Tucson, Arizona — The dream season for Robert Ballou continued on Thursday night at USA Raceway on the first night of the “Western World Championships.” His drive on this night from 14th to win was his biggest charge of the year en route to a win, making it 13 AMSOIL National Sprint Car victories on the season to tie J.J. Yeley’s incredible 2003 season for the second-most in history.
“It’s definitely been a fun season. I have to thank the people who got me going: my parents and then when they could no longer do it, Dallas Mulvaney and Jim Plew. We have worked really hard to turn this program into something like what J.J. had with Tony Stewart Racing, and it’s cool to put up a big number like this. We obviously still have a couple things left to do. So many people have helped us make this happen, and I can’t express enough gratitude to all of them, especially Derrick Bye for all of his hard work to keep us going,” Ballou said.
Damion Gardner led from the pole and brought third-starting hometown driver Jerry Coons, Jr. along with him, as Bryan Clauson settled into third. Coons cut the bottom underneath Gardner to lead lap two, but all eyes were on Ballou’s charge from row seven into the top-five in just a few laps. Ballou used the extreme high side as he carved his way to second, but Coons was way out front.
That changed with the first caution on lap ten, and Ballou restarted right behind Coons. It seemed inevitable that Ballou would make a move for the lead, but Coons was up to the challenge. Ballou biked hard in turn-one on lap 14 and lost a lot of ground, but he was starting to reel Coons in again with ten laps to go.
Behind them, ProSource/Woodland Auto Display “Fast Time Award” winner Brady Bacon was on the move, rolling the high side past Clauson for third at the halfway mark. Up front, Coons was flawless through the first batch of traffic, navigating his way high and low to actually increase his lead over Ballou.
Coons hit some open traffic before catching cars running the high side as he saw the five-to-go signal. With Ballou bearing down, Coons caught the turn-two cushion and glanced into the backstretch wall, setting him sideways before he barrel-rolled down multiple times. Ballou narrowly missed an in-flight Coons, who emerged from the car unscathed.
With six laps to go, Ballou walked away from the field while growing his point lead to 76 in the Pacific Grass & Turf – Blakesley Auto #12 Maxim/Ott.
“We changed just about everything but the driver’s seat tonight, and that’s only because I own the car. We just had to get me comfortable to run up there where it was a little chop and tough. We worked all through practice night to get better, and we just weren’t very good early in the night. Finally, we had ourselves a lane up high early in the race to get up through there. We were fully committed. I’m not sure we could have gotten Jerry, and I really hated to see that happen to him. He ran a great race through traffic,” Ballou said.
Bacon held down the second spot in the Hoffman Auto Racing – Mean Green #69 Triple X/Williams Mopar.
“I kinda wanted to see that thing stay in traffic, because I think I was better than them at rolling the bottom when it was necessary, but at the same time I wanted to get out of it as treacherous as it was getting. Robert is so good on a track like that when it’s slick up to a rough and nasty cushion. I felt like we were pretty good, but I think we faded just a bit at the end. The track kept getting better, and I see it getting wider and slicker as it goes, so hopefully that plays into our hands,” Bacon said.
Clauson started his weekend much like he did last weekend at the Perris Auto Speedway “Oval Nationals,” coming home third in the B&H Contractors – Dooling Machine #63 Spike/Fisher.
“We were pretty committed to the bottom, and it’s no secret that a big, nasty cushion isn’t necessarily my forte. The track actually cleaned up pretty decent up there, though, and Robert obviously found it quick and Jerry got up there pretty quick, too. It wasn’t quite as good below the cushion and down to the bottom as it was up top. I knew once those guys got by me, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do. I could stay close for a couple, but they just got away from us, but the longer races and the later in the week, we should get better. I haven’t ever been real great here, so hopefully we can keep at it and be in it on Saturday,” Clauson said.
Thomas Meseraull came home fourth in the Marion Underground Construction – Zeller Construction #66 DRC/Dynotech, and CRA point leader Damion Gardner finished fifth in the Alexander Racing – Scott Sales Company #4 Spike/J&D, making his lead eighty points going into Friday’s second preliminary night.
AMSOIL USAC SPRINT CAR NATIONAL & CRA CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: November 19, 2015 – Tucson, Arizona – USA Raceway – “Western World Championships”
QUALIFYING: 1. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-15.275 (New Track Record); 2. Tracy Hines, 4, THR-15.294; 3. Thomas Meseraull, 66, Amati-15.386; 4. Aaron Farney, 15F, Farney-15.421; 5. Jerry Coons, Jr., 20N, Nolen-15.445; 6. R.J. Johnson, 51, Martin-15.492; 7. Bryan Clauson, 63, Dooling/Hayward-15.516; 8. Damion Gardner, 4x, Alexander-15.524; 9. Richard Vander Weerd, 10, Vander Weerd-15.600; 10. Mike Spencer, 50, Chaffin-15.617; 11. Chase Stockon, 32, 32/TBI-15.620; 12. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 17RW, Dutcher-15.622; 13. Dave Darland, 71p, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-15.628; 14. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-15.650; 15. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-15.667; 16. Ryan Bernal, 56, Phulps-15.682; 17. Austin Williams, 2, Jory-15.725; 18. Matt Rossi, 02, Rossi-15.762; 19. Brady Short, 19, Underwood-15.770; 20. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-15.797; 21. Jon Stanbrough, 81, Stanbrough-15.823; 22. Justin Grant, 5, Baldwin-15.828; 23. Brody Roa, 48, Leonard-15.833; 24. Mike Martin, 16, Martin-15.857; 25. Danny Faria, Jr., 17v, Bowman-15.942; 26. Chris Windom, 21x, Pollock-15.999; 27. Chad Boespflug, 04G, Cook-16.007; 28. Casey Shuman, 42, Cheney-16.015; 29. Colby Copeland, 74, Williams-16.023; 30. Cody Williams, 44, Jory-16.041; 31. Nick Parker, 94, Morales-16.144; 32. Logan Williams, 5x, Jory-16.164; 33. Jake Swanson, 92, Sertich-16.408; 34. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-17.002.
FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Stanbrough, 2. Darland, 3. Bacon, 4. Coons, 5. Vander Weerd, 6. Hodges, 7. Faria, 8. Swanson, 9. A. Williams. NT
SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Ballou, 2. Hines, 3. Rossi, 4. Spencer, 5. Grant, 6. Windom, 7. Johnson, 8. C. Williams, 9. Bell. NT
THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Clauson, 2. Meseraull, 3. Leary, 4. Roa, 5. Boespflug, 6. Parker, 7. Stockon, 8. Short. NT
FOURTH HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Hodges, 2. Bernal, 3. Thomas, 4. Gardner, 5. Farney, 6. Shuman, 7. Martin, 8. L. Williams. NT
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Johnson, 2. Farney, 3. Vander Weerd, 4. Windom, 5. Faria, 6. Stockon, 7. Swanson, 8. Shuman, 9. Martin, 10. Parker, 11. A. Williams, 12. C. Williams, 13. L. Williams, 14. Bell, 15. Copeland, 16. Boespflug, 17. Short. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Robert Ballou, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Bryan Clauson, 4. Thomas Meseraull, 5. Damion Gardner, 6. Dave Darland, 7. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 8. Ryan Bernal, 9. Richard Vander Weerd, 10. C.J. Leary, 11. Tracy Hines, 12. Josh Hodges, 13. Danny Faria, Jr., 14. Brody Roa, 15. R.J. Johnson, 16. Matt Rossi, 17. Aaron Farney, 18. Jon Stanbrough, 19. Jake Swanson, 20. Cody Williams, 21. Mike Spencer, 22. Jerry Coons, Jr., 23. Chase Stockon, 24. Chris Windom. NT
-USAC Press Release. Photo credit: Rich Forman