Cover Photo by Brendon Bauman
INDIANAPOLIS — The United States Auto Club has suspended sprint car driver Robert Ballou from all USAC competition for the remainder of the season, effective immediately, for violations of Section 10.32 of the USAC Rule Book.
The suspension follows a comprehensive review of numerous actions conducted by Ballou during the 2016 and ’17 seasons, including multiple conversations between USAC officials and Ballou.
Ballou’s actions were deemed detrimental to the sport of auto racing.
Most notably, Ballou engaged in a war of words on social media with retired three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart following Saturday’s 4-Crown Nationals at Eldora Speedway, the half-mile Ohio dirt oval owned by Stewart.
“Maybe once they kill someone at the legendary Eldora Speedway, maybe they will fix the track and (put) it back to the house that Earl (Baltes, former track owner) built,” Ballou posted on Twitter. “The big one is coming before long. Hope Spencer Bayston is OK. (It’s a) dangerous, dangerous ice skating rink with a wall as the curb.”
Stewart responded in turn, telling Ballou that if he came back to the 4-Crown Nationals next year, he could “have the track from the Sunday before through the 4-Crown” and could prep it however he wanted to.
Ballou then said he “was in,” recalling how Stewart supposedly promised last May the “wettest and biggest curb Eldora Speedway has ever seen” before it got dusty during hot laps and “almost killed my buddy Rico [Abreu],” according to Ballou.
“(There was) zero effort made (Saturday night) to make the track any better, and it isn’t from lack of equipment,” Ballou continued.
Ballou’s series of Tweets were later taken down.
On Sept. 25, a meeting was held among Ballou, the USAC Competition Committee and key industry track partners to discuss the repeated concerns.
The findings of the competition committee were that continued violations of USAC rules and procedures have imposed harm and risk to the viability of the USAC National Sprint Car Series, thus the suspension.
In addition, Ballou — the 2015 AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series champion and a native of Rocklin, Calif. — has also been forced to forfeit any points fund money he would have earned for his performances this season and will be placed on probation through 2019 under a zero-tolerance policy for any similar detrimental actions.
Ballou posted a lengthy apology on Twitter Monday afternoon.
“I realize that what I said Saturday evening struck a nerve, however, that was not my intention whatsoever,” Ballou said. “I would never want to shed negative light on Eldora Speedway; we are all racing with sad hearts, as another legend in our sport (Greg Hodnett) passed away a few days prior (to the 4-Crown Nationals).
“Seeing the midget frame after the wreck was eye-opening. I just thought (that) if there were a little something to slow your momentum down before hitting the wall, it might have be avoided,” continued Ballou. “Never did I say the racing was bad – it was actually good and the Silver Crown race was the best I’d seen ever.
“Eldora Speedway has spent countless dollars making improvements to the facility and safety, and we (drivers and teams) truly appreciate that. I am sincerely sorry for my message and the way it was taken. I love this sport and give my everything to help keep it thriving to what it is today. I just want it to continue to grow and for it to be as safe as possible.”
The USAC National Sprint Car Series season continues Sept. 27-29 with an Indiana tripleheader at Kokomo Speedway, Gas City I-69 Speedway and Lawrenceburg Speedway.