Balog wins first career WoO Sprint Car Series race
By Nicholas Dettmann
Bill Balog pulled off an upset with his victory in the Craftsman World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series race June 25 – the Jim “JB” Boyd Memorial – at Beaver Dam Raceway.
He held off Daryn Pittman on a green-white-checkered finish for his first career victory in the series.
“It’s awesome,” Balog said. “It’s unbelievable. I wasn’t ever really sure if we could accomplish something like that.”
But was it really an upset?
Balog is the winningest driver in the history of the Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprint Car Series and is a seven-time champion in the series. He was also already 3 for 3 at Beaver Dam this year with the IRAs.
He was against a field nationally considered the best Sprint Car racers. Plus, it is believed no non-World of Outlaw Series regular had won a race with the series at Beaver Dam.
“It’s fricken awesome,” said Jeremy Schultz, who is a fellow competitor in the IRA Outlaw Sprint Car Series with Balog. “To have one of us beat up on them is cool. It’s pretty awesome.
“For me, I’ve raced with Bill for a lot of years and it’s cool to see.”
What there wasn’t a debate about was what the victory meant to the local drivers and fans.
As the final laps ticked away, fans waved their hands or arms and cheered him on, urging him to keep going or go faster. After all, Pittman, the 2013 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champion, and Donny Schatz, last year’s winner and the series’ third-winningest driver, were closing in.
A late caution with about a lap-and-a-half remaining, bunched up the field. This was the deciding moment for the 40-lap main event, an event Balog led 38 of 40 laps.
“He was quick,” Pittman said.
“Congrats to him,” he added. “He did a great job. We just got beat. We’ll take second.”
Pittman finished second, followed by Schatz, Joey Saldana and David Gravel. Between those four are 22 victories this season with the World of Outlaws Series.
“The pressure was definitely on,” Balog said. “… I thought we might be in trouble.”
When the green flag flew, Balog, like he did throughout the race, punched the gas with his foot and took off, leaving his opponents in the dust.
But also in that dust was a loud, cheerful reception for the man they call “The North Pole Nightmare.”
“It’s his first Outlaw win; it’s something he’ll never forget,” Pittman said. “So that’s cool, especially at a home track like this. It’s big.
“Our series needs that stuff. It’s a good thing. It’s not a knock on any of us to get beat by a local. He’s a good race car driver and wins a lot of races. It’s something he’ll never forget. It’s a cool thing for the series because it’ll make more locals want to come and race.
“It’s always cool to see a guy get his first win.”
After Balog, Paul Nienhiser was the next-highest finishing non-World of Outlaw Series regular, then it was Schultz.
“For me, it’s cool to be able to race with these guys,” said Schultz, who finished 14th. “Not that long ago I was sitting in the grandstands wanting to do this.”
It turned around the spirits of Balog and his crew. The night before in Minnesota, the team struggled and had to pull off the race track.
“We were going to quit yesterday, but I guess we should keep doing this,” Balog said.
“We were running in the top-10 and then just went backward,” he said about the race in Minnesota. “We just pulled off. It was a rough night.”
There was no doubt, though, he was going to race at Beaver Dam. However, what was his confidence like?
Even being perfect in three races at Beaver Dam this season didn’t give Balog a lot of confidence going into the evening’s festivities.
“We’ve been missing it pretty good,” he said, adding when he’s won at Beaver Dam this season it wasn’t in overwhelming or impressive fashion.
“We just kind of squeaked by and these guys are much, much stronger than that.”
Balog was sixth-fastest in qualifying with a best-lap time of 12.035 seconds. For the 10th time in the season, Saldana set fast time (11.895). That proved to be crucial for Balog.
He was one of the six drivers in the fast dash to set the first six spots for the “A” main starting grid. He started on the point. In the dash, he took second to Pittman, which put Pittman on the pole position and Balog on the outside of the front row.
“We drew good and all that stuff, but we had a fast race car,” Balog said, adding the car improved throughout the night. “Can’t really deny that. It’s really awesome.”
He didn’t hesitate to say this victory was “by far the biggest” of his career.
“I can’t believe it,” Balog said.
(This article appeared in the July 2016 issue of Full Throttle magazine.)