KANSAS CITY, Kan.—More than 8,000 family, friends and fans of the late Grant Junghans gathered at the Lakeside Speedway Friday for the inaugural Grant Junghans Memorial—the biggest one-day event in the history of dirt modified racing.
And when the dust had settled shortly after midnight, there was one man—Lucas Schott—standing in victory lane with a $10,002 paycheck and the most unique and coveted piece of hardware in the sport.
Jesse Sobbing of Malvern, Iowa, led the field of 30 cars to the green flag for the start of the 42-lap feature race, but Jeremy Payne of Springfield, Mo., set the pace for the first two circuits before Dereck Ramirez drove underneath him to lead lap 3.
The Woodward, Okla., racer also had a short reign at the top as Ricky Thornton Jr. churned the thin cushion around the top of the racing surface to pull ahead of Ramirez as they completed the fifth lap.
Thornton, from Chandler, Ariz., and Ramirez stayed true to their preferred high and low lines with Thornton holding the advantage each time they streaked beneath the flagstand for the next eight laps.
Meanwhile, Schott got around Payne for third on lap 8 and closed in on the lead duo while Hughes slowly narrowed the gap between himself and the quartet ahead.
Ramirez inched back ahead of Thornton to lead the 14th lap, and then Schott followed into second six laps later with Hughes following along into the third spot while Thornton, who won the first of two “Deuces Wild” main events Thursday, slipped back to fourth ahead of a hard-charging Cade Dillard.
The first caution of the contest came about just past the halfway mark with 22 laps in the books. On the restart, Hughes dove underneath Ramirez in the first corner and Schott raced to the outside with Hughes leading them out of turn two.
But before a lap could be completed, a two-car tangle at the back of the field brought about another quick yellow flag, and Ramirez was able to hold his ground on the ensuing do-over.
This time it was Schott making hay around the top side of the historic 4/10-mile dirt oval, and he wrestled the lead away from Ramirez with 24 laps complete.
Hughes also snuck by Ramirez two laps later, but he was unable to make a serious charge at Schott.
A handful of lapped cars threatened to slow Schott’s pace in the closing laps, but the 20-year-old from Chatfield, Minn., was undeterred and zipped beneath the checkered flags with a six-car-length cushion between himself and Hughes.
“I don’t know what to think right now,” said the soft-spoken Schott. “It’s pretty crazy we’re standing here in victory lane.
“I knew Ricky would be really good up top and Dereck took off on the bottom so I was just following him for a while, but I saw the top getting clean and I just didn’t know, I was trying to save my stuff a little bit because the track was really abrasive on tires. That restart definitely helped us.”
The win was Schott’s fourth career USMTS triumph, and his first at the Lakeside Speedway.
“I didn’t want to give Jason too much time to reel me in,” Schott added. “I was just trying to keep my car as square as I could and try not to slide it or spin coming off. It got really clean up top, so I tried to conserve as much as possible but the laps couldn’t go down fast enough.
“This is right at the top. This is number one. Pretty cool.”
While Hughes gave it his best effort, the three-time and reigning USMTS national champion had to settle for a runner-up finish and $11,222 second-place earnings.
Rodney Sanders of Happy, Texas—a two-time USMTS national champ in his own right—got by Ramirez late in the race to score third-place money while Dillard’s long haul from Robeline, La., paid off with a fifth-place finish.
Thornton—the 2016 Grant Junghans Rookie of the Year—held on for sixth, Jordan Grabouski snared the seventh spot after winning the fifth Real Wheels “B” Main, Payne collected winnings for eighth place, Chase Junghans came from 26th to take ninth and Zack VanderBeek garnered the final spot in the top 10.
Lucas Schott poses with the Grant Junghans Memorial trophy with his crew chief and father, John Schott (right).