Steve Ball

Steve Ball, Indianapolis 500 1981. Copyright Steve Ball, 2020. Used with Permission.

Steve Ball, Indianapolis 500 1981. Copyright Steve Ball, 2020. Used with Permission.

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20 Jun 1950
Fort Wayne, Indiana


United States

Indy 500s:

0 (1981)

Now lives in Huntington, Indiana. Ball starting racing midgets at the age of 21 in 1971 and enjoyed some success in the discipline before moving to sprint cars in the mid-late 1970's. Ball's career took its first real major step forward in late 1978, when Steve and his sponsor bought a used sprint car from reigning USAC Champion Greg Leffler. The first race of the season at Eldora Speedway saw Steve impress mightily and was running second when the lead car hit his left front tyre, pitching Steve into a spectacular crash. Ball was left with some injuries which delayed his momentum but performed well. Ball is left in a little limbo after that as he had a new pavement sprint car but USAC had only one pavement race where the car could be run with the only opportunity at the time being the open competition super modified series with the big motors. He did very well at Toledo versus the likes of Rich Vogler to continue a generally upward trajectory. 1981 saw Steve come a close second to Bob Frey in the Copper Classic sprint car event but he then beat Frey to win the championship in a pavement sprint car series named the ICAR Sprint Car Series. The political games around the USAC series at that time, specifically USAC's attempt to push Indy cars toward stock block engines, allowed Steve his chance to appear in two USAC events in 1981; one at Pocono and the Indianapolis 500. Ball took part in the initial rookie orientation but then his sponsor was arrested on income tax violations. Although it is sometimes recorded that Ball's entry was rejected, he had a garage assigned to him and it was simply that there was no money after the sponsors accounts were frozen. However Ball's support to USAC was not forgotten and he was given a chance to race his Coyote at Pocono, even if it meant borrowing money against his house. Steve also prepared the car and bought all the pit equipment needed, effectively running his own team for the event. Ball did well, starting 19th out of 29 runners and finished 14th in a points scoring finish before the race was called off early due to rain. However Steve could have finished higher but had two lengthy pit stops for leaking valve cover gaskets. Howver 1982 saw the start of Steve's difficulties. A massive crash at the start of the Little 500 with a stuck throttle saw the car suffer a lot of damage and then a huge fire, wiping him out of most of the season. Then upon his return a crankshaft in the motor failed at Sandusky, Ohio, causing serious damage to the motor and coupled with his sponsor's financial and legal problems meant initially a lack of money to continue but then Ball was dragged into legal issues himself via his sponsor. A costly divorce settlement against Steve's wife who was having an affair meant Steve had to sell all the remaining sprint cars he had and with all the stresses and strains and lack of money, Ball called it a day. However Ball continues to keep links with the sport and around 2005 bought one of his old sprint cars back which he hopes to restore and maybe race one more time. His son, of the same name, is a racer in sprint and midget cars. Both father and son are partners in the sprint car and midget racing operation. Ball Senior is the owner and Ball Jr. the driver. Ball is now a retired manufacturing Engineer. The shop built a few years ago is their race car shop.

Biography last updated 22 Jan 2020