by Don Martin
Over the last few years I have gotten the chance to spend some time and get to know this fine young man, Jake Neuman. The son of a hard working farmer and a mother with a strong racing background give this 22 year old the fire to be one of the best young and upcoming midget racers in the coming years. Most drivers I talk to have NASCAR aspirations and moving up to Sprint Cars, not this bearded wonder. He just wants to race midgets. His reasoning was very simple he believes midget racing is the truest form of motorsports, the slidejobs and side-by-side racing, he doesn’t want to do anything else. How much does Jake love racing, so much that when he isn’t racing and working on midgets he’s welding sprint cars at Maxim.
The New Berlin, Illinois racer started racing around 7 years of age racing quarter midgets, racking up to close to 60 wins before moving up to micros. He didn’t race the micros much and in his late teen years he moved into midgets. He gets better and better each year. He has won close to 10 midgets races over the last few years. Driving for his father Jim he racked up POWRI National event wins at Macon and Valley Speedway located in Grain Valley, Missouri. Jake has raised some eyebrows and even got the opportunity to driver for Flea Ruzic. Flea has been known for his creativeness and has his own team called Team Ripper. Flea put Jake in his house car and Jake won two races for him, one at Belleville and the other at Marion both were POWRI National events. Belleville was special because it is his favorite track.
Flea designed the Boss Chassis before now having his new creation called the Ripper. The cars are similar with some changes in the front suspension and design. Flea and Jim Neuman are very close. The Jim Neuman Racing team utilizes Boss Chassis and even have a new Ripper for the Chili Bowl this year for Jake.
Speaking of the Chili Bowl when you ask Jake about it, he doesn’t hesitate to say it’s the biggest dirt race of the year it is where the Best of the Best come to play for a week in January in Tulsa. Jake’s first chili bowl memory was watching J.J. Yeley driving the Andy Bondio machine with the bicycle tire on the left front and from that moment on he was hooked! His buddy, Justin Allgaier, also made the race that year at the age of 16.
When Jake raced micros he ran the number 8 because he and his family are big Dale Jr. fans. This is why the colors are red and black. He now runs the #3N because again of the legend Dale Earnhardt. His dad Jim and his grandparents Mike and Brenda Neuman were big #3 Fans. They make just about every race. I am sure when Grandpa Mike is reading this he has Mountain Dew in his hand!!
When I asked Jake if it is hard driving for Dad, he will tell you he would not want it any other way. He mentioned they may have a few arguments and disagreements just like any other family but the support he gets from his family means everything to him.
Jake told me believe it or not, the most passionate person in his camp is his mother. Like I mentioned above his mom Shannon Sheppard Neuman has a strong racing background. Yes the Sheppard family in New Berlin, the Brandon Sheppard the number one ranked dirt late model driver in the country over the last 2 years and the reigning World of Outlaw Dirt Late Model Champion. So racing has always been in his mother’s blood.
Jake will be running his 5th Chili Bowl this year. He made the A-Main last year for the first time and finished 21st. It was not a fluke he made the show and anything short of making the race this year would be a disappointment. Understand the 3 previous years in Tulsa, Jake was in the Saturday B-Main each of those 3 years. So the hammer down central Illinois driver has proven he can line up with the best and beat some of the best and has shown consistency. Jake loves racing against the Superteams of Kunz, Clauson-Marshall, Petry, and Tucker Boat. He mentioned it is hard to beat those guys but racing them makes you better. When I asked him who his favorite driver, like most of the midget racers I talk to, his answer was Kyle Larson.
The Neuman team will be taking 4 cars to the Chili Bowl this year and they are better prepared this year than ever. Besides Jake the team will bring back past champion Tim McCreadie. T-MAC ran for the team last year and missed the Saturday Championship A-Main by 3 spots. The team had some brake issues and will be back stronger than ever this year. Paul Nienhiser will also be a part of the Neuman stable. Paul won the MOWA Championship last year and is getting more experience in midgets each year. The final piece of the puzzle is Mike Hess, he has made the race 3 times in a span of almost 2 decades. Mike brings leadership and a ton of knowledge to the team and the guy can still wheel a race car. The expectations were clear no car should be outside of the C-Main Saturday night all the drivers are solid and in top notch equipment.
The Team will utilize Boss and Ripper Chassis with SR-11’s under the hood. Special thanks to sponsors of course Neuman Farms, Brandt, Vision One Composites, Modern Paving and Scrap, and Wood Heating and Cooling.
In closing, this is a good kid that just wants to race, he doesn’t have a girlfriend, his favorite food is a horseshoe, and loves classic country especially Alan Jackson. He is blessed to have such a wonderful supportive family who love racing as much as he does. When I asked him about his favorite thing to do at the Chili Bowl, he laughed and said “JUST HANG OUT” seeing family and friends it’s like a family reunion it just doesn’t get any better than that!