PUTNAMVILLE, Ind. — Separated by just 23 points entering Sunday night’s Indiana Sprint Week feature at Lincoln Park Speedway, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Robert Ballou each knew what was on the line.
The two ended up going in different directions during the feature. Ballou ended up with a stranglehold on the race lead, while Thomas attempted to overcome a tumultuous beginning that, at one point, had him teetering on the edge of squandering the title.
Ballou maintained his presence at the front for all but the first lap to score his second USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship victory of the season while Thomas, having to finish eighth or better, thrived in the final eight-lap stretch to finish a hard-fought fifth to win the Sprint Week title.
Thomas was the fast qualifier on the night, which gave him six-point bonus heading into the feature. He struggled, but managed to do what needed to be done to claim the Indiana Sprint Week crown by 11 points over Ballou.
“Right before the feature, I knew it was 23 points going in,” Thomas said. “It does put a little pressure on you, but I normally like pressure. You don’t want to think about points, but at the end of the day, no matter who you are, it’s in the back of your head when it’s Indiana Sprint Week. This is such a historical week. Everybody wants to win it.”
While Thomas was celebrating the Indiana Sprint Week crown, Ballou also had reason to celebrate. Ballou took the lead on the second lap and led the final 29 laps of the quarter-mile oval. The victory didn’t come as easy as it may have appeared, as Ballou admitted he was worried about his tires in the final laps.
“I was worried to be honest with you,” Ballou said. “We had issues where my tires would get too low. They build up a bunch of heat and, when they cool off, they lose a pound or two. When the bleeder bleeds off to a certain poundage, they cool off and lose more air and its harder for them to build back up when they get too low. I was trying to spin them as much as I could, but nothing helps really. It’s tough.”
Tyler Courtney finished second with early leader Chad Boespflug third, while Brady Short and fast qualifier Thomas rounded out the top five.
AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Championship, Lincoln Park Speedway, Putnamville, Ind., July 16, 2017
Qualifying: 1. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 9K, KT-12.594; 2. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-12.628; 3. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-12.638; 4. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-12.643; 5. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-12.662; 6. Aaron Farney, 15F, DCT-12.675; 7. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-12.774; 8. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-12.790; 9. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-12.814; 10. Brady Short, 11p, Pottorff-12.849; 11. Ryan Bernal, 17GP, Dutcher-12.886; 12. Kody Swanson, 2E, Epperson-12.909; 13. Jerry Coons Jr., 21K, Krockenberger-12.928; 14. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-12.966; 15. Thomas Meseraull, 5B, Briscoe-12.995; 16. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-13.013; 17. Dave Darland, 17x, Dutcher-13.065; 18. Kyle Robbins, 17R, Robbins-13.081; 19. Tyler Thomas, 04, Burton-13.106; 20. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-13.163; 21. Brent Beauchamp, 34, Olson-13.181; 22. Jon Stanbrough, 77, Wingo-13.220; 23. Nate McMillin, 24m, McMillin-13.372; 24. Joe B. Miller, 51B, Miller-13.545; 25. Dave Darland, 71p, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-NT.
Simpson Race Products First Heat (10 laps): Windom, B. Short, Coons, Boespfllug, K. Thomas, T. Thomas, Cummins, Stanbrough.
Competition Suspension Second Heat (10 laps): Hodges, Darland, Bernal, Courtney, Andretti, Stockon, Grant, McMillin.
Chalk Stix Third Heat (10 laps): Ballou, Leary, Meseraull, Beauchamp, Farney, Swanson, Robbins, Miller.
Indy Race Parts Semi (12 laps): Stockon, Cummins, Swanson, Grant, T. Thomas, Stanbrough, McMillin, Robbins, Miller.
Feature (30 laps): Ballou, Courtney, Boespflug, Short, K. Thomas, Grant, Hodges, Farney, Windom, Darland, Meseraull, Stockon, Bernal, Coons, Andretti, T. Thomas, Swanson, McMillin, Cummins, Leary, Stanbrough, Beauchamp.