SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. — The USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship made its first visit to Angell Park Speedway in seven years, but the man standing in victory lane at the end of the night was the same.
Robert Ballou, who won the 2015 event at the historic track, started eighth on Sunday night and took the lead from Davey Ray in only seven laps.
Ballou led the balance of the 30-lap distance to capture his third series win of the season in his Ballou Motorsports/Suburban Subaru – Dragonfly Aviation – Berks Western Telecom/Triple X/Ott Chevy.
Ballou’s 34th career USAC National Sprint Car feature score moved him to within one win of 12th on the all-time list, which is currently occupied by both Jon Stanbrough and Rich Vogler.
In doing so, Ballou won in uninterrupted start-to-finish fashion, taking the checkered flag in a brief 7 minutes and 57.6 seconds during the inaugural KO Klassic / CarIQ Wisconsin Jump Around.
Ballou said there were similarities in his two victories, though, seven years apart.
“In 2015, I had a brand new engine. In 2022, I got a brand new Don Ott engine,” summarized Ballou. “This weekend was all about testing. I’ve changed my whole racecar and changed everything that we’ve done. We’ve spent a lot of hours in the shop. My buddy, Tom Harris from England, and I were on the phone all the time trying to get this thing better. He understands the fabrication along with what does what and how. I’m the knucklehead who steers it and says, ‘this doesn’t work’ and ‘let’s try something different.’ I’ve had something up my sleeve since December and I wanted to try it.”
Polesitter Ray, who’s collected numerous Badger Midget victories at Angell Park in his career, slid to the top and into the lead for the first time in USAC National Sprint Car career on the opening lap in turn one as outside front row starter Braydon Cromwell fought to keep in stride with Ray on the bottom.
In the background of the front runners was Ballou, who was on the move in a major way. He surpassed USAC National Sprint Car point leader Justin Grant for third with a low rider maneuver between turns one and two on lap four.
Next on Ballou’s hit list was Cromwell who hopped atop the third turn cushion, which allowed Ballou to slither underneath for second on lap five.
Ballou stuck to his guns on the low line, and when Ray wrestled with the turn three cushion on lap six, it opened the door for Ballou on the low line to scoot alongside, missing the lead by a sliver of a fingernail at the stripe, with Ray clinging to a .007 second margin.
“I was afraid of how quick it would go away,” Ballou admitted. “It’s one of those deals that’s a flip of the coin. You’re either going to be really good at the beginning and awful at the end or it’s one out of a hundred where you get lucky and it’s good the whole time.”
It was “game on” for Ballou who completed his overtake of Ray between turns one and two on the seventh lap, then set sail for the horizon as he put up a four second lead by the midway point while the battles raged on behind him. Ballou continued to negotiate the contiguous throngs of lapped traffic nearing the midway point while Emerson Axsom double-slid Grant and Ray in the first turn on lap 14 to go from fourth to second in the snap of a finger.
Meanwhile, Bacon utilized a similar route as Ballou to take over the third position from Grant at the exit of turn four on the 18th lap. Bacon then cruised the bottom to shoot to second on lap 22, using the lapped car of Brandon Mattox as a sort of pick, then rocketed from bottom to top at the exit of turn four to rip away the position.
Ballou held a near four-second lead when Bacon slotted into second with eight laps remaining. Quickly, though, Bacon knocked Ballou’s lead down to 1.7 with only five laps to go. However, Ballou cut through with ease, splitting Terry Babb and William Huck halfway down the back straight on the final lap, then was free and clean to the finish line, winning by 1.953 seconds over Bacon, who had a right rear tire shred to smithereens on the cool down lap following the checkered flag. Axsom, Grant and C.J. Leary rounded out the top five.
“I could go pretty much anywhere they would throw the crumbs off the bottom,” Ballou explained. “No one had run through there and, those last few laps, I could catch the middle really good. I was pretty tight on the curb getting into three. It’s a pretty tricky racetrack; they built this place to run midgets, but with sprint cars, it always puts on a pretty good race.”
The last time Bacon competed with the USAC National Sprint Cars at Angell Park, he finished second in 2015. On Sunday night, he ran second again to Ballou at Angell Park after starting back in the seventh position in his Dynamics, Inc./Fatheadz Eyewear – Gressman Sanitation – DriveWFX – Tel-Star/Triple X/Rider Chevy.
“We were just a little too tight at the beginning to really get up through there like Robert did,” Bacon lamented. “We were a little bit better than him at the end, but I was kind of cobbled up in a traffic jam and we couldn’t really get into a spot on the track where we needed to be to gain on him enough there at the end.”
Axsom collected his best USAC sprint car feature finish since winning in February at Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park. His third place run on Sunday night at Angell Park moved him up a spot in the series points to sixth overall in his Clauson Marshall Newman Racing/Driven2SaveLives – ZMax Race Products/Spike/Kistler Chevy.
“I think our car was really good at the start and in the middle (of the race),” Axsom documented. “Once the track developed a curb, we were a little bit tight but my guys gave me a really great car.”
Leary set Fatheadz Fast Qualifying time for the night, which was his ninth overall fast time in just 18 combined USAC National Sprint Car and Silver Crown starts. His new track record run 13.765 broke the former mark of 13.796 set by Kevin Thomas Jr. in 2015.