Balog outduels Thiel in Plymouth IRA thriller

Bill Balog-Scotty Thiel IRA Plymouth 7-18-20 RC Custom Design photo

July 18, 2020 – Nine-time Bumper to Bumper Interstate Racing Association champion Bill Balog of Hartland showcased his considerable skill behind the wheel of a 410 Winged Sprint Car by outmaneuvering Sheboygan’s Scotty Thiel in a heart-pumping, back-and-forth battle over the final five circuits on the way to his fourth IRA A-main victory of the 2020 season in the 30-lap headliner Saturday, July 18 at The Plymouth Dirt Track at the Sheboygan County Fairgrounds in Plymouth, Wis.

Former PDTR 360 Sprint Car champion Brandon McMullen of Oshkosh captured his third A-main victory of the 2020 campaign in the 25-lap Kristine Hartmann Pleasant View Realty Plymouth Dirt Track Racing 360 Sprint Car main event, while Ion Stear of Hebron, Ill. notched a wire-to-wire victory in the 20-lap Interstate Racing Association Lightning Sprints A main.

In the 30-lap IRA 410 Sprint Car Series headliner, Balog grabbed the lead on the opening lap from the pole position, while Thiel, who started on the outside of the front row, settled into second.

Balog built up a solid half-straightaway lead in the early going before the leaders encountered lapped traffic on lap 8, which allowed Thiel to close the gap drastically.

On lap 11, Balog found himself boxed in behind a pair of slower cars along the inside groove, which allowed Thiel to use the outside line of the well-prepared, multi-groove track surface to power into the lead in turn one on lap 12.

Once out front, Thiel pulled away to a full straightaway cushion over Balog until the first of five caution flags was displayed for a spin in turn two involving IRA rookie Jack Routson of Waterman, Ill. on lap 17. Three laps later, Routson spun again in turn four right in front of Thiel, who had to take evasive action to avoid getting collected.

Thiel again bolted away to a big lead on the ensuing restart and had built up another full straightaway advantage over Balog when a red flag was displayed when Matt Vandevere of Zion, Ill. flipped in turn two on lap 25.

On the restart, Thiel again held the advantage over Balog, while two-time IRA champion Scotty Neitzel of Beaver Dam, who started third, moved low to duel with USAC Sprint Car standout Chase Stockton of Fort Branch, Ind., who started fifth, for third.

The fourth caution period came on lap 26 when Scott Biertzer of West Bend stopped in turn two. Balog pulled off what proved to be the winning move on the restart has he ripped off a well-executed slide job in turn two to wrestle the lead away from Thiel, who battled back in turn four to briefly regain the top spot. However, Balog charged back in turn two on the following lap to take the lead for good.

The final caution flag appeared on lap 27 when Todd Daun of Pleasant Prairie spun in turn two. Thiel tried to execute a slide job of his own in turn two on the ensuing restart. However, Balog held strong along the high groove to maintain the top spot.

Thiel was not done yet as he utilized the low line on the final circuit to nearly pull even with Balog in turn four. However, Balog held on to nip Thiel at the finish line by one car length en route to his 117th career IRA A-main victory.

“I got stuck in the middle there with the lapped cars twice and got boxed in,” Balog said. “He [Thiel] was able to get around and then he set out on a pretty good pace to build up a big lead. I didn’t think we would get him, honestly. We were just a little too tight for most of the race.

“On that restart, I just pulled the wing back and slid him in turn two and it worked out,” he said. “On the last lap, I actually saw his front wheel coming out of turn four and that was pretty intense. It was a great race. Those kind of races are what we are here to do.”

Despite leading much of the race, Thiel had to settle for second.

“That was probably the most fun I’ve racing with Bill,” Thiel said. “We really pushed each other to the limits. On that second to last caution, I think he timed out what I had been doing on the previous restarts and pulled off that slider to get the lead. I tried fighting back and continued to push hard, but I also wanted to race clean. We just have to improve a little bit to get one spot better and beat the 17B next time.”

Stockton, who is a non-wing regular on the USAC National Sprint Car tour, turned a solid third-place showing in his first appearance at The Plymouth Dirt Track.

“This a first-time experience for me here at this track,” Stockton said. “We had a good race car tonight. I’m not that used to running with wings and these guys race hard and clean. It was a fun 30 laps.”

Neitzel placed fourth and former IRA champion Jeremy Schultz placed fifth after starting seventh.

In the 25-lap PDTR 360 Sprint Car A main, polesitter Tim Haddy of Waupun took the lead on the opening lap with outside front row starter Scott Conger of Eagle slipping into second with fourth starter Brandon McMullen third.

On lap 4, McMullen used the high line to power around Conger into second. Haddy began to encounter slower traffic on lap 10, which allowed McMullen to reel in Haddy considerably.

Three laps later, McMullen dove low to slip underneath the high-riding Haddy for the lead in turn two. The three-time Midwest Sprint Car Association champion wasted no time in building up a solid lead along the middle to low grooves.

Haddy remained within striking distance in the second half of the race and drew within two car lengths of McMullen on the final circuit. However, McMullen held on to secure his 18th career PDTR 360 Sprint Car A-main victory and 26th career MSA main event triumph to move into sole possession of third place on the all-time MSA win list and fourth on the all-time PDTR 360 Sprint Car A-main win list in the caution-free, non-stop race.

“Tim was really good in clean air early in the race, but I could tell when we got to the lapped cars that with the air getting taken off the wing, he was getting a little tight,” McMullen said. “I tried to work the middle and through the bottom and it worked out for us tonight.”

Haddy finished second, Travis Arenz of Sheboygan, who started seventh, placed third, third starter Anthony Knierim of Franksville placed fourth and Conger rounded out the top five.

In the 20-lap IRA Lightning Sprints A main, Ion Stear took the lead on the drop of the green flag from the pole. Starting on lap 6, Stear worked skillfully through lapped traffic to extend his lead.

The first of two red flags appeared on lap 11 when Andrew Kiedrowski of Union Grove flipped in turn one. Following the restart, Mark Heinert of Oak Creek, who started second, moved in to pressure Stear, while fifth starter Nick Petska of Spring Grove, Ill. worked his way into third on lap 15.

On lap 18, Heinert brought out another red flag when he flipped following contact with a slower car in turn two. Following a green-white-checkered flag restart, Stear held strong to secure the victory.

“The car felt real good throughout the race,” Stear said. “This place usually gets dry slick, but it was a really good racing surface tonight.”

Petska placed second, C.J. Malueg of Johnsburg, Ill. finished third after starting sixth, defending IRA Lightning Sprints champ Mike Neau of Pleasant Prairie finished fourth after starting third and Jeff Schmidt of Slinger placed fifth after starting fourth.

Sean Rayhall of Woodstock, Ga. earn the fast qualifier award in IRA 410 Sprint Car Series time trails with a lap of 12.146 seconds. Balog and Thiel won the two IRA four-lap dashes to earn front row starting spots in the A main.

The all-Sprint Car program attracted a total field of 75 cars, including 23 IRA 410 Sprint Cars, 36 PDTR/MSA 360 Sprint Cars and 16 IRA Lightning Sprints.

Next Saturday, July 25 The Plymouth Dirt Track will host its 360 Sprint Car, Late Model, Grand National and B Mod divisions.

Grandstand gates open at 4:30 p.m. with hot laps at 5:30 p.m. and racing to begin at 6 p.m.

1, Sean Rayhall 12.146 2, Scotty Thiel 12.152 3, Joey Moughan 12.193 4, Bill Balog 12.267 5, Chase Stockton 12.273 6, Todd King 12.273 7, Jake Blackhurst 12.292 8, Jeremy Schultz 12.465 9, Jordan Goldesberry 12.511 10, Dave Uttech 12.664 11, Russel Borland 12.734 12, Scotty Neitzel 12.748 13, Scott Biertzer 12.811 14, Matt Vandevere 12.819 15, Jack Routson 12.839 16, Robbie Pribnow 12.927 17, Kris Spitz 13.065 18, Wayne Modjeski 13.072 19, Todd Daun 13.076 20, Josh Walter 13.118 21, Johnny Fahl 13.248 22, Chris Larson 13.742 23, Hunter Custer 15.537.
1, Jake Blackhurst 2, Bill Balog 3, Dave Uttech 4, Robbie Pribnow 5, Scott Biertzer 6, Sean Rayhall 7, Todd Daun 8, Chris Larson.
1, Scotty Thiel 2, Chase Stockton 3, Jeremy Schultz 4, Russel Borland 5, Matt Vandevere 6, Kris Spitz 7, Josh Walter 8, Hunter Custer.
1, Scotty Neitzel 2, Jordan Goldesberry 3, Joey Moughan 4, Jack Routson 5, Todd King 6, Wayne Modjeski 7, Johnny Fahl 8,
1, Bill Balog 2, Scotty Neitzel 3, Chase Stockton 4, Jeremy Schultz 5, Jake Blackhurst.
1, Scotty Thiel 2, Jordan Goldesberry 3, Sean Rayhall 4, Todd King 5, Joey Moughan.
1, Bill Balog 2, Scotty Thiel 3, Chase Stockton 4, Scotty Neitzel 5, Jeremy Schultz 6, Joey Moughan 7, Jordan Goldesberry 8, Jake Blackhurst 9, Todd King 10, Dave Uttech 11, Robbie Pribnow 12, Kris Spitz 13, Wayne Modjeski 14, Johnny Fahl 15, Chris Larson 16, Todd Daun 17, Scott Biertzer 18, Matt Vandevere 19, Hunter Custer 20, Josh Walter 21, Jack Routson 22, Sean Rayhall 23, Russel Borland.

1, Ben Schmidt 2, Justin Erickson 3, Matt Vandevere 4, Justin Miller 5, Lance Fassbender 6, Nick Daywalt 7, Blake Wondra 8, Preston Ruh 9, Scott Armstrong.
1, Will Gerrits 2, Brandon McMullen 3, Jack Vanderboom 4, Tony Wondra 5, Scotty Neitzel 6, Bill Taylor 7, Mike Decker 8, Austin Hartmann 9, Adam Miller.
1, Scott Conger 2, Anthony Knierim 3, Shane Wenninger 4, Brandon Berth 5, Tyler Brabant 6, Nich Melis 7, Alex Pokorski 8, Tyler Davis 9, Kevin Seidler.
1, Travis Arenz 2, Tim Haddy 3, Kevin Karnitz 4, Tyler Tischendorf 5, Chris Clayton 6, Josh Teunissen 7, Kurt Davis 8, Ken Schmick 9, Doug Wondra.
1, Brandon Berth 2, Tyler Tischendorf 3, Preston Ruh 4, Blake Wondra 5, Mike Decker 6, Kevin Seidler 7, Austin Hartmann 8, Doug Wondra 9, Ken Schmick 10, Josh Teunissen (DNS).
1, Kurt Davis 2, Nick Daywalt 3, Chris Clayton 4, Tyler Davis 5, Bill Taylor 6, Nich Melis 7, Alex Pokorski 8, Tyler Brabant 9, Scott Armstrong 10, Adam Miller (DNS).
1, Brandon McMullen 2, Tim Haddy 3, Travis Arenz 4, Anthony Knierim 5, Scott Conger 6, Justin Miller 7, Will Gerrits 8, Ben Schmidt 9, Justin Erickson 10, Kurt Davis 11, Shane Wenninger 12, Scotty Neitzel 13, Lance Fassbender 14, Tony Wondra 15, Tyler Tischendorf 16, Kevin Karnitz 17, Matt Vandevere 18, Brandon Berth 19, Jack Vanderboom 20, Nick Daywalt 21, Chris Clayton 22, Preston Ruh.

1, Ion Stear 2, Mark Heinert 3, C.J. Maleug 4, Jeff Schmidt 5, Shawn McGill 6, Bob Jeziorski 7, Max Brannam
1, Josh Rehberg 2, Nick Petska 3, Mike Neau 4, Andrew Kiedrowski 5, Kevin Fredericksen 6, Phil Brannam 7, Ron Curasi 8, John Kirk
1, Ion Stear 2, Nick Petska 3, C.J. Malueg 4, Mike Neau 5, Jeff Schmidt 6, Kevin Fredericksen 7, Josh Rehberg 8, Bob Jeriorski 9, Shawn McGill 10, Phil Brannam 11, Max Brannam 12, Ron Curasi 13, Mark Heinert 14, John Kirk 15, Andrew Kiedrowski 16, Ron Brannam.