By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
BRANDON, SD – An eighth place starting spot proved to be no hindrance for Robert Ballou’s methodical procession to victory during Friday night’s USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship portion of the Huset’s Speedway USAC Nationals.
Doing just that is old hat to the Rocklin, Calif. native. After all, he had performed the same trick just less than two weeks earlier when he captured a similar eighth-to-first triumph at Wisconsin’s Angell Park Speedway.
Ballou’s fourth victory of the year has already produced his most prolific year in terms of victories since the 2016 season, a fine return to form for the 2015 champ who moved up one more notch on the all-time USAC National Sprint Car feature win list. Ballou’s 35th career series victory elevated him to 12th all-time alongside Jon Stanbrough and Rich Vogler.
Rapidly maneuvering to the front, Ballou went unheeded once he reached the top of the pylon as he collected a 0.992 second victory over series point leader Justin Grant.
Finding the Brandon, South Dakota 1/3-mile dirt oval to be a bit of a bugaboo in his career with his past two showings at Huset’s resulting in a pair of finishes outside the top-10. Ballou displayed complete mastery of the course as he moved up from his outside fourth row starting position to take the lead a lap before the midway point of the 30-lap feature.
“This place is really tricky,” Ballou noted of Huset’s. “It’s got a really good lane around the bottom in turns one and two, but not as much in three and four. It’s slick to a curb, which a non-wing sprint car will eat up. Thanks to the track guys for blading the top off. I wasn’t brave enough to go up there in one and two. I saw it kept growing.”
With a track that’s tricky and a car that’s finicky, the perfect mix between the two ingredients made for a superb performance in his Ballou Motorsports/Suburban Subaru – Dragonfly Aviation – Berks Western Telecom/Triple X/Ott Chevy.
“We got the thing better,” Ballou revealed. “This car is finicky. It’s kind of like an angry woman. We’re just trying to figure out what it likes.”
Outside front row starter Ryan Bernal (Hollister, Calif.), in his USAC National Sprint Car season debut, soared around the outside of Thomas Meseraull in turn four to lead the initial lap of the feature. However, Meseraull, making his first start of the year for the Yeley-Petty team, stuck the bottom and cruised right on by to retake his spot at the head of the field.
The feature’s lone red flag arrived on lap six when 16th running Xavier Doney received some major airtime as he flipped at the entrance to turn one. Doney walked away unscathed, although the damage to his racecar required a tow back to the pits.
After shearing a path from eighth to fourth in the first five laps, following the lap six restart, the race became Ballou’s show as he went right back to work and immediately picked off both Jadon Rogers and Bernal on the bottom of turns three and four go fourth-to-second in the blink of an eye.
Standing a full second behind race leader Meseraull when he assumed second, Ballou inched his way closer to his back bumper as the front of the field encroached upon the tail end. Meseraull was first to dip his toes in as he approached 21st running Alex Schriever. Meseraull lost just a touch of his momentum as he entered turn one on the high line behind Schriever, which cleared a path on the bottom for Ballou to scoot by both with relative ease and he was off on his merry way.
With 10 laps remaining, Ballou was full sail to the wind with a 1.615 second lead over Meseraull as he parted the sea through traffic with precision in the waning laps. Back behind Ballou, Rogers slipped over the turn two cushion and lost the third spot to Grant as he sped by in turn three on lap 23. A lap later, Brady Bacon followed suit past Rogers for fourth entering turn three.
Grant ultimately tracked down Meseraull for the second position on lap 27 in turn two, and the two briefly scraped sidewalls before Grant slipped away into the runner-up spot.
Ballou was all by his lonesome up front, right where he preferred to be, as he collected another convincing victory over Grant, Meseraull, Bacon and a season-best performance by Rogers in fifth.
Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) equaled his best career USAC National Sprint Car finish at Huset’s with a runner-up finish after starting back in the ninth position aboard his TOPP Motorsports/NOS Energy Drink – MPV Express – TOPP Industries/Maxim/Kistler Chevy. Grant also tacked on the night’s GSP Quality Driving Performance Award following his heat race run from sixth to second.
Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) led 13 laps en route to a third-place result in his Yeley-Petty Racing/Avanti Windows & Doors – Glenn Styres Racing/Twister/Claxton Chevy. The third place finish was his best with the series since February’s season opener in Ocala, Fla.
For the second time of his USAC National Sprint Car career, Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.) became a Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier. Also, for the second time, he set a new one-lap track record in the process. He also established a new record in May of this year at Missouri’s I-70 Motorsports Park.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 8, 2022 – Huset’s Speedway – Brandon, South Dakota – 1/3-Mile Dirt Track – USAC Nationals
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING GROUP ONE: 1. Emerson Axsom, 47BC, Clauson Marshall Newman-12.464 (New Track Record); 2. C.J. Leary, 77m, Michael-12.596; 3. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-12.634; 4. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-12.691; 5. Jadon Rogers, 14, Engler-12.691; 6. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 51T, Tafoya-12.721; 7. Eric Shulz, 38, Franks/Grien-13.281; 8. Tony Rustad, 105, Rustad-NT.
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING GROUP TWO: 1. Jake Swanson, 21AZ, Team AZ-12.467; 2. Mitchel Moles, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-12.470; 3. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-12.518; 4. Ryan Bernal, 17w, Wood-12.747; 5. Wyatt Burks, 11w, Burks-12.945; 6. Thomas Meseraull, 2, Yeley/Petty-13.146; 7. Braydon Cromwell, 4x, Cromwell-13.167; 8. Chad Frewaldt, 4F, Frewaldt-13.466; 9. Doug Martens, 17, Thompson-15.889.
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING GROUP THREE: 1. Logan Seavey, 5, Baldwin/Fox-12.571; 2. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-12.655; 3. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-12.671; 4. Alex Banales, 5x, Baldwin/Fox-12.741; 5. Zach Daum, 5d, Daum-12.866; 6. Cam Schafer, 97, G & S-12.969; 7. Xavier Doney, 74, Doney/Lawson-13.288; 8. Alex Schriever, 0, Davis-13.564; 9. Clinton Bruns, 7, Bruns-13.662.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Robert Ballou, 2. Jadon Rogers, 3. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 4. C.J. Leary, 5. Emerson Axsom, 6. Brandon Mattox, 7. Eric Schulz, 8. Tony Rustad. 2:12.07
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Thomas Meseraull, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Ryan Bernal, 4. Jake Swanson, 5. Wyatt Burks, 6. Mitchel Moles, 7. Braydon Cromwell, 8. Chad Frewaldt. NT
PIT STOP USA & ROD END SUPPLY THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Zach Daum, 2. Justin Grant, 3. Logan Seavey, 4. Matt Westfall, 5. Cam Schafer, 6. Xavier Doney, 7. Alex Schriever, 8. Alex Banales, 9. Clinton Bruns. 2:13.00
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Robert Ballou (8), 2. Justin Grant (9), 3. Thomas Meseraull (1), 4. Brady Bacon (10), 5. Jadon Rogers (3), 6. C.J. Leary (6), 7. Ryan Bernal (2), 8. Mitchel Moles (13), 9. Emerson Axsom (7), 10. Matt Westfall (5), 11. Jake Swanson (11), 12. Logan Seavey (12), 13. Eddie Tafoya Jr. (15), 14. Zach Daum (4), 15. Wyatt Burks (16), 16. Alex Banales (18), 17. Braydon Cromwell (20), 18. Clinton Bruns (25), 19. Eric Schulz (21), 20. Cam Schafer (17), 21. Alex Schriever (22), 22. Brandon Mattox (14), 23. Xavier Doney (19), 24. Tony Rustad (24), 25. Chad Frewaldt (23). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 Ryan Bernal, Laps 2-14 Thomas Meseraull, Laps 15-30 Robert Ballou.
**Xavier Doney flipped on lap 6 of the feature.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-1145, 2-Brady Bacon-1099, 3-Robert Ballou-1079, 4-Logan Seavey-1070, 5-Emerson Axsom-1045, 6-C.J. Leary-1039, 7-Chase Stockon-895, 8-Matt Westfall-828, 9-Jake Swanson-770, 10-Jadon Rogers-728.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-65, 2-Brady Bacon-62, 3-Robert Ballou-61, 4-Thomas Meseraull-51, 5-Logan Seavey-47, 6-Emerson Axsom-46, 7-Alex Bright-46, 8-Buddy Kofoid-45, 9-Jadon Rogers-41, 10-Matt Westfall-36.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: July 9-10, 2022 – Huset’s Speedway – Brandon, South Dakota – 1/3-Mile Dirt Track – USAC Nationals