PARK CITY, Kan. – On a history-making night at the 81 Speedway where crew members, fans and racers honored the late Grant Junghans and paid tribute to hall-of-fame promoter C. Ray Hall, a young driver from Chatfield, Minn., named Jacob Bleess forever etched his name into dirt modified racing lore.
With the champagne still not dry on the Featherlite Fall Jamboree trophy he took home on Sept. 21, Bleess gave the audience in Park City, Kan., an encore performance with a wire-to-wire victory at the fourth annual Grant Junghans Memorial.
Following a heat race win, Bleess revealed his formula for success in the main event: “Stay consistent, keep the tires on it and not get passed.”
The racing surface was spectacular and racy all weekend but locked down right away in Saturday’s feature race and put passing at a premium.
Drawing the pole position was the one box Bleess checked just to be sure.
“Got that clean air right away and knew if I had the lead and just quarter-throttle the whole time and keep the tires under it. I didn’t really see that many people blow tires, so I knew I was pretty good for how much I was saving,” a smiling Bleess said during his victory lane celebration. “It was a good night.”
Bleess, who finished seventh in Friday night’s Chisholm Trail Showdown nightcap, beat reigning World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series champ Brandon Sheppard into the first corner and that was all she wrote.
“When you’re out front leading, you can set the pace and the guys behind you are usually going a little harder than you,” Bleess added. “No one was blowing tires so I knew we were going to be okay.”
Remembering one of the most popular USMTS racers ever, Saturday’s Grant Junghans Memorial main event paid $10,002 to the winner while each of the 24 main event starters earned no less than $1,202.
Bleess was 22 years old when he took the checkered flag Saturday night, but will celebrate his 23rd birthday after midnight on the same day that Junghans was born. He would have been 31 on Sunday.
The racing world lost Junghans on March 12, 2016, after a courageous six-year battle with a rare form of neuroendocrine cancer. The Grant Junghans Memorial is an opportunity for his family, friends, fans and fellow competitors to remember the good times and racing memories shared in his 27 years with us.
Junghans was first diagnosed with cancer in February of 2010. Despite on-again off-again chemotherapy treatments and numerous surgeries, he never lost his sense of humor, fighting spirit or natural-born tendency to be decent to others.
He was also the 2009 USMTS Rookie of the Year and that award has since been renamed in his honor.
Saturday’s triumph was the second career USMTS win for Bleess. His first came 55 days earlier at the Deer Creek Speedway during the 21st annual Featherlite Fall Jamboree.
Sheppard finished second Saturday while another Lucas Schott, who topped the inaugural Grant Junghans Memorial in 2016, came home in third.
Tyler Wolff held off 2017 event winner and reigning USMTS National Champion Rodney Sanders for fourth. Sanders settled for fifth.
Jacob Bleess, Brandon Sheppard, Lucas Schott, Tyler Wolff, Rodney Sanders, Tanner Mullens, Dereck Ramirez, Darron Fuqua, Ryan Gustin, Chase Junghans, Cole Traugott, Alex Williamson, Kale Westover, Ryan McAninch, Jared Russell, Keith Hammett, Tyler Davis, Mike Striegel, Duke Erickson, Rick Beebe, Drew Amrstrong, Wendall Bolden, Brandon Givens, Cody Simpson.