Nineteen victories in 56 starts. Thirty-eight top-5 finishes. Forty-eight top-10 finishes. One national championship.
That's a career résumé for some dirt track drivers.
For Chatfield, Minn.'s Lucas Schott, that's his past 12 months. And he did it all at half the age of some of his closest competitors. Just 20 years old, Schott has become a fixture in the main events of some of the biggest and highest-paying Modified racing events in the United States.
And he's beginning to feel right at home in victory lane, regardless of when or where he is racing.
"From winning the biggest race of my career to being able to win the national points in the fashion we did, not knowing if we were going to be able to pull it off," Schott said, "to (19) wins on the season, a new record for us. This year will be hard to beat."
For his outstanding season both at local tracks and across the country, Schott has been named the 2016 Post Bulletin Sports Person of the Year.
"It's one of those years, I don't know if we could repeat it," said Lucas' father, John, who serves as his son's only pit crew member, "but I sure hope we can."
BECOMING A CHAMP
A handful of other drivers from southeastern Minnesota have won national championships, including Medford's Brandon Davis and New Richland's Jason Cummins in recent years. Like those two, Schott is a regular at Deer Creek Speedway near Spring Valley and Mississippi Thunder Speedway in Fountain City, Wis., though he didn't set out to capture a track championship this season.
He simply wanted to race as much as he could, and in as many big-money shows as he could. The early part of the season was spent getting comfortable in his new MB Customs chassis, built by well-know Late Model racer Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis. Schott powers his No. 69 Modified with a Sput's Racing Engine, produced in Owatonna.
"We didn't have many goals at the start of the year," Lucas said. "We bought this new car and didn't plan on running for local points (titles) or any championships. We just wanted to race when and where we wanted to, and run for the bigger money.
"But at the end of the year, we ended up racing as much as we could."
That's what makes Schott's USRA Modified national points championship so special to him and his family, and so extraordinary to his fellow drivers and racing fans.
The USRA determines its champions by adding up their points totals from their 20 best USRA-sanctioned shows each season. Many drivers have 35 or 40 shows to chose from, meaning they can throw out their 15 to 20, or more, worst performances.
When the annual Featherlite Fall Jamboree rolled around in late September at Deer Creek Speedway, Schott had raced in less than 20 USRA Modified shows.
"Winning (the national title) took us all by surprise, I think. We had kind of given up hope midway through September," Lucas said. "We actually skipped a couple of USRA shows that month and went up to a show at Cedar Lake Speedway (in New Richmond, Wis.) because we thought we were out of the USRA points."
It was at the Fall Jamboree where Schott's mindset about the national title began to change. He won Friday night's feature race, which paid $5,000 to the winner.
BIGGEST WIN OF HIS CAREER
A week later, he traveled to Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., for the inaugural Grant Junghans Memorial race.
Junghans, from Manhattan, Kan., died earlier this year at just 27 years old, after battling cancer off and on for more than five years. He received treatment regularly at Mayo Clinic and often visited Deer Creek to watch the weekly race shows. He also raced there a handful of times while traveling with the USMTS.
Lakeside was his home track and race organizers, including the local promoters and the USMTS, put up a $10,002 (2 was Junghans' car number) winner's purse, as well as giant trophy with a big number "2" atop a pedestal.
Junghans' popularity among drivers, as well as the large payday, attracted a who's-who of Modified drivers, a field of more than 100 cars for a one-night event. It also attracted an overflow crowd estimated at close to 8,000 fans.
Schott started fourth in the final heat race of the night and beat a strong field—including Junghans' brother, Chase—to the checkers.
He drew the fifth starting position in the main event and hung with the top three throughout the first half of the 42-lap race. After a restart with 18 to go, he zipped past USMTS veterans Jason Hughes and Dereck Ramirez to take the lead for good.
"I didn't know Grant all that well," Schott said. "I raced against him a couple of times and knew about his battle with cancer.
"To win that and carry his name through that night, it was just really cool to be the first winner of that race. I've never seen anything like it. There were people everywhere and one of the biggest car-counts I've ever been a part of, USMTS-wise."
AN 'UNCONSCIOUS' MONTH
There's a reason Schott has earned the nickname Cool Hand Luke.
Nothing fazes him on or off the track; his racing IQ and driving talent are off the charts. John Schott said that when Lucas was 10 or 11 years old, he'd drive his Slingshot in the afternoons, then he'd sit next to his dad and intently watch the bigger car classes race in the evening, ignoring his buddies who'd want to run around and be kids. Lucas couldn't be pulled from his seat; he was too busy studying the cars on the track and the decisions the top drivers made.
That's why he was able to go directly from a Slingshot—the smaller cars that race early in the afternoon on Button Buck Speedway, the small track inside the big track at Deer Creek—to a Modified, perhaps the toughest and most competitive class in the area.
He began racing against the best of the best in this area and the country at just 13 years old. He competed in his first Modified race three years before he could get a driver's license.
"It was a big learning curve," Lucas said. "There were a lot of people who told us we couldn't do it, that we'd never succeed. Looking back, with the success we've had, it's been a lot better road than we thought it might be.
"It's fun to prove people wrong."
That mental toughness served him well late in the 2016 season. His hot streak—winning a feature at the Jamboree, winning the Junghans Memorial, winning both shows at Mississippi Thunder's Fall Festival, then winning the main event at the USRA National Championships in mid-October—helped him bolt from fourth place into the lead for the national title.
"It's very rare that someone does what he did at the end of the year," said USMTS/USRA President Todd Staley. "A lot of people can go win at tracks other than their home track, but to do what he did shows he has some serious talent and a lot of faith in his race car.
"He was pretty unconscious that last month of the season. The USMTS is one of the toughest series in the country. To come in and do what he did is pretty amazing."
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Schott started racing Karts at age 7 and moved into a Slingshot at age 10. His younger sister, Lexi, now 18, also raced a Slingshot for several years. Like Lexi, their youngest sibling, Levi (12), has migrated more toward the traditional stick-and-ball sports. But he often will travel during the summer with Lucas, particularly when their dad has to stay home to tend to the family business, Schott's Hardwood Floors.
Lucas' mom, Kara, also regularly attends shows when Lucas races close to home. His success is a complete family affair.
"It's second nature to us," John Schott said. "When you work hard at something, you appreciate it more and you get better, you get good. When things are given to you and you don't have to work as hard, you don't put as much into it."
John didn't push Lucas into racing, but he gave him every opportunity to fall in love with the sport. John raced for several years in his teens and early 20s, before giving it up to settle down with Kara and start their family and business.
The Schotts have worked to fund their own program, with the help of a few loyal sponsors who help them pay for fuel to travel and to race.
"I always thought, if I had a son, I'd introduce him to racing and let him make up his mind about it," John said. "Luke has made his dreams and my dreams come true."
Original Article: https://goo.gl/9ZcDiY