|09/27/23||In the Pits with Makenna and Gracie Crocker|
|09/19/23||In the Pits with Lane Christensen|
|09/12/23||In the Pits with Gavon Veach|
|09/06/23||In the Pits with Kaeden Ballos|
|08/29/23||In the Pits with Nathan Lyons|
|08/22/23||In the Pits with Joel and Jack Smith|
In the Pits with Kaeden Ballos
Kaeden Ballos is fresh off his first two victories of 2023, capturing his first right after the conclusion of the 2023 Cook Out Summer Shootout. Ballos won the 2022 Cook Out Summer Shootout Outlaws Championship, and ascended to the Legend Car in 2023. He received a great piece of racing advice from USLCI alum Joey Logano and his ultimate racing dream answer is not what you’d expect.
Hometown: Concord, North Carolina
Car number: 19
Team: AK Performance
Favorite Ice Cream: French Vanilla
1. How old were you when you first started racing?
When I first started racing I was seven. I am a fourth-generation racer.
2. What sparked your interest in racing?
When we lived in Virginia there was a local track running fly karts, like champ karts on dirt and stuff. My dad one day asked me, “Hey buddy do you want to go out there and watch some races,” and I thought why not. I was probably six or seven at the time. We went out there and I fell in love right then and there. I guess it might just be because my dad raced, his dad raced, and his dad raced, and I like going fast so that's what sparked it.
3. What is your favorite racing memory?
My favorite racing memory has to be winning the 2022 Summer Shootout in the Outlaw Division. Being on the stage after winning is just an unreal feeling.
4. Who is your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration has to be my grandfather. He raced in the Goody's Dash Series in NASCAR in the 70s and 80s. I chose my car number after his. He passed recently about a year and a half to two years ago, so unfortunately, he didn’t get to see me win the Outlaw Championship [at Summer Shootout]. It was my goal to show him I was good at something, but I know he is proud of me.
5. If you pulled into Victory Lane right now, who would you thank?
I would thank everybody at the shop and AK Performance. I would have to thank my mom, my dad, and my grandparents. I would also thank Ryan for great coaching and driver development at AK Performance.
6. Outside of racing do you have any interest or hobbies?
I like going to the gym a lot and I also like being outside wherever that may be. I ride my bike everywhere, I ride my bike home sometimes. I live about a mile from the gym and it’s so fun to go before the sun sets and then I get to run home while the sun is setting, I just really like being at peace.
7. Is there a certain place you feel the most at peace?
Honestly the race track, but more specifically Summer Shootout I feel the most at peace.
8. Do you have any pre-race rituals or things you must do before you get into your car?
So, funny story, last year before I won the championship I would drink a peach flavored Monster Energy drink every time before I went out for the race. I don’t know if it helped or if it hurt, but I won after drinking it one time and just kept doing it and eventually won the shootout.
9. What track would you like to race at one day?
I’m sure this is a very common answer but Daytona. I would really like to race at Daytona or Talladega.
10. If you were to give the younger drivers a piece of advice what would it be?
Don’t lose confidence. Everything at this age is just a learning experience, you just have to try to keep improving every time you are out on the track. Try to correct your mistakes while you are out there, don’t wait for somebody to tell you what you did wrong. Become aware of your surroundings, and become dedicated and build a passion for it and you'll go far.
11. Are there any interesting facts about you that people wouldn’t know from just looking at you?
I am actually attending a school called Rowan-Cabarrus Early College of Technology. I am technically a Junior right now but I’ve already finished my high school curriculum. I’ll be getting my associates degree in applied science dedicated to motorsports at the school. I’ll be getting my associates degree right out of high school, and I’ll be saving two years of college.
12. What is your ultimate racing dream?
I want to be known for putting up a good fight, as a person who ran upfront and put hard work in. I don’t want to ever be known as the bad guy, or the guy who wrecked people, but instead as someone who raced clean and was a good driver. That’s how I want my name to be remembered.
13. If not at the track where would you want to be?
I honestly really enjoy my runs home after the gym when the sun is setting. There is a soccer field behind the gym, and sometimes I will go sit back there and watch the sunset and have some time to myself.
14. What goes through your head while driving?
I am looking for every possible mistake that they are making, and I am making sure that I don’t make those mistakes. I am pacing their car, and trying to get inches off of their car. When I am behind somebody I always find that I drive the best because I can outpace what they’re doing, because I can see behind them. If somebody were to go in the corner and they break a little too early, I can see them break early so I will just set them off. I am always looking and trying to think around things.
15. What is your dream street car?
I would have to say a BMW M4 Comp. I’d get a really simple spoiler but a nice spoiler. I’d lower it, and I'd put a lip on it. You couldn’t tell me that it wouldn't look sick.
16. How do you manage school, racing, and your social life?
My school seems to understand a little more just because they are involved in motorsports. It’s very hard to keep up with all the school work while racing, like going to Florida for a week, your mind is not on school work, and like most of the people I race with, we don't do our work until the last minute. We are really focused on racing and I’m sure anyone you ask would probably tell you the same thing. It's definitely a struggle, but at the end of the day it's gotta get done and it always does.
17. What's the best piece of advice somebody has ever given you?
The best piece of advice I've been given was actually at Charlotte Motor Speedway and it was from Joey Logano. I was in the media room for one of the Speedway Children’s Charities events and he told me “act like an egg is under your gas pedal, and like there's a glass of water on top of your steering wheel”, and he actually showed us with a water can what would happen if we jerked our wheel too fast, and how the egg would crack if you hit the gas too hard. Putting that together really helps in a Legend car, especially at Charlotte where you have to focus on throttle management and being smooth on the wheel.