Worthington, Ohio---Fifty-two weeks ago, they were gracious runners-up.
An epic course of events had left Stan and Steve Blagrave tied in points with the reigning-champion Ross family. Despite sweeping their two sessions at the DeKalb County Fair, the Ackerly, Texans went home without the title, losing the tiebreaker, six wins to five.
This year? They had six wins by Chapel Hill Saturday.
The 2017 NTPA Hard Charger Award honorees and their "Red Horse" Case IH raced from ahead all through 2018, notching just one finish below second---a sixth on a rain-soaked track in Rockwell---in their first 10 appearances. Their lead withstood their steed's few wobbly steps at later-season venues Brandenburg and Napoleon and the corresponding reemergence of their primary rival, Colin Ross' two-time defender "Triple Bypass" (-14), which posted six wins of its own down the stretch after early-year struggles.
Finishing third in 2018 as in 2017 was Travis Schlabach's "Bone Twister" (-26), owner of four of the remaining six wins. Taking fourth was Kent Payne' "Super Rooster" (-38), which placed first and second at Bowling Green to claim the Diesel division's weekend championship ring. And coming home fifth was Steve Burge's "Lock-N-Load," which won on the regular season's final pass in Sandwich, Illinois and has four wins at the all-star Enderle Pull-Off, the most since the diesel-only division was formed in 1999. These five compatriots will get their next chance at Enderle glory on Saturday, September 15 in Urbana, Ohio.
As for the Blagraves, it's their second title in five seasons and third dating to 2002. The family very nearly had two championships to celebrate this season, as Steve's sons Sean and Trevor split seat time in the "Wild Horse" Two Wheel Drive en route to a win at Tomah---across the track from Uncle Stan's on Saturday night---and second place in the GN standings. All-time, only Esdon Lehn (2012, 2006, 2003, 1999-2001) and Brian Shramek (2006-2010) have more titles in SSD.