After picking up his first career Queenston Chevrolet Buick GMC OSCAAR Modified feature victory in the season finale at Peterborough Speedway’s Autumn Colours Classic, Kelly Balson will once again return to the series in 2019.
Balson recently revealed that he will be running eight of the events, with eyes on running a full-time slate in 2020 with his wife Amanda Balson as the primary driver.
Right from the beginning, Balson has shown speed behind the wheel of the No. 10 Cochrane Automotive, London Recreational Racing, Brighton Speedway, Karbelt Oshawa, Castrol, Bennett Chevrolet, GTA Racing Design, Hampton General Store and GreenSteelRoof.caModified.
“Everywhere else we went, in practice and then heat races, almost right from the get go, the car showed a lot of speed,” Balson said. “Because to be honest, I thought we should’ve won the first race at Kawartha. We were getting around 79 of (John) Harper for the lead, and we got tangled up and ended up getting in a wreck and taking us out – but truth of the matter is, we should’ve won that first night out in it. Then it was pretty quick everywhere we went, especially the end of the year.”
Balson was quick to cite the speed shown at Sunset Speedway, as he was able to drive his way through the field to the top-three before an incident with three laps to go. The speed carried over to Flamboro Speedway, though once again Balson saw his chances of winning end up short due to bad luck.
Everything came together at the season finale in the Autumn Colours Classic, as Balson took the lead on the Lap 4 restart, holding off the likes of John Harper, John Baker Jr., and Cory Horner through the 50-lap feature en route to the victory.
“If someone had of said you could only win one race this year, I would obviously say the Classic; I want to win the Classic,” he said. “The way it worked out, maybe it was just a build up to winning a big race that meant a lot to us so I’m glad that the first win happened at Peterborough in the classic. A lot of times I’ll downplay stuff like that, but I’m not going to lie to you – that was big. That was big for us. That was a big win.
“I thought that the Modifieds were at the classic, the best class as in car count and quality of cars. The super stocks and minis were good, but we had a lot of quality mods and to win at our home track and to win the classic, that was big. So while we had the bad luck through the year, winning at Peterborough made the year and made all of disappointments pay off. We won the Classic once before – 20 years ago, like in a limited late model. Then to win it 20 years later in the Modified, it was a big deal.”
Their speed, and success is credited to the hard work by both Graham Annis and Graham Flett, which both will continue to work with Balson in 2019 and beyond. The confidence amongst the three certainly has Balson looking forward to the season, beginning with the season opener at Sunset Speedway on May 19.
However, while the confidence is there, it’s easy to see that it won’t be easy for Balson to score his second career victory due to the level of competition right now within the division.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong in acknowledging the fact that the APC Series is a very strong competitive series,” Balson commented. “But, I would say aside from the APC Series and I’m really only talking last year, I think the OSCAAR Modifieds are really the best series in Canada and right there with the APC Series – except it’s a little more affordable.
“Last year, I thought the competition was – I remember being at Peterborough and looking around and seeing 10 to 12 cars that could win this race. Obviously, you’re talking Cory, Harper, Baker, and I didn’t even say (Gary) McLean yet whose been the most dominant guy in a modified since the dawn of time. But there’s also A.J. Emms, (Dale) Reinhart, and given the right circumstances Gary (Elliott) could pull one off. I remember thinking there’s 10-12 cars that could get this done.
“Now this year, it builds even more. (Shawn) Chenoweth was at the classic and he was quick, and I know he has a new car; I know he’s not running full-time, but when he does show up, it’s going to be quick. Of course, Gary is going to be quick and now (Ian) Bourque is going to do some limited stuff and he’s going to be quick. Jim Bowman is coming, and he’s not going to be slow.”
Balson attributes the success of the modifieds to the affordability for the speeds they are capable of, along with the rules continuing to stay inline.
“Cars are getting older, but they’re not getting older and uncompetitive,” he continued. “None of the cars that are upfront are brand new cars. If the rules stay the same, the cars are not getting obsolete so I know that’s a real attraction for people. While last year was – let’s be honest, we had somewhere between mid 20s to high 20s everywhere we went and that doesn’t happen in a lot of series, and it’s even going to be better this year with more cars and competition. I don’t know how the series could be in any better shape. If someone said what would you change, I would change nothing.
“The series is working – with more cars and more really good drivers coming, so why would you mess with that? Again, that’s taking nothing away from APC and the talent level and great level there. But for what this is, I don’t see how the modified could be any better.”
For Balson, his interest in motorsports came at a young age as his father has always been around motorsports, whether it was drag racing or truck pulling. Despite playing hockey through his youth and adulthood, he was quick to note that they never missed a summer at the track. Ultimately, that time spent would lead to Balson and his dad building a car in 1992, with him racing ever since.
Through the years, he has won multiple features and championships, but was quick to reflect back to the first title at Peterborough Speedway being the most memorable.
“I remember that night like it was yesterday,” he recalled. “We won a Pro Late Model Championship at Mosport and that was pretty cool, and we won six at Peterborough which is all good. But the first one – it was a challenger, but we had a lot of cars and a lot of really good teams, and we won the championship that year. That was a big, big deal.
“But as far as single races go, we won the Classic in ’98, which was a big deal. But honestly, the biggest race I’ve won was the last Classic. It’s the one that meant the most to me. But after that, the biggest race that satisfied me the most was Amanda winning the Tire Craft 100 at Delaware in the OSS Series, and that was a big deal with Steve Robblee in that race. He had won like 12 championships at Delaware or something, and won the Great Canadian 300 four times. There was a bunch of people saying that he would lap the field, and Amanda won that race passing him to do it. That was a big deal. I was wrenching on the car and spotting for Amanda that day, and that was a big deal for me.
“Just a guess – I don’t even know actually, but around 50 features, maybe more as I’ve never counted them, but those two features were a big deal. We won some features in the Super Late, we’ve won at Peterborough and they were big, and we won some features at all the tracks, but this last one – I may have some recent bias if you know what I mean, but I remember thinking it may be the biggest win of my career and the most satisfying.”
By: Ashley McCubbin