last year. I want history. But he's a big fish. He's not the champion for nothing," Malone said of Goss.
Earlier in the evening, Chet Danburg won the opening "Twin 25s" main event, followed by Worley in second-place, Goss and Malone.
The second race was a different story and there was denying Malone. He worked his way from the middle of the 10-car pack and passed Kris Keller into the lead on the fifth lap.
"We swapped tires, made some adjustments and put in a full tank of gas, and she just hooked up," he said. "I didn't know if I was the fastest car. I was just trying to be smooth and hit my spots."
The ride has been a fun one, he added.
"It's even more special this being the last year," Malone said. "We're just happy to be part of all this. And I want to thank all the fans. They pay their money to come out and see us do our thing. If it weren't for them, we wouldn't be able to come out here and race."
Martin McKeefery of Milpitas, Calif., celebrated his 18th birthday and helped his bid to win the INEX national semipro oval championship with a victory in the 15-car, 40-lap Legends feature race.
McKeefery started 12th in the main event and worked through the field in a race that saw three caution flags and one red after a spectacular crash on the 16th lap that knocked Bobby Hodges out of the race.
After Fred Handley and Denny Hadler came together in Turn 4, Hadler's car slid sideways at the top of the homestretch and as Hodges tried to avoid a logjam of cars, his left rear tire caught the right rear tire of Hadler. Hodges was launched airborne and into the wall - rollcage first - before coming to rest on the track.
Hodges, a 15-year-old Bishop Manogue High School sophomore, was helped out of the car and taken to Carson-Tahoe Hospital for observation and treatment of a mild concussion and bruised leg, according to his father, Henry Hodges.
"He was bruised, battered and bounced around, but he's doing good now," Henry Hodges said on Sunday night. "Everybody looked after him pretty good, the EMTs at the track and everybody at the hospital.
"We're very fortunate, truly. I was talking with Les Kynett (track promoter) this morning and we both agreed that's the worst crash either of us has seen in 20 years out there."
Quality safety equipment, as well as car design, were the difference in young Hodges being able to walk away from the crash.
"Thank the Lord he was wearing his HANS Device. If he hadn't been wearing that, I'm sure the outcome would have been different. That he came out so well is also a real credit to the way the Legends cars are built. The rollcage was definitely bent, but he was pretty well protected."
Jack Randall led the opening 16 laps before Derek Copeland charged from third to first on the backside of the 17th lap. McKeefery came up to challenge one lap later and then took the lead on the 20th lap. He never trailed again.
Mackena Bell, who is dueling Terry Madjeski for the track's division points championship, moved up into second-place on the 22nd lap and maintained her position the rest of the way. Copeland finished third and Madjeski fourth.
"It was a great race," said McKeefery, who has two victories and one runner-up finish in four appearances at Champion this summer (he has posted fast time all four times).
McKeefery, in the running for Legends national road and oval championships (see www.mckeeferyracing.com/), was looking forward to racing one more time at Champion on Sept. 24. However, Champion's scheduled show has been canceled, with the final show now set for Sept. 17.
"We were going to come up here ... that was going to be a big deal for us because we need the points," said James McKeefery, Martin's father. "Now we're scrambling to find another race somewhere."
Kim Robbins started next-to-last in the 10-car field but surged into the lead on the fourth lap and never looked back en route to her 10th main event victory this season.
A problem with her travel plans prevented Robbins from competing in a race she had entered at Rockingham Speedway in England last week. Instead, she swept through three straight races at Champion, winning the trophy dash, heat race and then the 30-lap main event.
Chris Walton prevailed in a closely contested battle for second-place, passing Jason Flores for the position with three laps to go. Flores finished third and Andy McCool fourth.
n Contact Dave Price at email@example.com or call 881-1220.
Late Model Sportsman
First main event: (25 laps) 1, Chet Danburg, 2, Joel Worley; 3, Al Goss; 4, Vince Malone; 5, Ed Goss; 6, Dean Heller; 7, Matt Collier; 8, Kris Keller; 9, Alex Hutchison; 10, Bill Gould (24 laps). Yellow: 1.
Second main event: (25 laps) 1, Malone; 2, Worley; 3, A. Goss; 4, Danburg; 5, Collier; 6, E. Goss; 7, Heller; 8, Hutchison (24 laps); 9, Gould (24); 10, Keller (17).
Trophy dash: 1, E. Goss; 2, Malone; 3, Worley; 4, Danburg. Yellow: 1.
Fast time: 1, A. Goss 14.31; 2, Malone 14.37.
Main event: (40 laps) 1, Martin McKeefery; 2, Mackena Bell; 3, Derek Copeland; 4, Terry Madjeski; 5, Denny Hadler; 6, Chris Handley; 7, Lester Mitchell; 8, Fred Handley; 9, Willie Davis; 10, Jack Randall; 11, Jason Anderline (39 laps); 12, Michelle Argetsinger (39); 13, Bob Cos (31); 14, Todd Thompson (19); 15, Bobby Hodges (16). Yellow: 3. Red: 1.
Trophy dash: 1, Hodges; 2, Hadler; 3, Thompson; 4, Bell.
First heat race: 1, Randall; 2, McKeefery; 3, Hadler; 4, Davis.
Second heat race: 1, Hodges; 2, Cos; 3, Copeland; 4, Argetsinger.
Third heat race: 1, Thompson; 2, Mitchell; 3, Bell; 4, F. Handley.
Fast time: 1, McKeefery 14.60; 2, Hodges and Madjeski 14.66.
Main event: (30 laps) 1, Kim Robbins; 2, Chris Walton; 3, Jason Flores; 4, Andy McCool; 5, Mark Turner; 6, Shawn Chaufty; 7, Stephanie Crawford; 8, Tiffany Mans; 9, Bill Bernard (29 laps); 10, Matt Collier (29); 11, Amanda Cole (24). Yellow: 3.
Trophy dash: 1, Robbins; 2, McCool; 3, Chaufty; 4, Flores.
First heat race: 1, Robbins; 2, Flores; 3, McCool; 4, Crawford.
Second heat race: 1, Walton; 2, Mans; 3, Collier; 4, Bernard.
Fast time: 1, Robbins 16.91; 2, Flores 16.96.