For Al Goss, there was no way to celebrate his 42nd birthday. For Denny Hadler Jr., it was a step forward in his comeback from a serious accident two months ago. For Mark Turner, it was a memorable highlight from his rookie season. And for Jason Philpot, it was a special curtain-closer.
All four drivers celebrated victories in their respective main events at Champion Speedway - Goss in the Late Model Sportsman class, Hadler in the Legends, Turner in the Hornets and Philpot in the open-wheel Western Modifieds - on a cold Saturday night in the next-to-last race of the track's final season.
This was the final appearance for the Modifieds, which made winning the "Twin 40s" main event a special occasion to Sacramento's Philpot.
"Absolutely, I had to be here for the final race," said Philpot, who also won a 100-lapper at Champion last year. "It's sad to see this place close. I haven't raced here that often, maybe six or seven times, but I love this track."
Philpot, who holds a 37-point lead in the Grand American Modified points standings with one race left in the season at Stockton 99 Speedway, made his final appearance a good one as he turned fast time (13.64 seconds) in qualifying and won the dash for cash.
"The car was handling real well tonight," Philpot said.
Craig Swim started from the pole and led the opening 39 laps before Philpot went inside and moved out front coming out of Turn 4. He never trailed again and even with the caution flag dropping three times, he never faced a serious challenge on his way to taking the checker flag.
Late Model Sportsman
Aided by a big break when front-running Vince Malone went to the pits with a broken rear axle three laps from the finish, Goss won the 30-lap main event and all but locked up his third straight season championship and fourth in five years.
It gave him a chance to share a victory with his family. Especially his mother, Helen Goss, who was at home recovering from triple bypass surgery she had on July 26.
"My sister (Diane) is out here from South Carolina, so that makes this nice," Goss said. "My mom hasn't been out since her surgery, so I've been double taping the races so she can watch them, but she's going to try and make it out here next week. So this championship is for my mom.
"Winning tonight was big, I think that secured our championship a bit," added Goss, who won his second main event in as many weeks and fifth of the season overall. "Unless I come out and break next week, I've got it."
Goss now holds a 621-593 lead over Joel Worley, while Malone is third with 589 points. Malone trailed Goss by 10 points in the standings coming into the night and picked up one point by winning his heat race. Malone also had the main event victory within sight until his axle broke in front of the homestretch grandstands at the start of the 27th lap.
"I thought he had blown the motor when I saw the smoke," said Goss, who was more than a car length behind in second-place at the time. "He was turning it real hard."
Goss was moved to the front and held on the final three laps to take the checker flag ahead of Kris Keller.
"I'm 42, the same age as this track," Goss said, adding a word of thanks to his main sponsor, Ceramic Tile Center. "You can't get too much better than this."
Troy Shirk of Oakley, Calif., set fast time (14.23) earlier in the day and finished third in the main event while driving the car of Christina Davis. Worley finished fourth and Dean Heller fifth.
Hadler survived some tense moments late in the race to post his fifth main event victory of the season and his first since being taken by Care Flight to Washoe Medical Center after a serious crash on July 9.
"From Care Flight to checker," Hadler said.
The race also saw a major development in the division's points race when Mackena Bell regained the lead with her fifth-place finish in the main event. Terry Madjeski had the lead coming into the night, but he went to the pits with a broken steering box after the second aborted start to the race. As a result, Bell moved out to a 596-578 lead over Madjeski in the standings.
An ignition box problem that has plagued Hadler through much of the season, nearly cost him a chance to win this race. Or so he thought after the fourth caution flag dropped two laps from the finish.
"My coil cuts out and when it happens, it cuts out my No. 1 and No. 4 cylinders," Hadler said. "It's the cautions that get me because when I slow down, I have these problems."
It happened after a restart on the 19th lap when he was hit from behind by Jovon Halen, though Hadler had his lead restored. However, Hadler caught a break on a restart on the 28th lap.
"Every once in a while it comes back for me and that's what happened going to the green flag with two laps to go," Hadler said. "It was a long race - my nerves were shook - but once I made that green flag, I knew the race was mine."
Second-place was taken by Halen, from Las Vegas, ahead of Jason Anderline and Todd Thompson.
"This was a great win. I just want to do what I can to support all the people who have helped me out," Hadler said. "I've had a lot of help from good people like my sponsor, Greg Higgins of Western Nevada Supply Company; and Tom Herron, he came out of the grandstands two weeks ago and made a donation to my driving; and, of course, my father (Denny Hadler Sr.). If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be racing."
Dallas Colodny won his first race at Champion when he took the second heat race.
Turner, driving the Marine Corps-sponsored No. 24 car, won both his heat race and then the 20-lap main event in just his seventh race ever.
"I'm having a blast," said Turner, a Marine staff sergeant stationed in Carson City. "This was just my seventh race. I've never done this before. When we got the second car donated, I just decided to go out and do it and have fun."
Perhaps some credit is due to the athletic ability and aggressiveness of having been an all-star defensive end for the Monache High School (Porterville, Calif.) football team seven years ago.
Shawn Chaufty and Bill Holbert exchanged the early lead before Turner emerged out of the five-car lead pack and took the lead at the start of the eighth lap. Turner never trailed again, though he did look back on a night when division season points leader Kim Robbins was racing elsewhere.
"It was a real competitive race and a great group of cars. It was anybody's ball game tonight," Turner said. "I just got a jump. But even toward the end, I looked in my rear view mirror to see who was coming and I couldn't believe it. I didn't see anybody."
Chaufty, driving the other Marines car, won his first trophy dash of the season earlier in the evening.
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Main event: (80 laps) 1, Jason Philpot; 2, Mike Regelman; 3, Gary Swim; 4, No. 25; 5, Mike Lehman; 6, No. 7; 7, Troy Nogosek (79 laps); 8, Russ Cazier; 9, Craig Swim (54); 10, Jeff Stephens (45); 11, Dean Heller (19).
Dash for cash: 1, Philpot; 2, Regelman; 3, G. Swim; 4, C. Swim. Yellow: 3.
Fast time: Philpot 13.64.
Main event: (30 laps) 1, Denny Hadler; 2, Jovon Halen; 3, Todd Thompson; 4, Jason Anderline; 5, Mackena Bell; 6, Fred Handley; 7, Dallas Colodny; 8, Bob Cos; 9, Lester Mitchell; 10, Charlene Baron; 11, Jack Randall; 12, Michelle Argetsinger. Yellow: 4.
Trophy dash: 1, Randall; 2, C. Handley; 3, Terry Madjeski; 4, Bell.
First heat race: 1, F. Handley; 2, Halen; 3, C. Handley; 4, Bell.
Second heat race: 1, Colodny; 2, Hadler; 3, Madjeski; 4, Thompson.
Fast time: Thompson 14.69.
Late Model Sportsman
Main event: (30 laps) 1, Al Goss; 2, Kris Keller; 3, Troy Shirk; 4, Joel Worley; 5, Dean Heller; 6, Matt Collier; 7, Chet Danburg; 8, Ed Goss (29 laps); 9, Allen Hunter (29); 10, Frank Sanfilippo (29); 11, Vince Malone (27); 12, Nellie Presser (26). Yellow: 1.
Trophy dash: 1, Danburg; 2, Malone; 3, Shirk; 4, A. Goss.
First heat race: 1, Keller; 2, E. Goss; 3, Collier; 4, Sanfilippo.
Second heat race: 1, Malone; 2, A. Goss; 3, Danburg; 4, Shirk.
Fast time: Shirk 14.23.
Main event: (20 laps) 1, Mark Turner; 2, Chris Walton; 3, Bill Holbert; 4, Shawn Chaufty; 5, Tiffany Mans; 6, Greg Schmidt; 7, Andy McCool; 8, Gregg Salacies; 9, Bill Bernard. Yellow: 1.
Trophy dash: 1, Chaufty; 2, Holbert; 3, Turner; 4, McCool.
Heat race: 1, Turner; 2, McCool; 3, Salacies; 4, Chaufty.
Fast time: McCool and Schmidt 17.14.