By: USAC Racing
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Lakeside Speedway has been very kind to Robert Ballou over the past two seasons and, on Saturday night, the Rocklin, Calif., driver returned to victory lane for his second consecutive USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car win at the 4/10-mile track, leading all 30 laps from his pole-starting position.
On the initial lap of the main event, Ballou shot to the front for the advantage into turn one. Inside second-row starter Thomas Meseraull followed suit and was able to pull even with Ballou at the stripe on the opening lap.
Lap three, Dave Darland, who’s shown consistency of late, put his machine up on the cushion, using a high-side flyer to dispose of Meseraull for the second spot, setting his sights set on the defending series champion and last year’s Lakeside winner, Ballou.
Ballou was masterful through lapped traffic in his dominant run above the cushion at the Kansas City dirt oval one season ago and, this time, he met the tail of the field on the ninth lap as the front-runners set a torrid pace in the opening laps.
Quickly, Ballou, Darland and Brady Bacon successfully weaved their way through a conglomeration of lapped cars, diving low and high to maintain momentum and stay in front of their nearest challenger.
As Ballou opened up a three-quarters of a straightaway length by the midway point, the battle intensified for the second position. Bacon and Darland ran side-by-side – Bacon low, Darland high – with Bacon able to get a run off of turn four to take second at the line.
With 13 laps to go, the feature’s only yellow flew when the right rear of Isaac Chapple’s car came apart right in front of race leader Ballou. Ballou was able to dive to the inside to safety as shards of rubber scattered through the air between turns one and two.
On the ensuing restart, Bacon was able to pull even with Ballou as the two entered the second corner, but Ballou was able to jet off the top to reclaim the point down the back straightaway.
On lap 21, Darland used the outside line to swing past Bacon for second, but almost immediately, Bacon clawed back, retaking the position from Darland for good at the entrance to turn one.
Meanwhile, Ballou had stretched his lead and, with five laps to go, the only thing that stood in his way of claiming another Lakeside triumph was the Kansas City rush hour traffic.
Ballou sliced, diced, minced and chopped his way through the back of the field, making it look easy as he cruised to victory by 1.395 seconds over Bacon, Darland, Meseraull and Chris Windom.
Ballou led the event wire-to-wire in his Ballou Motorsports/Blakesley Auto – Rossie Feed & Grain/Maxim/Ott for his third USAC National Sprint Car victory of the 2016 season.
“Starting on the front row, especially after the track rework, I was worried about whether the top or bottom would be better,” Ballou said. “I ran the bottom early, but almost stayed down too long before I got back up. I got back up and got my momentum going. By the end, I was attacking traffic hard because I knew those guys were right there. I hurt my tires by the end. They were pretty well used up and I was sliding around. I just tried to stay high and keep my momentum up and that was probably the key there.”
Brady Bacon’s consistency of late has put him squarely in the driver’s seat of the series point standings. His second-place finish at Lakeside in his Dynamics, Inc./Mean Green – Lykins Oil/Triple X/Williams Mopar netted him his sixth straight top-four finish, which provided him a 61-point advantage – his largest lead of the season – as the series heads into night two of back-to-back nights at Lakeside on Sunday.
“Robert (Ballou) got through traffic pretty aggressively and got through there good and I didn’t quite clear a couple lap cars soon enough to get where I needed to be,” Bacon said. “It just cost me a little bit of time. I got close to him on a restart, but it’s hard to beat Ballou from the pole. He’s not really going to mess up too bad. The bottom just didn’t stick around at the end long enough to be able to run very hard. It was a fun race, though, and hopefully we get a good track again tomorrow.”
Lincoln, Indiana’s Dave Darland has had a successful week, earning a fifth in Jackson, Minn., on Thursday and a pair of third-place finishes Friday night in Eagle, Neb., and Saturday night at Lakeside in his Jeff Walker-Curb-Agajanian Racing/Jam-It-In Storage – Hoosier Tire/Maxim/Claxton.
“We had a good car early,” Darland acknowledged. “Robert (Ballou) was running the bottom and I was sneaking up on him. If he had run the bottom maybe one more lap, we could’ve got him. Maybe, maybe not. But we were coming. He apparently heard me. I told (team owner Jeff Walker) I was going to be quiet coming up there and I don’t know if he heard me or what, but he did move up at just the right time. We were great early, but with 10 laps to go, we got way too tight. I couldn’t really run the cushion with authority. Every time I caught lapped traffic, I didn’t seem to catch them at the right time. But we’re still happy to get out of here with a podium finish. We’re sneaking up on getting some wins; we’re getting better and we’re looking forward to the future.”
Contingency award winners at Lakeside included Chase Stockon (ProSource Fast Qualifier & Simpson Race Products First Heat Race Winner), Brady Bacon [Competition Suspension, Inc. (CSI) Second Heat Race Winner], Chad Boespflug (Benic Enterprises/Indy Race Parts Third Heat Race Winner) and Bret Mellenberndt (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger & Wilwood Brakes 13th-Place Feature Finisher).