BILL BALOG FENDS OFF KNOXVILLE CHAMP IAN MADSEN
April 26, 2015; Beaver Dam, WI – It took 24 hours longer than anticipated, but the Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprints showcased their first event of the season in Wisconsin as Beaver Dam Raceway played host to the Jim Wipperfurth memorial race.
A highly competitive field of 900 horsepower, 410 sprints graced the pit area for the show, which was to have been completed on Saturday night. Instead it was held Sunday evening under more favorable weather conditions. Last week the series opened it’s season in Illinois at the LaSalle Speedway.
When the checkered flag fell it was a familiar face in victory lane with seven-time, and defending champion Bill Balog sitting in victory lane after fending off a late race challenge by 2014 Knoxville Raceway champion Ian Madsen. Still the win for Balog was showcasing something completely new, as his ride wasn’t the familiar #17b machine that has carried him to those seven titles. Rather it was a #2, gracing the tail tank and wing of his black car. The ride was owned by Hans Lein of Lein Acres who had placed Balog in the seat of his midget cars the past couple years at Angell Park Speedway. Balog’s win at Beaver Dam was the first for Lein as a car owner in Sprint car racing.
When asked how long it’s been since he’s won a race without a #17b gracing the wing Balog responded. “Oh man it’s been a long time, this feels good though. I have to thank Hans (car owner), for putting this car together, it feels awesome”, noted Balog. “I was a little nervous as were not at 100% yet, but we came out of the box fast in the #2 car”, exclaimed Balog.
A late race caution which occurred when Mike Reinke spun while closing the gap on Balog in the waning laps of the 30 lap A-main event, gave Madsen his opportunity to steal the victory from Balog but it was Balog’s strong restart which kept the Sydney, Australia resident at bay with Balog holding to a eight car length win.
Local favorite Scotty Neitzel worked by last season’s Rookie of the Year, Bill Rose, on the final circuit to steal the final podium spot taking the third position.
The 30 lap A-main event got underway after a second try, the first attempt at a green flag was negated when Jason Johnson had the steering break in his ride on the backstretch. He successfully guided his wounded machine to a stop, and was avoided by the field. The race then began in earnest with Rose, and last years event winner Phillip Mock gracing the front row. Rose who finished second to Mock in a thrilling finish in last season’s opening event at Beaver Dam, got the upper hand when the green flag fell while Mock settled into the second position ahead of Balog, Reinke, and Neitzel.
Mock, hugging the low line managed to move alongside Rose on a couple occasions before Balog used the highside on lap three to claim the second spot. On the next circuit Reinke dropped Mock from the third position.
Balog continued is charge to the front replacing Rose at the head of the field prior to the yellow flag appearing for Rick Kelsey who spun his ride in turn one.
Back underway Balog set the pace but Rose seemed to find a line providing his #6 machine with additional speed, and he soon began to run down Balog. Heading off turn number two on the seventh circuit Balog bobbled a bit and that was all Rose needed to reclaim the top spot.
The third caution of the contest flew on lap 11 as Brooke Tatnell spun coming off the second turn. The Australian native was able to head to the work area and return to action from the tail of the field when the race resumed.
Rose went back to setting the pace with Balog continuing to apply the pressure. Reinke held fast to the third spot followed by Madsen and Neitzel in the top five.
Balog experimented with several different lines before finding a groove that allowed him to reel in Rose, and on lap 19 he was able to reclaim the top spot.
On the next circuit a multi-car tangle between rookie of the year contender Kyle Marten, Jeremy Schultz, and Kris Spitz would draw a red flag, with Spitz coming to rest upside down in turn two. Spitz would crawl uninjured from his car. All three drivers were done for the evening as the final ten laps of the contest got underway.
One the restart Balog held the point with Reinke powering past Rose for second, and Madsen following suit to claim third.
Reinke then began to apply the pressure to Balog pulling within a couple car lengths as the lead pair tried to separate themselves from Madsen. Reinke’s bid to unseat Balog from the lead came undone on lap 23 when he looped his ride, resulting in a caution. This sent Reinke to the tail of the field and put Madsen in the second spot for the final seven-lap sprint to the finish.
With the green flag again waving Balog held fast to the top spot, aided by a tremendous restart. Rose also got a solid restart briefly working his way back to the second spot while Balog motored away.
Rose attempting to match his second place finish from the season opening event one week ago seemed to be in position to do so until his car suddenly began to lose grip to the racing surface as the white flag flew. Both Madsen and Neitzel were able to work past Rose but it was too late for either driver to make a bid for Balog’s lead.
Balog sailed past the checker flag with Madsen, Neitzel, Rose and Steve Meyer in tow.
Meyer’s effort was notable as he advanced from a 17th position starting spot, the biggest improvement of any driver in the field.
Sixth place went to Tatnell, who perhaps passed more cars than anyone after having serviced his car in pit lane during a mid race caution. Ben Schmidt laid claim to seventh spot after briefly reaching the top five late in the event. Mock, Blake Nimee and Bill Wirth completed the top ten. The tenth place showing for Wirth was a solid effort as he made his first appearance of 2015 after having missed the last half of the 2014 season with a broken engine.
19 of the 24 starters were still trackside when the race completed.
In earlier action Kyle Marten topped the B-main, outdistancing Rick Kelsey and Jereme Schroeder. Brandon Thone, Kurt Davis, Ryan Bowers and Mike Kresbach made the transfer positions.
The event saw a red flag after Rookie of the Year contender Josh Walter went for a wild tumble down the front stretch after contact with Russel Borland. Walter emerged unhurt but his car was severely damaged in the incident.
In heat race action, Neitzel, Schmidt, and Wirth captured victories.
Scotty Thiel who had raced into the show with a solid second place showing in his heat was forced to scratch for the evening with engine difficulties.
A field of 31 drivers signed into the pit area for the evening with Tatnell setting the quickest time blazing around the track in 11.942 seconds. Madsen was second quick with a lap of 12.013 seconds and Reinke nailed down the third fastest effort with a lap of 12.084 seconds.
The Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprint Series will be right back in action in less than two weeks here at Beaver Dam Raceway as the track plays host to a show on Saturday Night, May 9th. Grand Nationals, Legends and Badger 600 Micro Sprints will also be on the evening’s program.
For more information on the IRA Outlaw Sprints check out the tour website at www.irasprints.com or by logging onto the series Facebook page at www.facebook.com/irasprints the series is also on twitter at #IRA_sprints.
The IRA Sprints are presented by its long time supporting series partners. The series support is led by title sponsor Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts & Service Centers, and associate series partners Osborn & Son Trucking, TW Metals, Hoosier Tire, Cedar Creek Motorsports, Cummins Onan, and Carriage Auto Body.