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Ballew Out To Beat Busch

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, March 5 2010
Kyle Busch used to drive for Billy Ballew, right. This weekend, he will drive against him. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Kyle Busch used to drive for Billy Ballew, right. This weekend, he will drive against him. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Hampton, Ga. – Saturday’s E-Z-GO Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway will be a big test for both Kyle Busch and for his former truck team, Billy Ballew Motorsports.

Together they’ve won four of the past five truck races at Atlanta, Ballew’s home track. But now that Busch has formed his own team, they’ll be competing against each other for the first time on one of the best tracks for both of them.

“The big question is, ‘Can we run without Kyle like we did with him and run against him at the same time?’” Ballew said.

His hopeful answer is “Yes.”

“Kyle’s the business here,” Ballew said. “But we have the capability of sustaining the team’s winning record.”

Aric Almirola will drive the No. 51 vacated by Busch, while Nationwide Series regular Steven Wallace will race Ballew’s No. 15 Toyota. And Ballew said he’s stepped up his efforts in the shop over the winter, a move he believes will allow him to keep on winning.

Richie Wauters and Cowboy Starland are the crew chiefs, and veteran short track driver Bobby Gill is the new head wrench, or truck chief, on the No. 15.

While Ballew plans to run Almirola full time in the No. 51, the line-up for the No. 15 is still somewhat fluid. Ballew said he has 15 races set with Nate Monteith driving, and there’s an all-star line-up in the wings waiting for a sponsor to come along for the remaining races. Ballew said he’s talked to several drivers including Johnny Benson, Ted Musgrave and Reed Sorenson.

“We’ve got a lot of irons in the fire,” he said. “I just hope some of them work out.”

For Ballew, securing adequate funding for his teams is proving a much harder task than landing quality drivers, and Busch is experiencing the same thing with his fledgling outfit.

“It’s been a struggle just trying to find the sponsorship dollars that you need to run the team,” Busch said. “We’re going to run the year regardless but it would certainly make it nice to pay off all the notes I got outstanding on buying everything.

“It’s going to be maybe a tough challenge for this year, but hopefully down the road it will pay off and two, three, four years down the road we’ll be stronger than ever.”

After last year, Busch took the Miccosukee Indian sponsorship from Ballew’s team to his own outfit, but the tribe elected a new chief and backed out of racing just before the start of the season.

Still, Ballew said he even tried to help his former driver find some local dollars for the Atlanta weekend.

“I talked to Kyle, and I hope him the best,” Ballew said. “He’s figuring out it’s a little tougher on the sponsorship side than he thought. But he’s young, and he’s a smart guy and I wish him the best.

“I just hope we can race with him toe-to-toe.”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, March 5 2010
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