$4000 bounty draws Rocklin’s Ballou to incredible Placerville Golden State victory


By Bill Sullivan


PLACERVILLE, CA – Entering the Golden State Challenge Series event at Placerville Speedway on Saturday night, Rocklin resident Robert Ballou was under the gun, not only to post a back to back win after success in Watsonville on Friday night but to cash in on a $1000 bounty that was posted if he accomplished just that.

Despite the pressure, the 17 year old driver in just his second full year of sprint car racing found himself before a grandstand in pure pandemonium late Saturday night as he lived up to the challenge. Ballou muscled his way to victory lane for the second time in one weekend and took home a total of $4,000 in total winnings in a race that many are calling one of the best in recent track history.

After wining the Golden State Challenge series feature at Watsonville Speedway Friday night, it was announced at Placerville on Saturday that extra winnings were available if Ballou or Elk Grove’s Kyle Hirst won the feature event here Saturday. The unusual bounty award was sponsored by Jerry Ponzo, the owner of Backyard Dreams in Rocklin. Ponzo stated he would award either driver $500 to accomplish the feat.

By late Saturday, Gary Costa, a Northern California Motorsports writer who assists Ballou with media relations, added another $500 if Ballou scored back to back wins. The rest of the story is history and this night will certainly go down in history when it comes to memorable nights at the 41 year old Placerville Speedway.

After finishing fourth in the preliminary dash earlier in the evening, Ballou started the feature event on the outside of the second row but knew he had his work ahead of him with Kevin Pylant of Santa Cruz, pointer Jonathan Allard of Chico and the always fast Andy Forsberg of Auburn ahead of him for the start.

When the green flag waved, Ballou quickly shot into second place and began stalking Allard as his prey. Throughout the event, various caution flags prevented lapped traffic from becoming a serious factor for the two front runners and permitted a good old fashioned, nail biting battle for the win. For Allard the race was about scoring his fourth win of the year and preventing his opponent from cashing in on this exclusive award. For Ballou it was not about the money, but rather for the prestige of living up to the challenge that many thought was impossible in today’s competitive sport.

After racing in Allard’s wake for 18 laps, it was on lap 19 that Ballou made the move every race fan in the stands will remember when he slung his red #12 sprinter to the high line of the fourth turn on Placerville’s bullring and muscled past Allard for the lead. Seven laps later and yellow flag flew for a spun car, putting Allard in good position for redemption of the lead and the talented series point leader gave it his all, trading the lead position several times with Ballou in the closing four laps.

With the crowd on their feet, Allard and Ballou continued to swap the lead, both driving high and low on all areas of the track mutlple times. When Allard passed Ballou low and went high, Ballou would answer back with the same pass in the next turn. Meanwhile the veteran Brent Kaeding of Campbell watched the whole event from the third position after starting ninth and working his way up to what became the premium seat to the title match of the season

 The two leaders displayed true talent on the final pass of the night when Ballou slid up beneath Allard in the fourth turn and two touched bumpers exiting the turn as if it was a typical day on the freeway commute. When the checkered flag finally waved Ballou climbed from his car on the front stretch where he was greeted by more than a thousand screaming and cheering fans that witnessed the spectacular event.

“This is just incredible right here,” said Ballou, short on breath after the 30-lap workout. “I really want to thank the people that put up this extra money tonight to do this, that was really cool and it made a show for the fans. It wasn’t just about the money though. If the extra money wasn’t here tonight I still would have given everything I had, that’s what racing is all about.”

Winning two races in two nights at two different tracks is a goal that goes unaccomplished for many drivers for their entire career. Ballou, at age 17 isn’t one to get sentimental about particular events in his young career but appeared to be both excited and overwhelmed with the attention he drew here Saturday.

“This is pretty wild down here,” Ballou told infield announcer Troy Hennig. “I’ glad the fans enjoyed this but I have to thank my family, my friends and my sponsors for all their support in this. My dad and my main wrench “Heavy D” set this car up perfect and I wouldn’t be here without their help.

Allard hung on to second place in the event. Although he garnered a top three finish which assists with his current series point lead, the former Silver Dollar Speedway Champion was unhappy with his performance an the outcome of the race.

“My front end was packed with mud and the track went away on me. I had nothing more I could do out there,” said Allard, drawing jeers from the crowd. When Robert got below me I gave him plenty of room but it seemed like I didn’t get a lot of room in return when I got below him.”

Brent Kaeding started ninth in Saturday’s event and drove up to third place just in time to witness the incredible battle between Ballou and Allard. When the top three drivers parked in victory lane, the first thing Kaeding did was shake Ballou’s hand and congratulate him on the win.

“I’m happy with this third place finish tonight, “ said Kaeding. “Sure it wasn’t a win but I had the best seat in the house for one hell of a race. My hat goes off to Robert Ballou, he earned this tonight and it’s races like this that keep filling the grandstands.”

In preliminary action on Saturday, Forsberg was the fast qualifier of the night. Heat race wins went to Placerville’s Dave Angus who was aboard a Kevin Urton owned 410 for the night. Shawn Whitney of Camino won the second heat of the night. The third and fourth heat races were won by Carl Droivold of Grass Valley and Chico’s Johnny Gray.

In the B-main event, Andy Gregg of Placerville was the first one across the checkered flag ahead of Peter Murphy of Fresno, Kaeding and Mike Henry of Sacramento. The event had a red flag when Placerville’s James Sweeney suffered his first rollover of his young career; Sweeney was uninjured in the incident.

The sprint cars were joined by the Nor-Cal Dwarf Cars on Saturday. Scott Dahlgren took the lead of the feature event from Chuck Conover on the 11th circuit of the 20-lap main event to drive to his first Placerville victory. Daniel Weger finished in second followed by Nick Davis, Neil Stinson and Josh Hiatt.

Racing returns for Placerville Speedway next Saturday with 360 Sprint Cars, Pro Stocks and Pure Stocks competing in the fourth point race of the season. For complete results from Saturday’s event log on to www.johnpadjenmotorsports.com.