Just two weeks after winning $10,002 and the biggest race of his career in the Grant Junghans Memorial presented by BriggsAuto.com at the Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Lucas Schott returned to the same dirt oval to virtually seal the deal on a seemingly improbable USRA Modified national title in the USRA Weekly Racing Series.
The head-turning 20-year-old from Chatfield, Minn., was equally impressive on Saturday night, Oct. 15, in the USRA Nationals main event at the historic half-mile. He dominated the 35-lap USRA Modified main event from start to finish.
In addition to taking home $3,600 for his efforts, the win unofficially propelled Schott into the USRA Modified national points lead for the first time during the 2016 season—launching him ahead of defending USRA Modified national champ Jake Gallardo, who finished fifth in Saturday’s feature race.
At half the age of many of his competitors, it was a career-like year for ‘Cool Hand Luke.’
Schott is a regular at the Deer Creek Speedway in Spring Valley, Minn., and Mississippi Thunder Speedway in Fountain City, Wis.. He’s a past track champion at both venues, but he didn't win any track championships in 2016. That was never the plan. Instead, he and his father/crew chief, John Schott, set out to race as much as they could and as many high-paying shows as they could.
“This year will be hard to beat,” Schott said. “We didn't have many goals at the start of the year. We bought this new car (an MB Customs from late model star Jimmy Mars) and didn't plan on running for local points or any championships. We just wanted to race when and where we wanted to, and run for the bigger money.”
But somewhere near the end of the road, a possible USRA Modified national title was suddenly staring them right in the face. The question was rather or not to stick with the original plan or play the points game.
USRA national points count a driver’s best 20 finishes during the season, regardless of the number of starts. Each year, dozens of drivers compete in 40 or more USRA-sanctioned events which allows them to disregard 20 or more of their worst performances.
The points battle ends near the end of October, but the pickings get slim around Minnesota once you get into September and the weather begins to beckon another cold winter. By late September, Schott had not even reached 20 shows yet.
But after wins on Friday night at the Featherlite Fall Jamboree and the Grant Junghans Memorial the following week, the math started to come together—and Schott seemed almost unbeatable on the track.
Winning both main events at Mississippi Thunder's Fall Festival, and then winning the main event at the USRA Nationals in mid-October helped Schott leap from fourth to first in the national title chase.
“It’s very rare that someone does what he did at the end of the year,” said 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.”
For his outstanding season both at local tracks and across the country, Schott was named the 2016 Post Bulletin Sports Person of the Year in December by the Rochester, Minn., newspaper.
One more hefty paycheck will be awarded to Schott when the United States Racing Association celebrates the 2016 season during the USRA Awards Banquet on Jan. 28 at the Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City.
Schott will collect $10,000 and was officially be recognized as the youngest USRA Modified National Champion in the 14-year history of the organization.
Gallardo finished just 25 points behind Schott and followed up his national title run with a runner-up finish in the final USRA Modified national points. Show-Me State stars Aaron Marrant and Jackie Dalton took the third and fourth spots in the final standings while 2016 Deer Creek Speedway track champ Josh Angst rounded out the top five.
2014 USRA Modified National Champion Fito Gallardo finished five spots behind his son in sixth, 2012 USRA Modified National Champion Brandon Davis finished seventh, Zane DeVilbiss won 18 features en route to an eighth-place result, Kevin Blackburn battled tough competition at Central Missouri Speedway to finish ninth and Terry Schultz wound up tenth—his fifth straight season inside the top 10.
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