By Jeffrey Sachse
Ashland, WI; July 28, 2012: Déjà vu? Looking at victory lane following the Saturday evening A-main contested at ABC Raceway you would have seen a remarkable similarity to the Friday night show at St. Croix Speedway. The #17b machine of four-time and defending series champion, Bill Balog, was in the spotlight in the winner’s circle.
The Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprints traveled to Wisconsin’s Northwoods this weekend and Balog would spend a majority of time celebrating his success. After establishing a new track record and chalking up feature win number ten of the season at St. Croix Valley Raceway, the series traveled to ABC Raceway in Ashland, WI,. where he would repeat the performance.
Balog, who captured the main event in the series first ever appearance at ABC Raceway last season, spent the first part of the 30 lap A-main chasing Mike Kertscher and Mike Reinke seemingly unable to catch the lead duo.
However a switch to the bottom groove on the tacky three-eighths mile oval proved to be the trick needed to find the speed to charge to the front of the pack.
With less than ten laps to go Balog would maneuver past both Reinke and Kertscher in heavy lapped traffic to take control of the contest. He would then survive two late race restarts to collect the checkered flag, his 11th of the season in Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprint Series action. Reinke would spend the final laps of the race looking for a way to work past Balog but he would ultimately have to settle for runner-up honors. Scott Neitzel made a successful last lap pass on Kertscher who had lead a majority of the race, to finish third.
With 11 wins on the season, Balog has now tied his win mark from last year’s championship winning season. There are 11 more races left to score another victory to top last year’s performance.
Earlier in the evening Balog would click off a lap of 12.382 seconds in qualifying for the show which established a new track record breaking the year old mark of 12.540 seconds set by Reinke. Reinke also eclipsed his old mark turning the second quickest lap of the evening at 12.508 seconds.
The main event would lineup with Kertscher starting on the pole for the contest and Neitzel to his outside. Reinke and Balog held down the spots in row two as the green flag flew.
Kertscher would get the jump on Neitzel to take the opening lead, with Reinke working his way into the number two slot. Balog would settle in behind Neitzel in fourth during the opening laps of the contest.
Kertscher, blazing around the track with speeds approaching 110mph, manged to keep Reinke following his rear nerf bar as Reinke sought a way to reach the top spot. Balog, meanwhile, managed to work around Neitzel for the third position closing in on the lead pair and making it a three way battle for the top spot.
The top three of Kertscher, Reinke and Balog weaved in and out of lapped traffic barely a car length apart. Reinke was first to take a stab at grabbing the lead from Kertscher as he successfully worked the high line to nose ahead on lap 14. Kertscher was quick to counter the move executing a well-timed slide job on the next lap to retake the lead.
With ten laps to go Balog began to favor the bottom line using the low groove to work under Reinke for second on lap 21 and then performing a similar move on the next lap to surpass Kertscher for the top spot.
The laps continued to click by and it was starting to appear that the race might be headed for a green to checkered finish. With only five laps to go the machine of Michael Decker would come to a halt in turn three forcing the first caution of the contest.
The field would lineup with Balog, Kertscher, Reinke and Neitzel occupying the top four spots as the race resumed. Balog was quick to distance himself from Kertscher who had his hands full defending the second spot.
A final caution would appear with just two laps to go as Decker and Wayne Modjeski would tangle in turn three. Both would be able to continue but Modjeski had suffered damage to his front wing.
With the green flag appearing one final time Balog again would prove the speed of his machine while second running Kertscher suddenly had Reinke challenging for the position. As the white flag flew Reinke was able to maneuver into the second spot but there would be no time to catch Balog who accepted the checkered flag with a six car length lead over Reinke.
Coming off the final turn Neitzel would win a drag race with Kertscher nab the third position continuing his trend of strong finishes of late. Neitzel had finished second at St. Croix Valley last evening.
Kertscher would settle for the fourth spot after having the lead the majority of the contest. Phillip Mock would complete the top five finishers after having worked past Kris Spitz for the position late in the contest and was runner-up at Dodge County Fairgrounds a week ago.
Spitz, Russel Borland and Dave Uttech finished sixth through eighth respectively completing the cars on the lead lap at the finish. Bill Wirth and Brandon Thone made up the balance of the top ten finishers.
Earlier in the evening three heat races were held with victories being claimed by Neitzel, Spitz and Kertscher.
After three consecutive double header weekends where the series ran a total of 6 races in a 15 day span, the series competitors will have time to regroup with just Beaver Dam Raceway’s event scheduled for next Saturday Night August 4th occupying next weekend’s activities.
The series is then off the following weekend giving competitors a chance to participate in the Knoxville Nationals if they choose to do so.
The IRA Outlaw Sprint Series is proudly supported by Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts & Service Centers, Osborn & Son Trucking, Goodyear, TW Metals, Cummins Onan, DNA Energy Drink& Snacks, MPT Industries, UltraLube, Big Game Treestands, Carriage Auto Body, Otis Gun, Mother's Polishes and Waxes and Polaris DEFENSE. The office of the IRA Sprints can be reached at 815-759-9269 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprints:
A-Main: 1.) Bill Balog; 2.) Mike Reinke; 3.) Scott Neitzel; 4.) Mike Kertscher; 5.) Phillip Mock; 6.) Kris Spitz; 7.) Russell Borland; 8.) Dave Uttech; 9.) Bill Wirth; 10.) Brandon Thone; 11.) Bill Warren; 12.) Dennis Spitz; 13.) Darrell Dodd; 14.) John Sernett; 15.) Wayne Modjeski; 16.) Robbie Pribnow; 17.) Andy Hunt; 18.) Michael Decker; 19.) Chad Tessman; 20.) Brian Portschy
Heat 1: 1.) Kertscher; 2.) Balog; 3.) Uttech; 4.) Hunt
Heat 2: 1.) Spitz; 2.) Borland; 3.) Reinke; 4.) Wirth
Heat 3: 1.) Neitzel; 2.) Modjeski; 3.) Sernett; 4.) Mock
Qualifying: (Top 10) 1.) Balog, 12.382 Seconds ( New Track Record ); 2.) Reinke, 12.508 secs; 3.) Neitzel; 4.) Kertscher; 5.) Borland; 6.) Mock; 7.) D. Spitz; 8.) Wirth; 9.) Warren; 10.) Uttech