By Richie Murray
Swedesboro, New Jersey (June 13, 2022)………Robert Ballou’s first career victory in the state of New Jersey during the 2015 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car season led him to an Eastern Storm title and, ultimately, a USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National title later that year.
In the 2021 edition of Eastern Storm, Ballou’s triumph at New Jersey’s Bridgeport Motorsports Park just so happened to propel the Rocklin, Calif. driver to a second Eastern Storm title. Seems to be a theme for the Rocklin, Calif. native.
He’d like to achieve the same when the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship brings the Eastern Storm tour to Bridgeport’s 4/10-mile dirt oval in Swedesboro, N.J. on Wednesday night, June 15.
Three starts and three top-ten results have been the name of the game for Ballou at Bridgeport where he’s also finished 6th in 2018 and 10th in 2019, winning his heat races in all three of those years to boot. His 2021 victory was in non-stop fashion with him turning 30 Laps in a track record time of 8:47.620.
Shane Cottle (Kansas, Ill.), a 2013 Eastern Storm winner at BAPS, returns to Eastern Storm full-time once again in the Hogue No. 39. He led a race-high 16 laps and finished as the runner-up a year ago at Bridgeport.
Eastern Storm’s 2014 champ, Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.), has, amazingly, earned hard charger honors in all three of his Bridgeport USAC National Sprint Car starts, going 13th to 4th in 2018 and 12th to 7th in 2019 and 14th to 4th in 2021.
Briggs Danner (Allentown, Pa.) has won more USAC Rapid Tire East Coast Sprint Car features at Bridgeport than any other driver, winning five times since 2020, including twice this season. His 2020 victory came in his first ever sprint car start. The current East Coast point leader turned in his best career USAC National Sprint Car finish at Bridgeport a year ago with a 5th.
Reigning USAC East Coast champ Alex Bright (Collegeville, Pa.) finished 17th in last year’s Eastern Storm run at Bridgeport. In East Coast competition there, he’s been stellar, winning twice in 2021. He led 16 laps in this year’s season opener and also ran 2nd there in late April.
Steven Drevicki (Reading, Pa.), the three-time USAC East Coast Sprint Car champion in 2018-19-20, has won in a USAC SpeedSTR feature on the new Bridgeport layout, doing so in 2020. He traveled 19th to 9th there during Eastern Storm in 2021 and ran 2nd with the East Coast series in this year’s opener.
Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) has scored three top-tens in each of his Bridgeport Eastern Storm goes, with a 3rd in 2019, a 6th in 2021 and an 8th in 2018 as his best. The 2020 USAC Silver Crown champion holds Bridgeport’s USAC one-lap track record of 15.799, set in 2021.
C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.), the 2019 Eastern Storm and USAC National Sprint Car champion, has recorded top-seven finishes in his last two Bridgeport appearances, tackling a 5th in 2019 and a 7th in 2021.
East Coaster Timmy Buckwalter (Douglassville, Pa.) is a numerous-time modified victor at Bridgeport and was an 8th place finisher in Bridgeport’s Eastern Storm feature in 2021. His eight-lap heat race victory that same night established the USAC National Sprint Car track record for the distance at Bridgeport with a time of 2:11.630.
Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.), a two-time Eastern Storm feature winner in his career, made his lone Bridgeport Eastern Storm appearance in 2018 where he finished 9th on the former 3/8-mile configuration that was located inside the bygone 5/8-mile.
Returning to Bridgeport for Eastern Storm on Wednesday includes Anaheim, California’s Jake Swanson, the 2017 USAC West Coast Sprint Car titlist (11th in 2021); plus Sutter, California’s Logan Seavey, the 2018 USAC National Midget champ (13th in 2021); Buckeye, Arizona’s Charles Davis Jr., the 2018 USAC Southwest Sprint Car champion (14th in 2021); as well as Terre Haute, Indiana’s Brandon Mattox, the 2020 USAC National Most Improved Driver (19th in 2021); and Pleasant Hill, Ohio’s Matt Westfall (16th in 2018), who has been a champion of NAMARS Midgets, Eldora Speedway Late Models and Modifieds as well as the Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series.
The group of newcomers to Bridgeport is led by USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship point leader Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.), whose Clauson Marshall Newman Racing team finished 3rd and 6th with driver Tyler Courtney at Bridgeport back in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Axsom is joined by fellow first-time Eastern Storm competitors at Bridgeport, 2020 USAC National Most Improved Driver Jadon Rogers (Worthington, Ind.), USAC National Sprint Car Rookie Alex Banales (Lafayette, Ind.) and Korbyn Hayslett (Troy, Ohio), plus USAC East Coast regulars Kenny Miller III (Morgantown, Pa.) and Joey Amantea (Mount Pocono, Pa.). Miller has finished 3rd and 6th in two Bridgeport appearances this year while Amantea has scored a 4th and a 7th.
Only 11 previous USAC National Sprint Car races have been held in the state of New Jersey, and just three at Bridgeport, in 2018, 2019 and 2021. Johnny Thomson captured the first USAC Sprint Car feature victory held in the state of New Jersey during USAC’s inaugural season of 1956. Thomson’s Eastern Sprint Car triumph came aboard Sam Traylor’s No. 9 in a 20-lapper at Trenton’s New Jersey State Fairgrounds.
Round two of Eastern Storm at Bridgeport features the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship and the 602 Sportsman. Pits open at 3pm Eastern, grandstands at 5pm, drivers meeting at 5:45pm & cars on track at 6:15pm
General admission tickets are $30, children 10 to 15 are $15 and children 9 and under will be admitted free. Pit passes are $35 for members and $40 for non-members.
All Eastern Storm events will be streamed live on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3u7ID2N.
2022 USAC EASTERN STORM SCHEDULE:
June 14: Grandview Speedway | Bechtelsville, PA
June 15: Bridgeport Motorsports Park | Swedesboro, NJ
June 16: Selinsgrove Speedway | Selinsgrove, PA
June 17: Williams Grove Speedway | Mechanicsburg, PA
June 18: Port Royal Speedway | Port Royal, PA
June 19: Bloomsburg Fair Raceway | Bloomsburg, PA
USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINS AT BRIDGEPORT MOTORSPORTS PARK:
1-Robert Ballou, Jason McDougal & Kevin Thomas Jr.
USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINNERS AT BRIDGEPORT MOTORSPORTS PARK:
2018: Kevin Thomas Jr. (6/18)
2019: Jason McDougal (6/12)
2021: Robert Ballou (6/16)
TRACK RECORDS FOR USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CARS AT BRIDGEPORT MOTORSPORTS PARK:
1 Lap – 6/16/2021 – Justin Grant – 15.799
8 Laps – 6/16/2021 – Timmy Buckwalter – 2:11.630
12 Laps – 6/16/2021 – Paul Nienhiser – 3:43.172
30 Laps – 6/16/2021 – Robert Ballou – 8:47.620
BRIDGEPORT MOTORSPORTS PARK USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR FEATURE RESULTS:
2018 FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kevin Thomas Jr. (6), 2. Chris Windom (3), 3. Tyler Courtney (2), 4. Brady Bacon (13), 5. Chase Stockon (5), 6. Robert Ballou (9), 7. Dave Darland (8), 8. Justin Grant (7), 9. Thomas Meseraull (18), 10. Isaac Chapple (12), 11. Chad Boespflug (1), 12. C.J. Leary (10), 13. Timmy Buckwalter (16), 14. Jarett Andretti (4), 15. Joey Biasi (17), 16. Matt Westfall (14), 17. Zach Daum (15), 18. Tony DiMattia (11), 19. Kyle Lick (22), 20. Mark Bitner (20), 21. Ryan Godown (19), 22. Robert Bell (21). NT
2019 FEATURE: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Jason McDougal (2), 2. Kevin Thomas Jr. (3), 3. Justin Grant (4), 4. Chase Stockon (6), 5. C.J. Leary (5), 6. Tyler Courtney (10), 7. Brady Bacon (12), 8. Chris Windom (7), 9. Carson Short (1), 10. Robert Ballou (14), 11. Bill Balog (9), 12. Steven Drevicki (16), 13. Chad Boespflug (8), 14. Isaac Chapple (11), 15. Joey Biasi (13), 16. Dave Darland (15), 17. Jarett Andretti (18), 18. Ryan Godown (21), 19. Dominick Buffalino (20), 20. Brian VanMeveren (17), 21. Dustin Clark (19), 22. Craig Pellegrini (22). NT
2021 FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Robert Ballou (5), 2. Shane Cottle (1), 3. Chris Windom (2), 4. Brady Bacon (14), 5. Briggs Danner (4), 6. Justin Grant (6), 7. C.J. Leary (3), 8. Timmy Buckwalter (8), 9. Steven Drevicki (19), 10. Kevin Thomas Jr. (15), 11. Jake Swanson (9), 12. Tanner Thorson (10), 13. Logan Seavey (12), 14. Charles Davis Jr. (16), 15. Isaac Chapple (11), 16. Paul Nienhiser (13), 17. Alex Bright (22), 18. Chase Stockon (7), 19. Brandon Mattox (18), 20. Mark Bitner (21), 21. Mark Smith (20), 22. Matt Westfall (23), 23. Nash Ely (17). 8:47.620 (New Track Record)
USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINS IN NEW JERSEY:
2-Robert Ballou & Bryan Clauson
1-Tom Bigelow, Chad Boespflug, Levi Jones, Jason McDougal, Hunter Schuerenberg, Kevin Thomas Jr. & Johnny Thomson
USAC EASTERN STORM CHAMPIONS:
2007: Levi Jones
2008: Cole Whitt
2009: Cole Whitt
2010: Levi Jones
2011: Levi Jones
2012: Bryan Clauson
2013: Bryan Clauson
2014: Brady Bacon
2015: Robert Ballou
2016: Bryan Clauson
2017: Chris Windom
2018: Chris Windom
2019: C.J. Leary
2020: Not Held
2021: Robert Ballou
USAC EASTERN STORM FEATURE WINS: (2007-2021)
6-Bryan Clauson, Levi Jones & Chris Windom
3-Kevin Thomas Jr. & Cole Whitt
2-Tyler Courtney, Justin Grant, Thomas Meseraull
1-Chad Boat, Chad Boespflug, Daron Clayton, Shane Cottle, Dave Darland, Bobby East, Damion Gardner, Jesse Hockett, Jason McDougal, Hunter Schuerenberg, Jon Stanbrough, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. & Chase Stockon