California’s Robert Ballou, coming off an exceptional 2015 racing season, is set to defend his title in the No Way Out 40: A Tribute to Jesse Hockett on March 26 at Brownstown Speedway.

The event is one of the richest first-place prizes in 410 non-wing sprint-car racing this year, offering $7,500 to win.

Ballou started his racing career in 1994 at the age of 5. He started on the West Coast racing quarter midgets before graduating to outlaw karts. His early career was guided by his father John and his grandfather, Robert Bennett.

Robert Ballou then advanced to the powerful 410 sprint cars, where he has become a very successful racer doing it mostly on his own. Ballou is one of the few national drivers who drives his own car, is his own crew chief and is the truck and trailer driver, as well. He also performs all the maintenance on his car as well as self-funding 90 percent of the expenses just to get to the track each week.

That work has paid off. Not only did he capture the No Way Out 40 in 2015, but Ballou also was the AMSOIL National Sprint Car Indiana Sprint Week Champion and was crowned the National Sprint Car Champion for the first time in his career.

Last year, Ballou won 13 USAC National Sprint Car events in all, equaling the all-time record set in 2003 by J.J. Yeley. He also set an all-time USAC National Sprint Car record last year, winning feature events in nine different states.

In last year’s No Way Out 40 at Brownstown, Ballou got the win over Kevin Thomas Jr., Jeff Bland Jr., Brady Short and Jon Stanbrough.

Local driver plays waiting game

Devin Gilpin of Columbus had hoped to get his 2016 racing season underway last month with a trip to Florida. But unfortunately, he never made it to the Sunshine State to race as the truck hauling his racecar broke down in Tennessee. Gilpin and his grandfather, car owner Don Fleetwood, had to wait two days to repair damaged brake lines. The two decided to head back to Indiana, forgoing the race trip.Gilpin was in attendance for the Brownstown Speedway practice session Wednesday. He planned on racing his modified Friday night at Atomic Speedway in Ohio, and he is expected to drive his dirt late model and modified in tonight’s Indiana Icebreaker at Brownstown.Last year, Gilpin finished second in the UMP National Modified Championship points standings after winning it three years in a row. Overall, Gilpin won 44 feature events in 2015, the second most in dirt track racing behind Arizona modified racer Ricky Thornton Jr., who claimed 47 feature victories.

Gilpin’s MasterSbilt Late Model is powered by a Jay Dickens Racing engine and is sponsored by Jim Beeman Lumber, Vallery Chevrolet, Dasco Race Supply and Hoosier Tires.

Veteran racer switches to modifieds

Jerry Adams of Elizabethtown, a long-time veteran in Bomber and Super Stock racing, will make his debut in an open-wheel modified for the season opener tonight at Brownstown.Adams, a two-time Twin Cities Raceway Park track champion and Mark Clark Memorial winner, started his racing career in 1990. He finished third in last year’s Super Stock points standings at Twin Cities.His Black Widow Chassis modified is sponsored by Mike Burton Racing, Black Widow Fabrication, Paul’s Columbus Auto Salvage, Victory Circles, Wedan Street and Performance and P3 Graphix.

Earlier start times for Icebreaker

Officials of the Brownstown Speedway and Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series have announced earlier starting times than normal for tonight’s Indiana Icebreaker. Grandstand and pit gates will open at noon today, with hot laps beginning at 4:45 p.m.Racing resultsFlorence SpeedwayMarch 12

Late Model feature: 1. Cody Mahoney; 2. Jason Jameson; 3. Eddie Carrier Jr.; 4. Steve Casebolt; 5. Eric Wells.

Crate Late Model feature: 1. John Gill; 2. Grant Garrison; 3. Shawn Snelling; 4. Carl Cruse; 5. Jim Couch.

Modified feature: 1. Joey Kramer; 2. Adam Stricker; 3. Pete Holt; 4. Trent Green; 5. Ryan Morton.

Upcoming races

Brownstown Speedway


Indiana Icebreaker Lucas Oil Late Models ($12,000 to win), Indiana Pro Late Models and UMP Modifieds

March 26

Non-wing Sprints ($7,500 to win), UMP Modifieds and UMRA King of the TQs

Lawrenceburg Speedway

April 2

USAC National Sprint Car Series, UMP Modifieds and Hornets

James Essex is the motorsports columnist for The Republic, a sister paper of The Tribune. Send comments to