Sun Prairie, Wisconsin…….Robert Ballou came from ninth to finish off the tour of Wisconsin for the AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship with his eighth win of the year at Angell Park Speedway on Sunday night. The Rocklin, California driver has now put up the most wins in a season since Levi Jones also posted eight in 2010, and made it 17 wins for his career to tie Parnelli Jones, Bud Kaeding, and Jerry Coons, Jr. for 25th on the all-time list.
“(Crew chief) Derrick (Bye) and I were not getting along early in the night, and luckily he got it figured out and gave me what we needed for the feature tonight. You definitely have to run thirty hard laps, almost like it’s qualifying, to be able to beat these guys. We’ve been fighting some things wearing out on us a bit, which is probably because I don’t crash as much as I used to, so we’re not putting new parts on it all the time. We could be a little closer to that 14 number (all-time record for wins in a season), but that’s how it goes in racing,” said Ballou, who turned his fastest lap of the 30-lap feature on the final lap.
C.J. Leary grabbed the early lead from the pole and led Jon Stanbrough on the high side, as Ballou worked the bottom past Justin Grant and Brady Bacon in the first two laps before Bill Balog brought out the red flag on lap three for a big flip through turns one and two. He walked away.
Stockon used the low side to move past Stanbrough to take second, then started an assault on Leary for the lead. Ballou got another spot before a second caution one lap later, and he started to make big moves on the restart and brought Bacon with him, as they entered the top-five by lap ten. Stockon started to drift off the bottom and lost ground to Leary as Ballou closed on him. Just as Ballou drew the inside and Bacon was looking to the outside in a three-way scrap for second, the final caution flew.
Leary led at the restart, but Ballou went by Stockon right away for second. Bacon had trouble regaining his rhythm up high, but he finally got a run on the outside as they completed lap 15 and took the spot into turn-one. Ballou had already caught Leary, though, and they went side-by-side at the line on lap 16, with Leary less than a tenth of a second ahead. Leary held him off again the following lap, this time by just .048 seconds.
Ballou cleared Leary for the lead on lap 18, but Leary came right back at him and slid up in front as they entered turn-three. Ballou crossed back underneath to lead at the line for the first time by .037 seconds. Bacon was gaining momentum, and he took the second spot from Leary the next lap, setting up a run to the checkers with the two winningest drivers of the year.
Bacon closed to Ballou’s back bumper with his fastest lap of the race on lap 23, as both were now running the extreme high side of the speedway. Ballou started to creep away with less than five laps to go, negotiating the final bit of traffic as he won by 1.199 seconds in the Blakesley Auto – TwisterX #12 Maxim/Ott.
“I didn’t think it would widen out as much as it did, but the bottom stayed pretty good early and I was able to stick down there as other guys blew through it. The slower I went, the faster I was. Luckily, we were able to get clear of Leary when we did, because my line down there was going away. I could see Brady (Bacon) up there right at the caution and knew I had to get there fast. I ran C.J. hard and thought I might mess up and clean him out, but he’s brave and stayed in it, and actually passed me back on the other end. In clear track, we were pretty good, and I knew that unless I screwed up in traffic like last night, they weren’t gonna be able to get us,” Ballou said.
Bacon could not pass Ballou in the closing laps for the second consecutive night, settling for second in the Hoffman Auto Racing – Mean Green #69 Triple X/Williams Mopar after the team executed an engine change after falling out of the heat race, using the Semi-Feature to transfer to the Feature.
“He kinda won the race to the front, and that was the thing tonight. We were a little better than him in the middle of the race when I had the top working, but once he moved up and got going, we were pretty even and I couldn’t do anything without a major mistake. Tonight, he didn’t have any big hiccups with traffic, which is what I would’ve needed. He’s a smart racer and moved up right at the right time, and I’m happy with second after our complications. Our team is prepared and handled the engine change with no problem, and running the B Main may have helped some tonight,” Bacon said.
Leary returned to the podium after a drought through June and July, back aboard the Leary Construction Company – AMSOIL #30 DRC/Claxton Mopar, as he held off Stockon in the final circuits.
“It feels good to be back in the 30 and get it up front again. The track was pretty tricky up there, and I think Brady was getting up in the cushion a little bit more than I was to get grip. We just ended up being a bit too free at the end. We’re getting closer and getting our chemistry back, so I can’t wait for the Smackdown at Kokomo in a couple weeks,” Leary said.
Stockon was just two-tenths behind Leary at the line, finishing fourth in the Superior Tank & Trailer – Crescent Electric Supply #32 DRC/Fisher, and Dave Darland rounded out the top-five in the Phillips/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – Trench Shoring #71P DRC/Foxco.
Kevin Thomas, Jr. set the night’s ProSource “Fast Time” with a new track record of 13.796 seconds.
AMSOIL USAC SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: August 9, 2015 – Sun Prairie, Wisconsin – Angell Park Speedway
QUALIFYING: 1. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 17RW, Dutcher-13.796 (New Track Record); 2. Dave Darland, 71P, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-13.880; 3. Aaron Farney, 15F, Farney-13.950; 4. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-13.996; 5. Justin Grant, 5, Baldwin-13.999; 6. Chase Stockon, 32, 32/TBI-14.002; 7. Jon Stanbrough, 81, Stanbrough-14.003; 8. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-14.039; 9. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-14.085; 10. Tracy Hines, 4, THR-14.147; 11. Bill Balog, 2, Lein-14.229; 12. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti Autosport Short Track-14.314; 13. Chris Windom, 21x, Pollock-14.415; 14. Steve Irwin, 0x, Flying Zero-14.454; 15. Joe Bares, 19, Test-14.553; 16. Brian Kristan, 5K, Kristan-14.583; 17. Ray Seach, 16, Lehr-14.631; 18. Ryan Irwin, 56, Irwin-14.860; 19. Steve Thomas, 20, Thomas-15.106; 20. Doug Schenck, 9A, Hunt-15.110; 21. Rick Kelsey, 11K, RK Motorsports-15.249; 22. Craig Lager, 52, Lager-15.268; 23. Jim Scanlon, 5J, Scanlon-15.468; 24. Tony Rost, 99, Rost-NT; 25. Alex Schriever, 0, Davis-NT
FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Stanbrough, 2. Hines, 3. K. Thomas, 4. Kristan, 5. S. Thomas, 6. Windom, 7. Bacon, 8. Lager. NTSECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Darland, 2. Leary, 3. S. Irwin, 4. Seach, 5. Scanlon, 6. Balog, 7. Grant, 8. Schenck. NT
THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Ballou, 2. Stockon, 3. Andretti, 4. Farney, 5. R. Irwin, 6. Bares, 7. Kelsey, 8. Rost. 2:28.06 (New Track Record)
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Bacon, 2. Grant, 3. Balog, 4. Bares, 5. Windom, 6. Kelsey, 7. Rost, 8. Schenck, 9. Lager. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Robert Ballou, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. C.J. Leary, 4. Chase Stockon, 5. Dave Darland, 6. Justin Grant, 7. Tracy Hines, 8. Jon Stanbrough, 9. Chris Windom, 10. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 11. Aaron Farney, 12. Joe Bares, 13. Steve Thomas, 14. Tony Rost, 15. Brian Kristan, 16. Rick Kelsey, 17. Jim Scanlon, 18. Steve Irwin, 19. Jarett Andretti, 20. Ray Seach, 21. Bill Balog, 22. Ryan Irwin. NT
**Schriever flipped during qualifying. Balog flipped on lap 3 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-17 Leary, Laps 18-30 Ballou.
– USAC press release & supplied photo