From Bill W, Rob Kocak Photo
August 9, 2011 – Billy Alley was confident heading into the 360 Nationals and it showed, with a strong fourth place finish in the biggest event in 360-sprint car racing. The Lincoln, Nebraska driver parlayed a “show stopping” performance in the Friday night prelim event where he drove from 23rd to 5th into Saturday night’s championship event. His focus turns to the 410 Nationals now as he teams up with the Alan Barton Motorsports #7AB team.
When an issue arose during hot laps and fans saw the hood off the Billy Alley Enterprise #22 on Friday night, there was tension. “Bob (Richardson) and the rest of the guys had to deal with a minor issue there,” explains Billy. “It was kind of hectic in the heat of the moment, because we were dealing with the 360 Nationals, but it was just a minor issue that we took care of.”
Billy’s experience at the Nationals helps him see the big picture. “It’s not a secret that we haven’t been running with the top guys every week this year,” he says. “We’ve lacked the consistency. One thing cool about the Nationals is that you can be a hero in a hurry, or a zero in a hurry. It can change every time you hit the track.”
When he hit the track for time trials, the two-time 360 Nationals champ came through with the third quick time of the night. “Turning a 15.9 was phenomenal with how we’ve been doing,” he says. “Timing in third really started our Nationals off well.”
The first start of the heat was good for Billy, but it was called back. The second did not go as well and he finished sixth and out of a transfer. “I was pumped going out,” he says. “I was in contention there and ahead of Jeff Swindell for a while. The track was so heavy at that point. The guys in front were fast and on the loud pedal, and it was hard for everyone to pass in the heats. The first start went well, but the second one after (Brian) Brown crashed didn’t go my way. We weren’t a rocket ship in the heat, and that’s what you need. That sent us to the B main, and fortunately, we made it through.”
The team made the right adjustments for a 20-lap feature that saw Billy starting 23rd on the grid. “We made the right changes for the feature, that’s for sure,” he says. “Everything seemed to go my way instead of the other way around.”
It was hard for the fans to keep their eyes off the yellow #22. A ragged start was to his advantage, but the passing didn’t stop there. He continued to pass cars until he checkered fifth. “On the start that stayed green…it really helped us,” says Billy. “There were a lot of people hurt by it, but I kind of shot some gaps and my racecar was fast. It was fun to drive. I think we’ve really found something with this Eagle chassis. This was only our second night on it, and it has been great.”
The run was good enough to land a starting spot inside row three for the championship main event. Waiting around for the last feature of the night can play on your mind, and that was the case on Saturday. “It’s hard to sit around all night long and watch the race track,” says Billy. “You end up watching it too much. Then you go out for hot laps. You wait for the 410 A main to do what it does to the track, and that’s hard.”
The result was a great car, but not the rocket ship that fans saw on Friday. “We missed it by just a tick,” says Billy. “We were just too tight. That sounds funny when there are 90 cars behind you and you finish fourth, but it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t enough to catch the top three.”
Still a fourth place finish ahead of some of the best in the country was satisfying. “We still ran fourth in the 360 Nationals, so we’re happy!” says Billy. “It was phenomenal. I knew we could do it in the back of my mind, but I didn’t believe. Now that I know we can do it, I can’t wait to start running again around home with the new Eagle.”
Some special partners are always close to the Bennett, Nebraska driver’s team, and some extra help was on board as well. “I’d really like to thank Bianchi Boys Pizza & Pasta again, along with Vermeer High Plains, Klone Farms, Slideways Karting Center and Stepping Stone Genetics for their great help this week,” says Billy.
Now the focus turns to Thursday night when Billy will be qualifying for the 410 Nationals at Knoxville. “I’m anxious to meet up with Alan Barton and the Hedman Hedders #7AB,” he says. “After running the 360 Nationals, we are comfortable right now. I’m hoping that can happen in Alan’s car. I hope I’ve had enough laps around this place to not miss too much of a beat.”
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Billy has qualified for the Knoxville Nationals championship on three occasions. His best finish was in 2008 (14th). He also qualified in 2006 and 2005, when he was the second leading point getter for the week.
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Billy would like to thank Bolz Farms, Schmit Automotive, Manion Framers for Life, Aeroquip Performance Products, K&N Engineering, Stepping Stone Genetics, Ironwood Builders, KDM, Buss Excavating, Harris Decals, Hoosier Tires, Stewart Alley Concrete, Klone Farms, Bianchi Boys Pizza & Pasta and Hedman Hedders.