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SNOWMOBILES TO SPRINT CARS
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5/31/2024

5/31/2024

Postman 68


SNOWMOBILES TO SPRINT CARS

Exploring Bill Balog’s Earliest Racing Experiences

The North Pole Nightmare took a unique path to the top level of Sprint Car Racing

BEAVER DAM, WI - Alaska isn’t exactly a Sprint Car Racing hotbed. However, the state’s snowy terrain is exactly what set Bill Balog on a path to the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars.

Long before Balog lived in Wisconsin and had Sprint Car racing on his radar, a passion for a different type of racing bloomed – snowmobiles. A native of North Pole, AK, snowmobile racing grabbed his interest early on.

“Once I got old enough to realize what the snowmobiles are all about, I got super into it and so did my family,” Balog recalled. “So, they had gotten some older 70’s snowmobiles, and we rode those around. And then we got some newer ones and started racing them. I actually started drag racing them. My dad built a drag sled, and that was really fun. But I was too young to compete at some of the bigger races. We really didn’t get to race it too much, but it was fun tuning on it and learning how all that stuff worked.”

Balog stuck with snowmobiles as he grew up. Then, doors began to open for him to compete in various types of snowmobile races.

“We got into more of the cross-country, long-distance races, that are timed, and they paid really good,” Balog said. “It was really fun races. You could practice those courses throughout the week. There are some really unique races.

“There’s the Arctic Man. That’s up there probably 150 miles from my parents’ house, and it’s a skiing/snowmobile event where you have a partner where he does part of the event on the skis. And then you pick him up, sort of, and tow him for a while at like 100 miles per hour. It’s really crazy. And then you release the skier, and he goes to the finish line. It’s all timed as well. I also got into ice racing. Ice oval racing, that was probably my favorite.”

Balog’s interest in Sprint Cars grew during his time in Alaska. He was around them occasionally because of his dad. And watching 410 Sprint Cars for the first time at Fairbanks, AK’s Mitchell Raceway inspired him to pursue Sprint Car Racing. Snowmobiles and Sprint Cars are vastly different racing machines, but some similarities Balog found when transitioning was the power to weight ratio and physical demands to drive each.

The biggest thing he took with him from the snowmobile days is a mechanical inclination. He didn’t just drive them. He worked on them. He learned how they operated, what makes them tick. That ability has been vital as he operates as the driver and crew chief of his No. 17B Sprint Car.

“I just really lived and breathed snowmobiles,” Balog said. “That’s where I kind of learned a lot of mechanics. I was a mechanic at an Arctic Cat dealership. That’s where I learned a lot of stuff. That kind of helped me when I got into the Sprint Cars.”

With a long and successful Sprint Car career now, those snowmobile days feel long gone. But he carries them with him. Every time he makes a call on his Sprint Car. Every time he turns a wrench. Those early experiences continue to play a vital role in his current racing. It was an unusual path, but it helped equip him with the skillset he’d need to eventually join The Greatest Show on Dirt.

“I wouldn’t be racing if I didn’t know how to work on them,” Balog said. “I was hired those first couple years to run that 360 in Fairbanks, but after that when I moved away and started racing, I had some rides here and there, but for the most part I had to have my own stuff, too, just to make sure I could race. I definitely wouldn’t be racing if I didn’t know how to work on them because it took me a long time to figure out how to drive one properly.”

After 10 Interstate Racing Association (IRA) titles and two full-time tours with the All-Star Circuit of Champions, Balog made the move to the World of Outlaws in 2024. The 44-year-old has currently collected 13 top 10s in 24 races this year, including a pair of podiums.

This weekend’s Jim “JB” Boyd Memorial (May 31-June 1) at Wisconsin’s Beaver Dam Raceway is circled on his calendar as Balog now calls Hartland, WI home. Back in 2016 Balog scored an upset win over the World of Outlaws at Beaver Dam, and he owns 19 IRA victories at the 1/3 mile.

Now, he’s among the roster of the best and ready to make the “Badger State” fans proud once again.

Photo: SprintCarNews.com


Submitted By: Steve Post

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