Ballou cruises to second straight Lakeside score

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June 25, 2016  |  by Richie Murray

Lakeside Speedway has been very kind to Robert Ballou over the past two seasons and on Saturday night, the Rocklin, California driver returned to victory lane for the second consecutive time 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 and now had 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 would meet the tail of the field on the ninth lap as the frontrunners set a torrid pace in the opening laps.

Quickly, Ballou, Darland and now 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 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 out 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 victory 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 and, thus, 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 5th 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 ten 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).

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USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 25, 2016 – Kansas City, Kansas – Lakeside Speedway

PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-17.015 (New Track Record), 2. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-17.199; 3. Dave Darland, 11, Walker/Curb-Agajanian-17.305; 4. Thomas Meseraull, 66, Amati-17.423; 5. Aaron Farney, 15F, Farney-17.512; 6. Robert Ballou, 1, Ballou-17.513; 7. C.J. Leary, 17GP, Dutcher-17.529; 8. Max McGhee, 17, McGhee-17.557; 9. Chad Boespflug, 98E, NineEight/EZR-17.564; 10. Chris Windom 5, Baldwin-17.663; 11. Joe Bares, 19, TEST-17.728; 12. Landon Simon, 24, LSR-17.804; 13. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR-17.896; 14. Riley Kreisel, 90, Smith-18.024; 15. Chris Parkinson, 65, Parkinson-18.192; 16. Rob Caho, Jr., 78, Caho-18.502; 17. Mike Ell, 99, Ell-18.759; 18. Clinton Boyles, 77, Hockett-18.984; 19. Kenny Potter, 55, Potter-19.230; 20. Bret Mellenberndt, 97, Mellenberndt-NT; 21. Warren Johnson, 42, Johnson-NT.

SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Stockon, 2. Windom, 3. Meseraull, 4. Leary, 5. Caho, 6. Potter. 2:23.55

COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Bacon, 2. Farney, 3. McGhee, 4. Bares, 5. Ell, 6. Mellenberndt, 7. Kreisel. NT

BENIC ENTERPRISES/INDY RACE PARTS THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Boespflug, 2. Ballou, 3. Darland, 4. Boyles, 5. Parkinson, 6. Simon, 7. Johnson. 2:26.93

FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Robert Ballou, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Dave Darland, 4. Thomas Meseraull, 5. Chris Windom, 6. Chase Stockon, 7. Chad Boespflug, 8. Aaron Farney, 9. C.J. Leary, 10. Max McGhee, 11. Riley Kreisel, 12. Clinton Boyles, 13. Bret Mellenberndt, 14. Joe Bares, 15. Chris Parkinson, 16. Rob Caho, Jr., 17. Kenny Potter, 18. Landon Simon, 19. Isaac Chapple, 20. Mike Ell, 21. Warren Johnson. NT

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FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Ballou.

KSE HARD CHARGER: Bret Mellenberndt (20th to 13th)

NEW AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT POINTS: 1-Bacon-1,339, 2-Meseraull-1,278, 3-Ballou-1,203, 4-Stockon-1,203, 5-Darland-1,163, 6-Leary-1,121, 7-Boespflug-1,051, 8-McGhee-972, 9-Windom-903, 10-Farney-793.

NEXT AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT RACE: June 26 – Kansas City, Kansas – Lakeside Speedway.