Rossburg, OH — Brady Bacon is a renaissance man of sorts. Wing or wingless, running the top or the bottom, the Broken Arrow, Okla. native seems to adapt to a multitude of situations on any given racetrack.
Under the Friday night lights of Eldora Speedway’s #LetsRaceTwo, Bacon was thrust into performing all those roles within a single performance as the lone wheelman pulling double-duty with both the USAC AMSOIL National and World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Cars.
Bacon was exemplary on both ends of the spectrum, conquering his second career USAC Sprint Car victory on the high banks, doing so by riding his way to victory on the wave of the expected and the unexpected.
Wheels right up against the concrete – that’s the expected line at Eldora that involves putting the right rear rubber smack dab up against the outer wall. Then there’s the not-so-expected hide-and-seek line in which the left side wheels are within earshot of the inside walls in the corners before the car emerges from the bottom having gained substantial ground.
Bacon did it all in one night and even translated what he learned from one car to the other to get a feel for the track and find a comfort zone for himself.
“The B-Feature (in the wing car) really helped me,” Bacon admitted. “I ran the top pretty much wide open. It’s not as fast in a non-wing car, but you have a lot less control too. If the wing cars are on the cushion, then the non-wing cars are definitely going to be up there. It was an old-school Eldora tonight. I did kind of make the bottom off (turn) four work a little bit, which is a little uncharacteristic for here, but it’s been working for us the last couple times.”
Yet, Bacon would have his work cut out for him. He had to start eighth in the field, trailing a lineup that held a collective eight career USAC National Sprint Car victories at “The Big E” coming into the night’s 30-lap main event, five of which belonged to Robert Ballou, who slid up to the lead past Chris Windom from the pole position to hold the early lead.
As the front runners ringed their way around the top, Bacon inch-wormed his way forward on the bottom and, by halfway, was erasing Ballou’s once-happening lead. Bacon hit the top-shelf with authority between turns one and two and tickled the twines of the bottom line in three and four. Although, at times, lapped traffic would stifle Bacon’s baseline shuffle, it would not deter him for long.
“It was getting trickier to hit the bottom, but I just kept it in my back pocket. I knew it was so treacherous up top and easy to lose your momentum. There really wasn’t much grip to gain your speed back. I just knew if he got slowed up or started making mistakes, I could probably get underneath him on the bottom. We still got trapped under some lapped cars, but we were able to clear them before he did. I was a little worried he was going to come back around us, but once we got out there, I tried not to make any mistakes. I knew it was going to be hard for anyone to pass me.” – Brady Bacon on his winning pass of Robert Ballou.
On the 19th lap, Bacon took the initiative and went on the attack, using a big run to split between Ballou on the high side and the lapped car of Chad Boespflug on the inside. Like a motorist gracefully avoiding a rush hour headache by hitting the exit ramp just prior to traffic backing up to a standstill, Bacon found the open road, put the top down, mashed the throttle and checked out.
“It was getting trickier to hit the bottom, but I just kept it in my back pocket,” Bacon explained. “I knew it was so treacherous up top and easy to lose your momentum. There really wasn’t much grip to gain your speed back. I just knew if he got slowed up or started making mistakes, I could probably get underneath him on the bottom. We still got trapped under some lapped cars, but we were able to clear them before he did. I was a little worried he was going to come back around us, but once we got out there, I tried not to make any mistakes. I knew it was going to be hard for anyone to pass me.”
From there, Bacon gradually constructed what would become an insurmountable advantage in the caution-free event, which eventually ballooned to a full-straightaway by race’s end, defeating Ballou by a margin of 5.733 seconds. Windom was third ahead of Justin Grant and Kevin Thomas, Jr.
A full slate of non-stop competition that included jumping back-and-forth, to-and-fro from the USAC car to the WoO car was not an issue for the two-time USAC National Sprint Car champ on this night. Neither was a caution-free affair that was completed at a clip of less than nine-and-a-half minutes, something that is not as physical to Bacon as it may seem to the outsiders.
“This place is more mental than physical,” Bacon contends. “You can get mentally worn out. That happens more to me after the ‘4-Crown.’ I just kind of zone out after it’s over. As long as you’re breathing and doing everything right, it’s not that tiring. It’s definitely a lot easier when things are going your way.”
After a rough start to the season that included exiting the Dooling-Hayward Motorsports/Richard Childress Racing ride following a tumultuous term at Ocala, Fla. in February, Bacon brought his own team to the forefront to compete on the USAC trail. It’s something that has been a challenge to get back up and going, but now Bacon is beginning to reap those rewards.
“We’ve come a long way,” Bacon reflects. “I knew we had all the ingredients to win. We just had to figure out how to put them all together. It’s been a few years since I’ve run this package. We’ve kind of been looking back; we called the Hoffmans a couple times and brought out the notebook to figure out where we were. Things have changed a lot in a couple years; it’s constantly evolving. The shocks are getting better and what we used to do doesn’t really work anymore. We’re trying to find the balance to be fast at the beginning and at the end of the night. This place caters to me or the more experienced drivers. It’s good to get a win close to where I live. Lots of friends are here watching and, obviously, this is a prestigious place.”
Contingency award winners Friday night at Eldora Speedway included Dave Darland (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner & Roger & Barb Tapy 13th Fastest Qualifier), Justin Grant (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner), Brady Bacon (Chalk Stix/Indy Race Parts Third Heat Winner & KSE Racing Products Hard Charger) and Dallas Hewitt (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).
-USAC Press Release
-Photo credit: Ryan Sellers