Brady Bacon held off a hard-charging Robert Ballou as the two sliced and diced their way through lapped traffic during the final laps to take the victory in the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Cars’ first visit to the Jackson (Minn.) Motorplex in 28 years.
With the victory, the legendary Hoffman Auto Racing team crossed the century mark in total USAC Sprint Car feature victories (95 National, 2 Midwest, 3 Special Event).
Outside front-row starter Bacon, driving for the winningest team in USAC Sprint Car history – Hoffman Auto Racing – staged alongside the series’ winningest driver, Dave Darland, at the start of the 30-lapper.
As the green flag dropped, it was Darland who jumped out front, sliding up in front of Bacon at the entrance of one, but Bacon was never out of reach as he shadowed Darland throughout much of the first half of the event.
On the tenth lap, Darland was beginning to feel the pressure from Bacon. Darland cut low into three, barely squeaking underneath the lapped car of Brandon Halverson, briefly gapping Bacon.
Meanwhile, third-running Ballou became a formidable player in this high-stakes game of speed, chomping at the bit as he ate away at the interval between himself and the two frontrunners.
On lap 14, backmarkers Brandon Stevenson and Joe Bares were running in close quarters with nary a car-length between the two heading into the third turn. With a small window of real estate available between the Stevenson and Bares, Darland shot the gap, splitting between the two while sliding from the bottom berm up to the cushion at the exit of turn four. That allowed Bacon, running the bottom, to maintain his momentum as he shot down the front straightaway and into turn one and rocketing off turn two with the race lead in his hands with 16 laps remaining.
With 20 laps in the books, Ballou cleared Darland with a mammoth turn one slider to take second. Now, it was just Ballou and Bacon, two of USAC’s best when it comes to sprint cars on half-mile dirt tracks. However, the two were both bad fast and it would take a handful of obstacles to slow down Bacon’s mission. Therein came lapped traffic.
Ballou laid down the fastest lap of his race on lap 23 as he lurked in the distance, inching closer to Bacon’s rear bumper as he hustled his number one on the outside.
Mired in heavy lap traffic in the final five laps, Bacon and Ballou crept upon gridlock as a logjam of cars ran two and, at times, three-wide, making wading through the back of the field treacherous.
With three to go, Bacon was able to slash around the lapped car of Landon Simon, but Ballou got hung up behind Simon exiting the fourth turn. Ballou made contact with the rear bumper of Simon exiting the corner, sending Simon into a half-spin before regaining control as Ballou went on by. Subsequently, Ballou lost substantial ground to Bacon with just a couple to go, and was, thus, out of time.
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma’s Bacon put a stamp on his second series win of the season, lapping up to eighth place in his Dynamics, Inc./Mean Green – Lykins Oil/Triple X/Williams Mopar, beating Ballou, Chase Stockon, C.J. Leary and Darland while also maintaining and increasing his lead in the standings to 47 points over sixth place finisher Thomas Meseraull.
“The pace slowed up so much on the top and bottom once we hit the lapped traffic,” Bacon explained. “I knew I could sneak around them on the bottom in (turns) one and two, but I was nervous that he’d run the top and get a run on me. Thankfully, we were good enough off the bottom of turn two that we could still hold him off. I’m just glad to get a win for these Hoffman guys. We had a stretch where we were in a little slump, but we’ve gotten the ball rolling here lately and it feels good to get back on track. I love tracks like this; the big, fast, heavy tracks. Robert and I used to race like this a lot at the old “Ron Shuman Classic” at Lakeside, so it was fun to race with him again for a win.”
After stumbling through a stretch of the season, Ballou, of Rocklin, California, seems to have righted the ship of late, securing his eighth straight top-10 finish with a fine second place effort at Jackson in his Ballou Motorsports/Blakesley Auto – Rossie Feed & Grain/Maxim/Ott.
“We were a tick too tight and the track didn’t go away like we thought it would,” Ballou said. “I think we had a better racecar, but I made a couple silly mistakes and the Hoffman guys had their car dialed. It’s been a rough go for our team lately and we’ve torn a lot of stuff up, so it’s good to have a solid run tonight.”
ProSource Fast Qualifier Chase Stockon of Fort Branch, Indiana put the 32-TBI Racing/Superior Tank & Trailer – Crescent Electric Supply/DRC/Fisher atop the speed charts early in the evening and finished off the night by rounding out the podium with a solid 3rd place finish.
“Brady and Robert were really good in traffic and just in general,” Stockon acknowledged. “I could catch them, but it was always at the wrong times. We’re happy with a third. We’re normally not the best on tracks like this, so we feel like we have the car pretty comfortable right now and I could put it about anywhere. We’ve worked really hard on this thing all year to get it to go and I feel like we’re finally there.”
Contingency award winners at Jackson Motorplex included Chase Stockon (ProSource Fast Qualifier), Chris Windom (Simpson Race Products First Heat Race Winner), Aaron Farney (Competition Suspension, Inc. (CSI) Second Heat Race Winner), Robert Ballou (Benic Enterprises/Indy Race Parts Third Heat Race Winner), Thomas Meseraull (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger) and Joe Bares (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Feature Finisher).
-USAC Press Release
-Photo Credit: Rich Forman