TERRE HAUTE —
A borrowed trailer, a decided lack of tires and sponsorship, and Bud Kaeding weren’t going to separate Robert Ballou from the $2,500 check that went to the winner of the Midwest Sprint Car Series/King of Indiana Sprint Series in the season opener at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Those would all seem to be daunting enough obstacles for Ballou to win a feature race.
But the Turn 4 wall too? That’s something else altogether.
Ballou – a Rocklin, Calif. native who currently resides in Indianapolis – made contact with the Turn 4 wall as he went up high with five laps to pass Kaeding. Not only did the brush with disaster not stop Ballou, he built a big enough gap to hold off a charging Kaeding at the line to win a thrilling opener for the MSCS/KISS series.
“I got a little anxious. If I had knocked it out of the ballpark, it probably would’ve parked us for the season,” Ballou admitted.
For much of the feature, it appeared to be Chris Windom’s day. The pole sitter pulled away in the 25-lap feature, building as much as a full straightaway lead over Damion Gardner nine laps into the feature.
Windom began to lap the field on lap 14, but that’s also when he appeared to slow down as Gardner began to reel him in. Finally, Windom’s engine appeared to let go on lap 16 and sent him into the Turn 3 wall.
Gardner assumed the lead, but got high on the restart, and was passed by Kaeding and Ballou, who started seventh in the A-main.
Kaeding led four laps, but Ballou reeled him in, using the high line in both turns to help close the gap. Ballou and Kaeding diced going into the turn 3-4 complex and Kaeding brushed the wall as he skidded past Kaeding.
Ballou was not headed for the remainder of the race, winning by a car length. The win, Ballou’s second career victory at the Action Track, was all the more remarkable given that he had engine trouble in his No. 12 car.
“It makes it tough when we don’t have a sponsor,” said Ballou, who appealed to the crowd to seek funding for his sprint car. “One-hundred of the money goes right back into the car.”
In the UMP Modified feature, Devin Gilpin led flag-to-flag thanks to mastering the art of the restart. There were five yellow flags and one red flag in the 15-lap feature. The red came out after lap 4 when Brian Shaw spun exiting Turn 3, went airborne and landed upside down on the track. He was unhurt.
None of it fazed Gilpin, who easily held off Joey Kramer to take the modified feature.
The race card was the first for new THAT promoters Bob Sargent and Reece O’Connor. While a brisk wind and cold kept the crowd down, the track was in good condition and the races finished in a timely manner.
The next THAT race is May 24 when it hosts the USAC Tony Hulman Classic.
MSCS/KISS Sprint Cars
Heat winners – Brady Bacon; Damion Gardner, Wes McIntyre, Robert Ballou
B-Main – Kyle Cummins.
Feature -- 1. Robert Ballou; 2. Bud Kaeding; 3. Dave Darland; 4. Jon Stanbrough; 5. Gardner; 6. Jerry Coon Jr.; 7. Bacon; 8. Mike Spencer; 9. McIntyre; 10. Cummins; 11. Blake Fitzpatrick; 12. Coleman Gulick; 13. Casey Shumar; 14. Hunter Schurenberg; 15. Chase Stockon; 16. Levi Jones; 17. Jonath Hendrick; 18. Seth Parker; 19. Thomas Meserall; 20. Chris Windom.
Heat winners – Joey Kramer, Devin Gilpin, Richie Lex
Feature – 1. Gilpin; 2. Kramer; 3. Jesse Snyder; 4. Lex; 5. Collin Thurlby; 6. Larry Lambert; 7. Rob Fuqua; 8. Kenny Carmichael Sr.; 9. Wes Leigh; 10. Kenny Carmichael Jr.; 11. William Dugger; 12. Gary Ricketts; 13. Roger Mills; 14. Doug Bryant; 15. Kevin Gummere; 16. Wayne Cooper; 17. Glenn Andrew; 18. Doug Bonnell; 19. Mike Beatty; 20. Mike Bechelle.