Ballou P2 after leading early, Thomas Jr. runs third in cap to debut weekend
LEWISTOWN, IL – Sept. 10, 2022 – Two wins in two days; three in the last three races. Jake Swanson and Team AZ Racing are firing on all cylinders.
With another victory with the Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Car Series pres. by Low-E Insulation Saturday night at Spoon River Speedway, Swanson – the 29-year-old wheelman from Anaheim, CA – completed a sweep of the Series’ Illinois weekend and made up a big chunk of ground in the chase for the inaugural season points championship.
“Two races in a row – I don’t think I’ve ever swept a weekend in my life,” Swanson said. “I’m pumped about that, but three Xtreme Series races in-a-row is massive. I’m blown away.”
Coming into the weekend, Swanson sat fifth in the standings, 116 points out of first place. After the win at Jacksonville Speedway Friday night and again at Spoon River on Saturday, he now rides third, 53 behind leader Shane Cockrum. Add-in his victory at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in June, and that makes three wins for him in the last three Series races.
“If we had a good weekend, we were gonna be like, ‘Alright, let’s focus on a championship,’” Swanson said. “Really, the $20,000 [points championship check] is what we’re after. Obviously, [the weekend] couldn’t have played out any better.”
Taking the green from inside Row 2, it didn’t take long before Swanson had the lead. Polesitter Robert Ballou led the first three trips around the 3/8-mile oval before Swanson made the move to his inside coming out of Turn 2 and sealed the pass as they raced into Turn 3.
It was a maneuver Swanson said he’d struggled to get right in the past, but worked it to perfection Saturday night.
“Lately, we’ve been really good squaring-off [the corner]; the thing leaves from center-off so much better,” Swanson said. “I felt like that was our biggest issue last year, and sometimes at the beginning of this year. We fixed some stuff and really got that dialed in.”
Now with the lead in-hand, it became Swanson’s race to lose. After a quick caution and red-flag combo shy of the halfway point, he checked out, building up a near three-second lead on Ballou as they entered the home stretch.
Once Swanson hit lapped traffic, Ballou was able to close-in on him slightly, but never close enough to make a move.
“When there was that caution with about 10 laps to go, it felt it took like 10 laps for my racecar to get going,” Ballou said. “I could catch [Swanson] after about four or five laps, but I was overdriving the car, and you make mistakes when you do that.”
Just when all hope seemed to evaporate, the yellow flag was displayed. Wesley Smith looped around in Turn 2, erasing Swanson’s lead and giving Ballou and a hungry Kevin Thomas Jr. one final chance.
In the end, Swanson kept the field at bay and drove across the stripe to collect his second $5,000 check in two days.
“Really cool racetrack to be able to run two lines like that and finesse the bottom and rip the top,” Swanson said. “One of the most fun places I’ve been to the last two weekends. These were really great racetracks, and I hope we can come back more.”
Though Ballou was able to hang on for a strong runner-up finish, he said was dissatisfied with his car’s handling throughout the 30-lap event.
“From Lap 1, I knew I was in trouble, and I was just kinda hanging on,” Ballou said. “I finally figured I could overdrive the car and get it to be decent, but you can’t win races overdriving your racecar.”
Rounding out the podium, Kevin Thomas Jr. bagged a third-place finish to cap-off his debut weekend with the Xtreme Outlaw Sprints. Coming from fourth on the starting grid, he made the move for third on Anton Hernandez on Lap 11 and chased Ballou for the rest of the way. He tried several times to make a move to his inside but was unable to muster the speed to execute a pass.
“I tried to slide him once, and didn’t feel like I got a good enough run,” Thomas said. “I didn’t want to crash both of us, so I left a little bit of room.”
Like Swanson, Thomas enjoyed both tracks on the Illinois swing and the new challenges they brought along.
“It was fun to get to Jacksonville and here to Spoon River to kind of do something different,” Thomas said. “That was a lot of fun.”
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature (30 Laps): 1. 21AZ-Jake Swanson; 2. 12-Robert Ballou; 3. 15K-Kevin Thomas Jr; 4. 2B-Anton Hernandez; 5. 66-Shane Cockrum; 6. 6-Mario Clouser; 7. 17GP-Max Adams; 8. 20-Alex Bright; 9. 52-Isaac Chapple; 10. 77M-CJ Leary; 11. 28-Kory Schudy; 12. 33M-Matt Westfall; 13. 44-Wesley Smith; 14. N2-Nic Harris; 15. 28M-Brandon Mattox; 16. 11-Colton Fisher; 17. 1JR-Steven Russell; 18. 8-Tyler Roth; 19. 8D-Will Armitage; 20. 24-Landon Simon; 21. 56-Mitchell Davis; 22. 29-Mitch Wissmiller
Photo credit – Jacy Norgaard
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