BELLEVILLE, Ill. – Taking the wheel of the Team Ripper No. 21KS Friday night at Belle-Clair Speedway, Jake Neuman delivered a long-overdue first win of the year for car owner Steve Reynolds and crew chief Flea Ruzic.
After taking the lead on lap six, Neuman fended off mid-race pressure from Austin Brown and survived a late charge from Logan Seavey to score his third win of the season and the fifth of his POWRi National Midget career.
Making his 179th career appearance with the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League, Friday’s attempt aboard the No. 21KS marked the first time in his seven-year career that Neuman drove for anyone other than his father, Jim Neuman.
A series of severe crashes and recent motor trouble over the past month in his own No. 3N contributed to the decision to make a one-off appearance, a decision that paid dividends.
For Team Ripper, the eighth time was the charm, as Neuman became the eighth driver to pilot the No. 21KS in 2019, but the first to park it in victory lane.
The list of racers before Neuman is a who’s who of today’s motorsports landscape. Karter Sarff, USAC sensation Jason McDougal, modified driver Nick Hoffman, micro sprint star Joe B. Miller, Triple Crown champion Tracy Hines, USAC Sprint Car points leader C.J. Leary and California gasser Maria Cofer all tried, but it was Neuman who got the job done first.
Starting the 30-lap feature from the fourth-spot, Neuman earned his slot in the outside of row two after jetting away to a dominant heat race win from the pole. However, it was Daniel Robinson who led the field to green after snagging PAC Racing Springs High Point Man honors courtesy of a seventh-to-second charge in the opening heat.
Leading the charge into turn one, Robinson quickly assumed the point while Neuman went top shelf to jump from fourth-to-second in the first lap. A lap five caution for Holley Hollan, Andrew Felker and Jesse Colwell halted the action and threw a wrench in the championship battle, sending Colwell to the infield with a DNF as he watched his points lead diminish.
Going back to green, Neuman saddled up and drove flatfooted into turn one with a big slider heading for Robinson as he mounted a bid for the lead. Unable to come back at him, Robinson settled into second as Neuman took the point and focused on clear track ahead on the sixth circuit.
While the high side came in and proved to be the prime place to play, the ultra-fast fifth-mile surface became tough to manage in the pack as the speed ramped up lap after lap.
Essentially a cowboy up atmosphere on the lip, it was slide or be slid to take position, making for intense mid-race restarts.
The final restart roared to life with 13 laps left as Neuman maintained a strong pace ahead of Austin Brown, who won the May showing at Belle-Clair, and Logan Seavey, who was hungry for his 10th win of the season after starting in the tenth spot.
While Neuman put his head down and ran away with the lead, Seavey shot by Brown with eight to go and immediately began cutting into Neuman’s 2.6 second advantage.
Eating into the gap each lap, Seavey snuck closer and closer to Neuman’s rear bumper as the race came to a close. By the time the two-to-go signal was given, Seavey had the No. 21KS in sight and was only behind by one-second, but the time was running out too fast.
Seavey’s late-race charge did not come fast enough, as the checkered flag dropped, and Neuman won over Seavey, Austin Brown, Zach Daum and Cannon McIntosh, who recovered from a spin on lap 11 to complete the top five.
Daum made a massive gain in the hunt for the title, as his fourth-place finish narrowed Colwell’s advantage from 350 points to 180 points.
Sarff, Tanner Carrick, 14-year old Daison Pursley, hard charger Ace McCarthy and Shelby Bosie were the balance of the top 10.
1. 21KS-Jake Neuman (4); 2. 67-Logan Seavey (10); 3. 17-Austin Brown (2); 4. 5D-Zach Daum (11); 5. 08-Cannon McIntosh (3); 6. 37X-Karter Sarff (14); 7. 71K-Tanner Carrick (15); 8. 9-Daison Pursley (9); 9. 28-Ace McCarthy (23); 10. 3B-Shelby Bosie (19); 11. 11-Daniel Robinson (1); 12. 5F-Danny Frye III (21); 13. 86C-David Camfield (18); 14. 21X-Steve Stroud (22); 15. 5H-Danny Frye (20); 16. 97K-Jesse Love (6); 17. 20G-Noah Gass (16); 18. 1T-Thomas Chandler (24); 19. 55-Nick Knepper (13); 20. 17C-Devin Camfield (12); 21. 67K-Holley Hollan (8); 22. 44S-Andrew Felker (5); 23. 71-Jesse Colwell (7); 24. 103-Broc Hunnell (17).
Lap Leader(s): Robinson 1-5; Neuman 6-30.
Hard Charger(s): McCarthy (+14)