Chase Elliott got a good view of the back bumper of Buddy’s Home Furnishings Blizzard Series point leader Augie Grill’s racecar Friday night at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL.
When he saw the two-laps-to-go signal from the flagstand in the Rubber and Specialties 100 Friday, Elliott decided he had enough of the view. He didn’t want to stare at the back bumper of Grill’s car any more.
Elliott pounced to the inside of Grill on lap 98 and the two ran side-by-side for a full lap before Elliott nosed ahead of Grill at the white flag. Grill put up one last-ditch effort through the final turns and got to Elliott’s bumper, but the 15-year-old Dawsonville, Georgia native hung on for his third career Blizzard Series win and first of the 2011 season.
“We definitely could’ve been a little bit better and we haven’t been running real well here of late, but to finally come back here and get a win feels great,” said Elliott.
Grill set fast time in qualifying, but was forced to start eighth after a dice-roll invert that put Clay Alexander and David Rogers on the front row. Rogers led the opening circuits before giving up the lead to Elliott, who started fourth. Behind him, Grill was patiently picking up positions and got up to second on a lap-14 caution flag.
On the ensuing restart, Grill took the lead from Elliott on the high side. Grill’s Grand American Race Cars No. 112 machine checked out through the middle stages of the event, but late in the going, Grill got hung up while trying to work through lapped traffic. The slower pace for the leader because of the traffic allowed Elliott to reel Grill in down the stretch. Elliott got to Grill’s bumper before making the power move on the low side with just two laps to go.
“It’s fun racing with Chase, he always races me clean,” said Grill. “I just kind of got a little loose there at the end and lapped cars weren’t helping at all. I had to race them like heck just to get by them and they’d kind of move over for Chase. I don’t think his car was much better than ours, he just had a little bit more right-rear (tire) than we did at the end.”
“Those lapped cars worked out well for us,” said Elliott.
Grill’s last-lap effort came up just a bit short, but he still left Five Flags with a second-place run, a retention of the Blizzard Series point lead and some pride knowing that the top-three finishing cars in the Rubber and Specialties 100 were built in his shop.
Elliott’s win was the 11th straight Blizzard Series win for the Grand American Race Cars chassis, built in Alabama by Grill and his father Frankie. Elliott, Grill and third-place finishing Bubba Pollard are the three drivers that have swept those 11 straight wins.
Pollard, who is one of Grill’s chief contenders for the Blizzard Series title, admitted after the race that his strategy Friday night did not work the he intended.
“We had a good run and this is the best (competition) right here,” said Pollard. “We just saved and rode too much, banking on a caution at the end and didn’t get it. That’s just how the race played out. We came up a little bit short tonight.”
Orlando, Florida’s David Rogers hung on for fourth, while Fairhope, Alabama native and ARCA Racing Series standout Grant Enfinger rounded out the top-five.
The second-place finish for Grill extended his Blizzard Series point lead to 12 over Enfinger and 32 on Pollard going into the championship round of the five-race series on September 23rd.
The five Blizzard Series and five Miller Lite Series events at Mobile International Speedway will make up the Sunoco Gulf Coast Championship series, where drivers competing at both tracks are eligible for overall championship. Bubba Pollard won Saturday night’s Miller Lite Series event at Mobile, giving him the overall two-track championship lead into the final Gulf Coast weekend next month.
The Blizzard finale will set the stage for the 44th Annual Snowball Derby weekend, November 30th through December 4th. Reserved tickets for the Snowball Derby will go on sale on Wednesday, August 17th at 9am CT. For tickets, call the Five Flags Speedway box office at (850) 944-8400.
For more information about Five Flags Speedway, the Rubber & Specialties Inc.100 or the 44th Annual Snowball Derby, please visit www.5flagsspeedway.com or contact the track by calling (850) 944-8400.