Rossburg, Ohio (May 8, 2021)………One-thousand, fifty-six days. That’s how long it had been since Robert Ballou last experienced the thrill of a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory entering Saturday’s #LetsRaceTwo night cap at Rossburg, Ohio’s Eldora Speedway.
Thirty laps. That’s how long it took the Rocklin, Calif. native to return to the USAC win column for the first time since June 17, 2018 at Pennsylvania’s BAPS Motor Speedway.
To be more succinct, Eldora’s second #LetsRaceTwo A-Main of the day came down to the final five laps with Ballou fending off a furious charge courtesy of the seemingly unstoppable Tyler Courtney, who won the matinee earlier in the day, and had won every series race at the track dating back to 2018, a span of five races.
With a USAC record sixth-straight at The Big E in sight and the lap count dwindling, Courtney tracked down Ballou in short order, throwing everything in his arsenal to get by Ballou. At the line, the two past USAC National Sprint Car driving champions were separated by a single car length with Ballou prevailing over Courtney in what was the closest finish of the series’ season – 0.085 sec. – a win worth $10,000 for Ballou.
In reality, Ballou’s road back to the top is immeasurable. Shortly after the BAPS win, Ballou suffered a compound fracture of his right arm in a sprint car crash at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway. Sidelined for a substantial stretch of time in which he endured both the pain and the rehab, the climb back has been leading to this crescendo at a venue in which he’s earned six of his 30 career wins with the series.
“It’s been a few years,” Ballou noted. “I broke my arm after my last win, and it’s been a humbling experience. You’re either on top or you’re on the bottom. There’s nobody that has more dedication in this sport than my team and my guys and everyone that’s behind me. We have a never-give-up attitude and we never back down.”
However, to get back on top, there are countless hurdles to overcome, and Ballou encountered one more just prior to the feature following a dominant heat race win earlier in the night, one that attempted to derail them and decide their fate prematurely.
“After that heat race, apparently, we blew up that brand new engine,” Ballou stated. “So, we thrashed until the (USAC officials) blew the (eight-minute horn). We got the motor changed, and with everybody here back at the trailer, it was a full-out team effort, and it was down to the wire. We got the thing started and still had a bunch of changes to make to try and keep up with this race track.”
Ballou’s entire crew and family on hand became involved in the process of the engine swap and had the Ballou Motorsports/Suburban Subaru – Berks Western Telecom/Triple X/Ott Chevy ready to roll off from the pole position while Courtney pushed off from the seventh position.
The afternoon feature saw Ballou finishing second to a dominant Courtney. The tables were turned in the night session with Ballou blasting away to his own early race superiority while Courtney took on the role of chaser.
By midway, Ballou was already making his way through lapped traffic, high, low and anywhere in between to build as much of a cushion as he could. Meanwhile, Courtney had carved his way to second by Chris Windom on the 15th lap, but still found himself a full straightaway behind and combing through the same traffic that Ballou, himself, had recently cleared.
By lap 23, Ballou’s full straightaway lead over Courtney had been sheared to a half-straight. Two laps later, the lead was a mere two car lengths, setting up a frenzied run to the finish. With both running the fence, the classic, patented Eldora slide job was at the forefront of Courtney’s repertoire as he tried to deliver the knell to Ballou twice between turns one and two with four laps remaining, then again with three to go. Yet, Ballou kept his foot on the throttle and escaped Courtney’s jabs utilizing the momentum up top.
On the 28th lap, the two encountered the lapped car of Isaac Chapple running the middle line entering turn three. Ballou dove low underneath Chapple while Courtney stayed up top. Ballou attempted to slide past Chapple and reclaim the high line up to the wall. Ballou first cleared Chapple by inches, then he and Courtney banged wheels, with Ballou’s right rear meeting face-to-face with Courtney’s left front. Courtney ricocheted off the wall, straightened it out, ducked low, then followed Ballou nose-to-tail into one.
Courtney shadowed Ballou all the way around the half-mile high banked dirt oval as the pair made their way to the white flag. Seemingly awaiting Courtney’s final slider attempt in turn one, instead, Courtney bounced his right rear off the fourth corner concrete coming to the white, stifling his plans, and putting him back into line on the high side just behind in his endless pursuit of Ballou.
On the final lap, Courtney remained behind Ballou by two car lengths, opting to tail Ballou to the top in turn three, then cut under off four. Ballou was smooth, steady and steadfast, and powered off the fourth corner to defeat Courtney by a car length to notch the win with Courtney second, Chris Windom third, series point leader Brady Bacon fourth and Paul Nienhiser scoring a best career USAC finish to round out the top-five.
Just hours after Courtney reached USAC Sprint Car victory number 30, Ballou reached the same number for 14th on the all-time list. Similarly, earlier in the day, Courtney became the first three-time #LetsRaceTwo feature winner, which Ballou matched later in the night. Both also swapped finishing position with Ballou the runner-up to Courtney in the afternoon and vice versa at night.
Ballou knew he still had what it takes to be at the level of winning consistently and being the thick of the championship race, but he also knew he needed the equipment to match. Safe to say, he’s found his match.
“Everyone’s questioning my ability to do this, but I just said, ‘if we can get a car that I can get comfortable with, we’ll be on top,’” Ballou said. “We switched to a Triple X chassis and got a couple new Don Ott engines and we’re just trying to plug away.”
Courtney was aiming to make USAC history on this night aboard his Clauson-Marshall-Newman Racing/NOS Turbo – ZMax/Spike/Chevy. A 6th consecutive USAC National Sprint Car win at Eldora would’ve made him the first driver ever to win that many in a row at a single track in series’ history. His five-straight USAC Sprint winning streak at one track gives him the shared distinction with Jim Hurtubise (1960-62 at Terre Haute) and Steve Chassey (1979 at Winchester).
Furthermore, Courtney (Indianapolis, Ind.) came a car length short of becoming the 21st driver to win multiple USAC National Sprint Car feature races on a single calendar day, and the first since to do so since Bud Kaeding at Terre Haute in 2001. Only twice had a driver won two USAC Sprint Car races in one day at Eldora: Pancho Carter in 1976 and Billy Cassella in 1979.
Besides Ballou and Courtney, Windom (Canton, Ill.) was the lone other driver to record two top-five finishes on Saturday. Windom earned a 5th in the afternoon and a 3rd at night in his Hayward Motorsports/NOS Energy Drink – B & H Contractors – AMSOIL/DRC/Claxton Mopar.
Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) moved ahead of Pancho Carter by earning his 31st career Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifying time with the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Cars on Saturday night. That moved Thomas into a tie with Sheldon Kinser for 9th on the all-time series list in that category.
Saturday’s #LetsRaceTwo finale felt like the symbolical beginning of a new era in more ways than one.
For starters, Sheldon Haudenschild finally achieved one of his biggest personal goals: winning at Eldora Speedway. The 27-year-old gasser grew up only two hours away from the 1/2-mile in Wooster, OH sitting in the shadows behind his legendary father, Jac Haudenschild.
Jac’s legacy at The Big E is undeniably amongst the all-time greats. He won three Kings Royal’s, the Mopar Million, and countless other features in his heyday. Now, Sheldon is getting his chance to shine at The House That Earl Built. On Saturday, he did it while racing against his father in his farewell season aboard the Pennzoil #22, too.
On another level, Sheldon’s momentous breakthrough was special because it came against Donny Schatz. The 10-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series champion is easily the greatest Eldora icon of his era, winning almost 20 times at the Rossburg, OH facility. Simply put, he’s the man to beat there.
Schatz and his Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing crew were poised for a milestone victory until Sheldon spoiled their moment. Stalking Schatz over the final ten laps, Haudenschild slowly reeled in the Ford Performance, Carquest #15 before pouncing at the white flag and sending his NOS Energy Drink, Stenhouse Jr. Marshall Racing #17 to the lead.
He survived an extra 1/2-mile to score his 17th career World of Outlaws victory and the third of his 2021 season.
“Donny is the best in the business,” Haudenschild acknowledged on a man he grew up watching. “He schooled me early in the race, so I just fell into second and watched him for a bit. Sometimes it’s better to not be out front. I just kept telling myself to hit my marks and stay smooth. You have to be perfect at this place, and we finally did it tonight.”
It was the wily, methodical veteran vs. the young, fiery gasser on Saturday at Eldora. [Trent Gower]
From the outset, Haudenschild and Schatz were the two to watch in the #LetsRaceTwo finale.
Schatz somehow picked his way from seventh-to-second in the first two laps of the 30-lapper, but then Haudenschild blasted by he and leader Ian Madsen thanks to a monster slide job into turn one. The #17 paced the following four laps before Schatz perfected the low line and cruised into command on Lap 8.
A gnarly crash collecting top-five runners Giovanni Scelzi and Carson Macedo – all were okay – set the stage for the final restart on Lap 16. Electing to restart on the bottom, Schatz (Fargo, ND) quickly pulled away and seemed as if he was finally due to collect his first win of the 2021 season.
However, with 10 laps to go, you could feel the tide change. The momentum was swiftly changing, and it was changing away from Schatz’s #15.
With every passing lap, Haudenschild cut into the lead and withered it away until he was hounding Schatz with three to go. But the next time around, he was all over his back bumper. The next time? He was leading as the white flag waved and the #17 drove around the #15.
Haudenschild drove away to officially claim his first Eldora triumph by 0.930-seconds over Logan Schuchart, who stole second from Schatz on the final lap.
“As long as we can keep this team, these group of guys together for a long time, we could do something special,” Haudenschild said while realizing the magnitude of this moment. “If you look at the #15 [Schatz] or #49 [Sweet] over all these years, the crew is a huge part of their legacy. This win is at the top of my list, and it wouldn’t come without my guys [Kyle] Ripper, Nickolas [Goodfliesch] and Drew [Brenner]. I can’t wait for our big July shows here.”
Haudenschild’s 17th career victory is his third of the season. [Trent Gower]
Coming home with a second-place finish at Eldora was Logan Schuchart of Hanover, PA. He earned KSE Hard Charger honors with a jaw-dropping 21st-to-2nd (+19) bid aboard his Drydene Performance Products #1S.
“Man, we needed this run,” Schuchart said following his recent run of bad luck. “We’ve had a fast car all year, but those little problem have hurt us. Confidence is huge in this sport, and we just got a lot back tonight. I knew we had a good car, especially as the track came in. I’m so happy to be back here at Eldora. I love this place.”
Finishing a heartbreaking third was Schatz, who led 21 laps until Haudenschild went by at the white flag.
“He just had everything to gain by moving around the race track,” Schatz said on Haudenschild catching him. “We were solid out front, but kept fading there at the end. We were better in the middle and lower early on, but sometimes you get to see what’s going on if you’re bak there. I couldn’t move around, it’s just the way it goes. Would’ve been nice to win, but we didn’t. We’ll get another chance on Wednesday.”
Behind Haudenschild, Schuchart and Schatz was Ian Madsen in fourth after leading the first three laps aboard the McGhee #11, and Jacob Allen with his first top-five finish of the season aboard his Shark Racing, Drydene #1A.
Rounding out the top ten at Eldora was Brian Brown, David Gravel, Aaron Reutzel, Tyler Courtney and Parker Price-Miller.
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9K, KT-15.441; 2. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-15.486; 3. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-15.494; 4. Tanner Thorson, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-15.516; 5. Chris Windom, 19, Hayward-15.547; 6. C.J. Leary, 77m, Michael-15.574; 7. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-15.596; 8. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-15.601; 9. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-15.615; 10. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall/Newman-15.633; 11. Logan Seavey, 5, Baldwin/Fox/Curb-Agajanian-15.635; 12. Jake Swanson, 21AZ, Team AZ-15.636; 13. Stevie Sussex, 77, Wingo-15.772; 14. Jadon Rogers, 61m, Edwards-15.867; 15. Paul Nienhiser, 5N, KO-15.867; 16. Max Adams, 17G, On The Gass-15.914; 17. Evan Mosley, 27, Mosley-16.000; 18. Carmen Perigo, 21, Stehman-16.056; 19. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-16.151; 20. Isaac Chapple, 52, Chapple-16.185; 21. Steven Drevicki, 19s, DeGre-16.186; 22. Matt Goodnight, 39, Goodnight-16.375; 23. Korbyn Hayslett, 1H, Hayslett-16.473; 24. Chris Phillips, 6, Phillips-16.637; 25. Dallas Hewitt, 18, Keen-16.698; 26. Jack James, 99, James-16.728; 27. Paul Dues, 87, Dues-16.853; 28. Tyler Kendall, 20, Kendall-16.883.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Tyler Courtney, 2. Stevie Sussex, 3. Justin Grant, 4. Tanner Thorson, 5. Kevin Thomas Jr., 6. Brandon Mattox, 7. Max Adams, 8. Matt Goodnight, 9. Dallas Hewitt, 10. Tyler Kendall. 2:12.797
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Robert Ballou, 2. Chris Windom, 3. Jadon Rogers, 4. Isaac Chapple, 5. Korbyn Hayslett, 6. Jack James, 7. Logan Seavey, 8. Evan Mosley, 9. Chase Stockon. NT
INDY METAL FINISHING/INDY RACE PARTS THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Paul Nienhiser, 2. Jake Swanson, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Steven Drevicki, 5. Matt Westfall, 6. C.J. Leary, 7. Carmen Perigo, 8. Chris Phillips, 9. Paul Dues. 2:18.958
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-7 transfer to the feature) 1. C.J. Leary, 2. Matt Goodnight, 3. Carmen Perigo, 4. Max Adams, 5. Paul Dues, 6. Dallas Hewitt, 7. Chris Phillips, 8. Brandon Mattox, 9. Evan Mosley, 10. Tyler Kendall, 11. Jack James, 12. Logan Seavey. 3:39.912
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Robert Ballou (1), 2. Tyler Courtney (7), 3. Chris Windom (3), 4. Brady Bacon (5), 5. Paul Nienhiser (8), 6. Justin Grant (2), 7. C.J. Leary (9), 8. Jake Swanson (11), 9. Isaac Chapple (16), 10. Steven Drevicki (17), 11. Kevin Thomas Jr. (6), 12. Max Adams (14), 13. Paul Dues (22), 14. Matt Westfall (10), 15. Dallas Hewitt (21), 16. Stevie Sussex (12), 17. Matt Goodnight (18), 18. Chris Phillips (20), 19. Carmen Perigo (15), 20. Korbyn Hayslett (19), 21. Jadon Rogers (13), 22. Tanner Thorson (4). 9:30.305
WORLD OF OUTLAWS SPRINTS
NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps) – 1. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [$10,000]; 2. 1S-Logan Schuchart [$6,000]; 3. 15-Donny Schatz [$3,500]; 4. 11-Ian Madsen [$2,800]; 5. 1A-Jacob Allen [$2,500]; 6. 21-Brian Brown [$2,300]; 7. 2-David Gravel [$2,200]; 8. 83-Aaron Reutzel [$2,100]; 9. 7BC-Tyler Courtney [$2,050]; 10. 19-Parker Price-Miller [$2,000]; 11. 49-Brad Sweet [$1,600]; 12. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [$400]; 13. 14-Kerry Madsen [$1,200]; 14. 9-James McFadden [$1,100]; 15. 24-Rico Abreu [$1,050]; 16. 5-Spencer Bayston [$1,000]; 17. 15H-Sam Hafertepe [$1,000]; 18. 19M-Brent Marks [$1,000]; 19. 18-Giovanni Scelzi [$1,000]; 20. 41-Carson Macedo [$1,000]; 21. 10-Zeb Wise [$1,000]; 22. 26-Cory Eliason [$1,000]; 23. 2C-Wayne Johnson [$1,000]; 24. 11K-Kraig Kinser [$1,000]; 25. 22-Jac Haudenschild [$1,000]. Lap Leaders: Ian Madsen 1-3; Sheldon Haudenschild 4-7, 28-30; Donny Schatz 8-27. KSE Hard Charger Award: 1S-Logan Schuchart[+19]
Slick Woody’s Qualifying – 1. 2-David Gravel, 12.73; 2. 9-James McFadden, 12.866; 3. 83-Aaron Reutzel, 12.884; 4. 15-Donny Schatz, 12.887; 5. 21-Brian Brown, 12.906; 6. 39-Daryn Pittman, 12.922; 7. 11-Ian Madsen, 12.926; 8. 2C-Wayne Johnson, 12.931; 9. 49-Brad Sweet, 12.962; 10. 18-Giovanni Scelzi, 13.004; 11. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild, 13.023; 12. 19-Parker Price-Miller, 13.034; 13. 14-Kerry Madsen, 13.036; 14. 26-Cory Eliason, 13.037; 15. 5-Spencer Bayston, 13.04; 16. 1A-Jacob Allen, 13.064; 17. 7S-Jason Sides, 13.091; 18. 41-Carson Macedo, 13.122; 19. 15H-Sam Hafertepe, 13.141; 20. 13-Justin Peck, 13.186; 21. 22-Jac Haudenschild, 13.188; 22. 7BC-Tyler Courtney, 13.203; 23. 10-Zeb Wise, 13.217; 24. 11K-Kraig Kinser, 13.246; 25. 1S-Logan Schuchart, 13.295; 26. 97-Cole Duncan, 13.302; 27. 35-Zach Hampton, 13.334; 28. 24-Rico Abreu, 13.379; 29. 19P-Paige Polyak, 13.384; 30. W20-Greg Wilson, 13.46; 31. 11N-Harli White, 13.468; 32. 19M-Brent Marks, 13.494; 33. 49D-Shawn Dancer, 13.552; 34. 18X-Cole Macedo, 13.582; 35. 20G-Noah Gass, 13.754; 36. 18S-Bryce Schmitt, 14.471; 37. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss, NT
DRYDENE Heat #1 (8 Laps) – Top 5 Transfer – 1. 2-David Gravel ; 2. 49-Brad Sweet ; 3. 21-Brian Brown ; 4. 22-Jac Haudenschild ; 5. 14-Kerry Madsen ; 6. 1S-Logan Schuchart ; 7. 7S-Jason Sides ; 8. 49D-Shawn Dancer ; 9. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss ; 10. 19P-Paige Polyak 
DRYDENE Heat #2 (8 Laps) – Top 5 Transfer – 1. 18-Giovanni Scelzi ; 2. 41-Carson Macedo ; 3. 9-James McFadden ; 4. 7BC-Tyler Courtney ; 5. 26-Cory Eliason ; 6. W20-Greg Wilson ; 7. 97-Cole Duncan ; 8. 18X-Cole Macedo ; 9. 39-Daryn Pittman 
DRYDENE Heat #3 (8 Laps) – Top 5 Transfer – 1. 11-Ian Madsen ; 2. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild ; 3. 83-Aaron Reutzel ; 4. 5-Spencer Bayston ; 5. 15H-Sam Hafertepe ; 6. 10-Zeb Wise ; 7. 20G-Noah Gass ; 8. 11N-Harli White ; 9. 35-Zach Hampton 
DRYDENE Heat #4 (8 Laps) – Top 5 Transfer – 1. 15-Donny Schatz ; 2. 1A-Jacob Allen ; 3. 11K-Kraig Kinser ; 4. 2C-Wayne Johnson ; 5. 19M-Brent Marks ; 6. 24-Rico Abreu ; 7. 19-Parker Price-Miller ; 8. 13-Justin Peck ; 9. 18S-Bryce Schmitt 
DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash (6 Laps) – 1. 11-Ian Madsen ; 2. 18-Giovanni Scelzi ; 3. 1A-Jacob Allen ; 4. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild ; 5. 2-David Gravel ; 6. 41-Carson Macedo ; 7. 15-Donny Schatz ; 8. 49-Brad Sweet 
Last Chance Showdown (12 Laps) – Top 4 Transfer – 1. 1S-Logan Schuchart [-]; 2. 10-Zeb Wise [-]; 3. 19-Parker Price-Miller [-]; 4. 24-Rico Abreu [-]; 5. W20-Greg Wilson [$300]; 6. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [$250]; 7. 7S-Jason Sides [$225]; 8. 20G-Noah Gass [$200]; 9. 13-Justin Peck [$200]; 10. 18X-Cole Macedo [$200]; 11. 11N-Harli White [$200]; 12. 49D-Shawn Dancer [$200]; 13. 18S-Bryce Schmitt [$200]; 14. 97-Cole Duncan [$200]; 15. 39-Daryn Pittman [$200]; 16. 35-Zach Hampton [$200]; 17. 19P-Paige Polyak [$200]
Courtesy of Campbell Photo