Baklum’s winning streak prompts a bounty.

Baklum’s winning streak prompts a bounty.

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Balkum Hopes Blistering Start Continues All Season, Leads to Elusive Pure Stocks Track Championship

 

By Chuck Corder

For nearly a decade now, Robert Balkum has been one of the top drivers in the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks division at Five Flags Speedway.

He has experienced the highest of highs with multiple trips to Victory Lane after feature wins. But Balkum has also swallowed bitter pills of losing out on track championships by the smallest of margins.

The Pensacola driver has made it his mission, in 2018, to erase those painful past nightmares. Through the first month of the season, he is already well on his way to attaining that elusive track title that means so much not only to Balkum, but his father Rickie Balkum.

Robert Balkum has yet to lose, boasting three 20-lap feature wins, as well as a heat race victory. He has also flirted with breaking his own track record several times in qualifying runs.

“I don’t know what to say about this year,” the 40-year-old Pensacola native said. “After being runner-up so many times, I’m determined to finally get that championship this season.”

In his 12th year of racing, Balkum looks to continue his hot start Friday night at Five Flags when the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks return to the famed half-mile asphalt oval along with the WCI.com Pro Trucks. The Super Late Models of the Deep South Cranes Blizzard Series open their year as the Southern Super Series makes its first stop of the year at Pensacola’s high banks.

The gates open at 5 p.m. Friday on Military Appreciation Night with a special $5 admission price for all active duty military members. Admission for non-military is as follows: $15 for adults; $12 for seniors and students; $5 for children ages 6 to 11; and free for kids 5 and under.

Balkum anticipates facing his biggest test of the season on Friday as Five Flags General Manager Tim Bryant put a bounty on him after the unblemished start to the season. Any driver that tops Balkum for the checkered flag collects a $200 sum.

“I’m hoping (the bounty) brings the Mobile cars back over, and, hopefully, I can prove I’m just as fast,” Balkum said. “I was having fun these last races, but I didn’t feel like I had to press, much. You always hope to have guys like Tommie Blocker, Robert Loper or somebody like that racing with you.”

Loper, the defending Pure Stocks Snowball Derby champion, let Balkum know a few races ago that if Balkum had a bounty put on him, Loper would return to Pensacola to take his shot at collecting.

“If (Loper or another driver) does collect on me, it’s all good. I’ll just go to their town and collect on them,” Balkum said. “The bounty isn’t gonna change how I drive. I just wish it was on somebody else, so I could collect it.”

Even if things don’t go Balkum’s way come Friday night, that won’t discourage him from his ultimate goal of hoisting a track championship at season’s end.

“It’d mean a pretty good bit,” Balkum said, understating the importance. “More and more, it’s just me and my dad working on the car, so I know it’s something he’d treasure, too.”

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