Shortly before 11 p.m. last Friday at Elegant Builders Raceway Park, drag racers Bill Balser Jr., and Rich Yacos were preparing to get into the staging lanes to race in their respective class finals. Unfortunately, rain denied both their shot at victory.
Both took it all in stride, seeing it as just part of the drag racing game. For Balser Jr., he was hoping to successfully salvage a good result Friday from what had started out as a disappointing night. He was set to face a strong running Mark Menicanin in the Mod ET final.
Yacos was hoping to secure his first Quick 16 class win since returning to the sport a year ago following a long layoff by besting Steve Ferstl. Rain ultimately won.
The Balser family of Cheektowaga is deeply involved in area drag racing normally sporting five cars each race night in the Mod ET class at the Lancaster track. Balser Jr., competes along with his father Bill Balser Sr. his brother, Mike, and sister, Brittany Balser, along with their uncle Dave Balser. Dave is the brother of Bill Sr.
“Yeah, I’m disappointed that we did not get to run the final and go for the win because of the rain but at least I made it all the way to the final round so that was pretty good,” said Balser Jr.. “Especially since the night began for me with a red light loss.”
Going into Friday’s eliminations, Balser Sr., was leading the Mod ET point standings by 10 markers over Balser Jr. and Ryan and Reid Ricketson (160-150).
Balser Sr., was victorious in his first race to earn another 10 points. Balser Jr., lost his first race when he left the starting line too early gaining a red light disqualification.
At the raceway, in some classes, any driver who suffers a first-round loss can pay a second entry fee to get back into eliminations. This is referred to as a “buy back.” Once they re-enter eliminations, they may be able to parlay that into winning some additional rounds perhaps even the finals. These drivers however due to their “buy back” status no longer are eligible for elimination win points for the remainder of that event.
Balser Jr., he did buy back in and won his second round race. Without the ability to accumulate any more points his objective was to play a version of drag racing defense by beating other drivers who were still eligible to gain points on this night.
In the third round, for the first time this season, Balser Jr., had a chance to deny his father points toward the championship and he did just that, besting his father in the run.
“When we realized we were racing each other it was definitely intense,” said Balser Jr., who drives a 1972 Dodge Duster. “I knew if I could beat my dad and also keep winning all the way for the rest of the night that was my chance to at least try to stop those close to me in the points from getting any more points.”
Balser Jr., then advanced through another couple rounds to make the final.
“My dad always raced when I was growing up and I’m just following in his footsteps,” said Balser Jr. “Now I’m trying to beat him for a title along with a few other guys.”
“It’s beautiful having my family here each week. … The only one in the family who does not race is my wife Michel.
In Quick 16, Yacos was set to take on Ferstl but a cancellation of the class final is something he’s faced before.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten to a final in my career and it got cancelled,” said Yacos. “Tonight it was due to rain. Years ago we had a curfew here and it got cancelled by the curfew several times so I’m sort of used to it. It used to happen when I was running for points and made finals. No big deal.”
It was his love of drag racing that saw Yacos climb back behind the wheel last year after his extended layoff.
“I took some time off to build a home in Cambria,” said Yacos. “I found myself working on tractors more then I ever found myself working on my dragsters so I came back recently to do what I find is fun.
“Before I came back driving in 2012, the last year I raced was 1999,” “I came back in a Super Rod car last year and I was semi-successful with that traveling around. This year I got right back to the dragsters because they’re a little easier to work on.”
Yacos owns a Mike Boss-constructed dragster built in Tennessee. Yacos does all his own suspension and rear end work. The dragster is a four-link configuration. Friday was just the second time that Yacos had the new dragster in competition.
Last Friday, a field of 18 cars tried to make the Quick 16 field at the Lancaster facility. Surprisingly, one of the two drivers who did not make the elimination field was 2012 co-champion Mark Talmadge.
The weekly IHRA Junior Dragster competition at the strip begins Tuesday. Young racers will be competing for extra prize money courtesy of Top Sportsman drag racer Bob Bauer and his sponsor K100 Fuel Treatments. At each Junior Dragster meet, the driver with the best reaction time to the green light will earn the Top Qualifier bonus. A plaque and a cash bonus of $75 will be awarded to that driver.