WEBSTER CITY - For the 88 racers in the pits at the Hamilton County Speedway Saturday night, this was a next-to-the-last chance to better their season point standings.
Racing was close and intense as the drivers gunned hard to the front in their efforts to grab the checkers.
Churdan's Jason Minnehan grabbed his third Stock Car win of the season in an intense battle to the finish. He was pressured throughout the race by John Campbell of Belmond, who led several laps. Minnehan scooted around Campbell on the white-flag lap to secure the victory.
Steve Meyer, Grundy Center, was on the winner's bumper until he spun out and retired to the pits midway through the race. Local driver Mark Elliott and Fort Dodge resident Lance Deal were also in a dogfight for the lead until the two tangled in turn No. 4 and went to the back of the pack on the restart.
Matt Ring of Dows finished in third, Jim Mitchell of Webster City was fourth and Elliott pushed forward for fifth.
Campbell holds a slim one-point lead over Deal in the race for the Stock Car season championship.
Al Johnson of Story City jumped to the front of the Late Model feature and stayed there until the final lap. John Emerson of Waterloo moved forward to run in the second spot until Todd Cooney of Des Moines took over that slot three laps from the end.
Johnson, Cooney and Emerson all jockeyed for the win on the final lap. As they turned the No. 4 corner for the line, Cooney made contact with Johnson, which allowed Cooney to cross the stripe a bumper ahead of Johnson and Emerson. But track officials ruled that Cooney's driving had caused another driver to lose position and docked him two places. The official race win went to Johnson; Emerson took second and Cooney third.
The season championship for Late Models is still up for the taking with Cooney leading Ryan Griffith of Webster City by only two points.
Modified driver Scott Olson of Blairsburg made his way to Victory Lane for the first time this season. The veteran, starting in the fourth row, moved to the front by mid-race and held off Joel Rust of Grundy Center. Mark Elliott, the points leader, landed in third.
Cody Nielsen claimed his second track victory of the season in the Hobby Stock feature. The Fort Dodge driver is ranked second in IMCA national Hobby Stock points.
It was a squeaker for second, as Randy Embrey of Granger and Craig Graham of Webster City worked up from rows five and six. They dueled to the end with Graham prevailing.
Embrey leads Graham in the title chase by only nine points.
For the fourth time this season, former track champ Matt Lettow of Roland claimed the Sport Mod checkers after starting in the eighth slot. He took the lead in the later laps from Ty Griffith of Webster City. Also in the hunt was the youngster from Clear Lake, Aaron Benson; he settled for second with Griffith in third.
Lettow trails track leader Jared VanDeest of Holland by just eight points heading into the final week of racing.
Rolling to his first historic half-mile victory in the Sport Compact class was David Moorman of Beaman. He opened up a commanding lead over second-place finisher Danny Sassman Jr., of Fort Dodge.
The first Competition Caution Race was a crowd pleaser, as Hobby Stock drivers Corey Roe of Webster City and Randy Embrey and their crews contested for the fastest tire change time. Embrey's crew topped the event, winning by less than a two-second margin.
Mark Elliott bested the top six Stock Car finishers in the Stock Car Dash for Cash, sponsored by former driver Adam Silvey.
The Hamilton County Speedway will see plenty of action this week, as a sea of drivers are expected to roll into town for the high payout Thursday Night Thunder during the Hamilton County Fair.
The season championships will be decided during the Fair Classic on Saturday, which will also include activities for the kids and the Hamilton County Racing Association Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Trailer races and Hare and Hound races will be on the track Friday, and the Demolition Derby will close out the fair Sunday evening. The derby will celebrate its 45th year as a fair favorite.
The championship race will not end the track's 2014 season, as officials have scheduled the final event of the year for Aug. 2. Races that night will run for IMCA points only and will be a draw-redraw event.