KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The fifth annual Grant Junghans Memorial attracted 118 of the best dirt modified racers to Lakeside Speedway Friday and Mother Nature’s multiple visits throughout the week provided a super-fast race track.
USRA Modifieds battled through seven rounds of group qualifying, seven heat races and four “B” features before 25 warriors lined up for a 42-lap main event on the historic half-mile oval.
Ricky Thornton Jr. set the pace for the start of the contest and engaged in a spirited battle with Jordan Grabouski during the opening laps. Grabouski was able to slide in front to lead lap six but relinquished the lead back to Thornton on the seventh lap.
While many top win-seekers such as USRA Modified national title contender Jake Gallardo and USMTS points leader Rodney Sanders failed to finish due to mechanical woes, Thornton drove off to a huge lead with no cautions over the final 32 laps to aid his pursuers.
Thornton went on to take the checkers and the $10,102 winner’s share of the prize money, but some of that may have been spent before he reached the checkered flag.
Nursing a huge lead, Thornton’s USRA Modified started to slow drastically and the deep sound of a failing engine gurgled past the flag stand with two laps remaining.
By the time Thornton came back around for the white flag, second-running Tyler Wolff had closed rapidly and only had the lapped car of Grabouski between himself and the leader, but difficulty navigating around Grabouski’s red Terry Phillips Racing team car sent Wolff high on the track and into the loose dirt.
Unable to catch the leader, Wolff crossed the finish line three car-lengths back as Thornton’s ride exploded in a cloud of smoke as he coasted into the winner’s circle.
California’s Lance Mari advanced a dozen positions to finish third while Phillips held off USRA Modified national points leader Lucas Schott for fourth.
In the 22-lap USRA B-Mod main event, Andy Bryant blasted into the lead at the drop of the green flag and proceeded to disappear from the pack.
By the time the race’s first yellow flag waved on lap eight, the 2015 USRA B-Mod national champ was already working lapped traffic with more than seven seconds between himself and second-place Randy Ainsworth.
Following another quick caution three laps later, Bryant again led the field back to the green flag but an apparent mechanical failure on his No. 28 machine as he exited the fourth turn sent him head-on into the frontstretch concrete wall. Bryant’s mount went into a series of twisting flips and absorbed several high-impact collisions from oncoming competitors.
What remained was a completely demolished race car that had the rear portion ripped away and took on the appearance of a mangled stock car after a “big one” on a superspeedway.
Mike Striegel inherited the lead for the next restart with nine laps remaining in the 22-lapper. He held the point for two laps before Kansas City racer Patrick Royalty powered into the lead on lap 14.
Royalty, who captured a track championship here this year, collected his first USRA B-Mod victory of the season while earning $1,002 for his efforts.
Jeremy Chambers advanced 14 spots to claim the runner-up paycheck, Striegel held on for third.
Ricky Thornton Jr., Tyler Wolff, Lance Mari, Terry Phillips, Lucas Schott, Cade Dillard, Jordan Grabouski, Dennis Elliott, Jake O’Neil, Darron Fuqua, Cole Traugott, Cody Schniepp, Mark Smith, Jake Gallardo, Chad Lyle, Chase Junghans, Tanner Mullens, Jacob Bleess, Carlos Ahumada Jr., Jimmy Owens, Nathan Smith, Jason Hughes, Dustin Sorensen, Wesley Summers, Rodney Sanders.