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Rusty Ballenger wins National Steel Head Championship slugfest at 411

By admin | October 23, 2011

By Richard Allen


The race billed as the National Steel Head Late Model Championship at the 411 Motor Speedway is quickly gaining the reputation as one of the area’s top yearly events and this year certainly did not disappoint the gathered masses at the Seymour, Tennessee track.

Both intense racing and controversy have come to be expected in this race that this year paid $2,411 to the winner of the 51 lap feature. The 5th annual of this event delivered both of those elements in a major way on Saturday night at the 3/8 mile clay oval.

In the end, hometown hero Rusty Ballenger emerged as the winner as he outlasted a full field of east Tennessee’s best local drivers in a race that seemed as much a survival of the fittest as a demonstration of speed.

The night’s first controversy occurred early in the going as it was discovered just after qualifying that track officials had taken issue with two of the top-4 fast timers. “The 16 car didn’t make weight and the 23 car had a right rear tire that was too soft,” said 411 race director Joe Byrd just after time trials had been completed.

The number 16 car was that of overall fast qualifier Brad Lowe who had just turned in a lap of 14.168 seconds. The number 23 in question was that of young Layne Clifton who had turned the 4th quick lap with a time of 14.357 seconds. Both times were disallowed. Clifton started the second heat race from the rear and moved up to a 3rd place finish in that prelim which allowed him to begin the feature from the 12th spot.

Lowe was not seen again for the rest of the night. According to his son’s Facebook page the car was found to be 40 pounds too light and was disqualified.

After Lowe’s dismissal, fast time honors went to Pierce McCarter who had timed in at 14.294 seconds on his second lap after having spun during his first effort.

Heat races were won by Scott Sexton, Chase King and Ballenger.

The start of the feature saw Brad Hall bolt to the lead from his inside front row starting spot and look as if he might dominate this race as he did the Fall Rumble event held on this track just recently. The driver of the number 47 car got out to what seemed to be a comfortable advantage as drivers such as Ballenger, McCarter, David Crabtree, Anthony White, Jason Cardwell, Ryan King and Jason Trammel staged a furious battle for the right to chase the leader.

At times, some of those battles got more than a little intense. At lap 19 the cars of Trammel and Cardwell seemingly got hooked together as they raced for 6th place and almost took each other out. On lap 29 the 2X car of Anthony White suffered significant damage after he hit the fourth turn wall while battling with Ballenger for 2nd.

However, just after the halfway point those combatants running behind the lead car began to close in on Hall even as they continued their fight. After a lap 31 caution for debris, the top-3 of Hall, Ballenger and Crabtree dogged each other in a tight battle with Ballenger looking underneath Hall on virtually each lap as Crabtree tested the high lane.

On lap 46 Ballenger’s determination would finally be rewarded as he got around Hall with a slide job move for the lead in turns 1 and 2. It was just after that when another of the night’s more controversial moments took place. As the cars raced off of turn four and down the front straightaway, Crabtree and Hall had contact that sent Hall spinning into turn one. When the field returned back around under caution Hall veered into Crabtree and sent his car grinding against the outside wall. Neither driver would finish the event.

After the lap 48 restart, Ballenger found himself having to hold off former Seymour High School classmate Ryan King. As the cars raced through turns 3 and 4 on the last lap King made a hard charging move to the outside then dove quickly back to the inside as the two raced to the checkered flag.

Ballenger won by a car length over King with Trammel in 3rd, Greg Huskey in 4th and Jason Manley 5th.

Trevor Sise won the Crate Late Model feature over Clyde Stanton, Jason Trammel and David Crabtree.

The topless modified feature went to Keith Gregory over Jerry Hux and Paul Johnson. Jason Sizemore capitalized on a last lap mechanical failure of Dale Watson’s car to win in the street stock class while Clyde Stanton took the truck feature over a hard charging Robert Martin.

Nick Perry beat out Lance Frost in the mod mini class while David Singleton won out in the mini stocks.

Topics: 411 Motor Speedway, ALL ARTICLES, Ballenger, Rusty, EAST TENNESSEE DRIVERS, EAST TENNESSEE TRACKS | No Comments »