California native Robert Ballou had everything going his way as he romped to a convincing win in the annual running of the Darland Memorial on Sunday night at the Kokomo Speedway.
That is until coming to the checkered flag. The slowing car of Kody Barksdale was directly in his path exiting turn four and Ballou had nowhere to go and flipped past the checkered flag and the start-finish line. After several minutes of being attended to by paramedics, Ballou was extracted from his family-owned No. 12B and transported to the hospital.
It was learned per his Facebook page on Monday afternoon that Ballou suffered two fractures in his right arm that required surgery late Sunday night. His status for the remainder of the season is uncertain as of now.
Ballou’s performance was so dominant that he had lapped all the way through the field into the top 10 when the checkered flag fell on the 30-lap event. Justin Grant was a distant second while Chris Windom took third. Scotty Weir and Kevin Thomas Jr. completed the top five. Lincoln’s Dave Darland was sixth, Kokomo’s Corey Smith 11th and Tipton’s Brayden Clark 15th in the race that ran green to checkered prior to Ballou’s crash following the checkered flag.
“I hate it for Robert,” said Darland while presenting Ballou’s crew chief with the Darland Memorial trophy. “As a lot of people know Robert and I have had our share of run-ins and exchanged words over the years, but late last year he asked me to drive his car for him and we ran well together. We’ve become friendly in the last couple of years and it’s a tough break to see him hurt after such a good race.”
Darland went on to thank the O’Connor family and Dwight Cheney for their help in making the Darland race happen with threatening weather all around the area.
“Thanks so much to the O’Connor’s for not giving up on this race [Sunday],” he said. “It’s been such a tough year with rain it would have been easy for them to cancel [Sunday]. Also thanks to [car owner] Dwight Cheney for giving me an opportunity to race his car.
"We kind of missed it for the feature on setup and this is my first time in the car. We’ll be in it a few more races and I feel like we can be competitive with this race car. [Sunday] the track threw us a curve and wasn’t what we were anticipating for the feature.”
Josh Gamblin continued to use the track as his Sunday night personal ATM with yet another feature win in the Hornet Division.
After getting around Ryan Piker on the first lap the multiple-time track champion was never threatened the remainder of the 15-lap event to win going away as rain made driving conditions sketchy at best. Piker finished second and Logan Easterday took third. Josh Lank was fourth.
When the 600-winged Mini Sprints rolled onto the track for their 15-lap feature a steady rain began to fall which could well have changed the handling on the cars as the track was more loose than earlier in the night.
As it was, Kole Kirkman jumped to the early lead before slipping back into the clutches of Darin Naida, whose father Dain was a regular aboard a 360 winged sprint in years past. On the fourth lap Naida took a lead he wouldn’t relinquish in posting his first win at the track.
Corbin Gurley, won of long-time sprint car driver Chris, also got around Kirkman to finish second while Todd Kirkman finished third after having a steering problem earlier in the night. Nathan Franklin was fourth and Jessee Holt fifth. Kokomo drivers Brandon Rose and Kaden Blount were sixth and seventh while Kole Kirkman finished 11th.
Jesse Simmons parlayed his outside front row starting slot into a win as he held off the repeated charges of Austin Habbard to snare the win in the Thunder Car feature event. Preston Oberle was third and Kory Glassburn fourth.
The track will get back into action July 3 for the annual Fireworks Extravaganza.