The last time Bubba Pollard laced up his driving shoes and put on his firesuit at Five Flags Speedway he almost won the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby. It would have been an extra special moment for the Senoia, Georgia driver, who had a special friend and a former competitor in his pits rooting him on. Pollard drove the #08 for the weekend in honor of his friend Beau Slocumb, another Late Model driver from Georgia, who has been sidelined as he battles for his life after being diagnosed with cancer.
Pollard didn't win on that December day at the Snowball Derby, but his return to the Pensacola, Florida track found him score the win in the Pepsi Max 100, after fans witnessed three cars swap the lead over the final eight laps in the season opener for the Buddy's Home Furnishing Super Late Model Series.
"This is for Beau," said Pollard. "This is what we came here for this weekend, to race for him. I’m going to continue to race for him all year."
It was an emotional win for Pollard, who visits victory lane often around the Southeast. More than 20 times he was taken the checkered flag in a Late Model, including a pair of Blizzard Series wins. Friday night's win was extra special because Pollard had spent time with Slocumb earlier in the week.
"We went and visited with him on Tuesday and we just talked," said Pollard. "It just brought back memories of racing and having fun and just talking. . I told him to listen before the race. We actually spoke after the race; I called him. He’s excited because it’s not only me, it’s him with us. That makes it much more special since he’s with us."
Pollard's win didn't come easy as it was not until lap 97 when he took the top spot away from Grant Enfinger, who had set fast-time in qualifying earlier in the night. Enfinger, who was fresh off his Rattler 250 win earlier this year, had just taken the lead from two-time Snowball Derby champion Augie Grill on lap 93. Those three drivers put on a dandy of a finish for all the fans in attendance.
"I was watching those guys racing pretty hard and I thought, ‘Man, maybe we have a shot," said Pollard. "We got that restart and I dialed some rear brake in it because the car got tight. We went off and I got a run off (Turn) 2 and the car, on the outside, stuck. With the old tires, the car on the outside would never stick, even with a 100 laps. These new tires have helped the racing out and I think it’s going to continue."
The new tire, the Hoosier F-40, has changed the face of Late Model racing in just a few weeks. The race itself was a game of strategy – in fact the 100-lap contest was more of a chess match with strategic positioning as opposed to the traditional checkers game of take-and-conquer.
"I feel like the tires are definitely better than they have been in years past," said Enfinger, who finished second. "Hoosier definitely has a better tire for us this year. I think it definitely allows, not only for a little bit better racing, because you don’t just have to just let somebody go, but because, for the first time ever, the driver on the outside lane can hold his own."
Third-place finisher Augie Grill felt the same way about the tires and was happy the fans saw such a good race.
"I’m pretty please with them," said Grill. "My car didn’t do anything erratic; at least it stayed the same the whole race; we haven’t had that on one set of tires in a while. Kudos to them (FFS and Hoosier) for making the right call (to not allow teams to pit for tires during Blizzard Series races). I was hoping the changes they made would be better for the racing for the fans."
Donnie Wilson and TJ Reaid made up the top five. Rounding out the top 10 were Mike Garvey, David Rogers, Travis Kittleson, Josh Hamner and 2010 Snowball Derby winner Johanna Long.
The Buddy’s Home Furnishings Blizzard Series at Five Flags Speedway will be back in action on Friday, May 27th. The Blizzard Series features five Super Late Model events at Five Flags Speedway. The Sunoco Gulf Coast Championship combines points from the Blizzard Series and the five-race Miller Lite Series at Mobile International Raceway for an overall two-track title.
For more information about Five Flags Speedway and the Buddy’s Home Furnishings Blizzard Series, please visit www.5flagsspeedway.com or contact the track by calling (850) 944-8400.
Buddy's Home Furnishing Blizzard Series # 1
Five Flags Speedway (FL)
March 25th, 2011
1.18 - Bubba Pollard 2.82 - Grant Enfinger 3.112 - Augie Grill 4.82 - Donnie Wilson 5.51 - T.J. Reaid 6.1 - Mike Garvey 7.11 - David Rogers 8.12 - Travis Kittleson 9.49 - Josh Hamner 10.10 - Johanna Long 11.21 - Scott Carlson 12.41 - Chris Davidson 13.83 - Dylan Presnell 14.99 - Wayne Niedecken Jr. 15.94 - Dwyane Buggay 16.84 - Clay Alexander 17.29 - Allen Karnes 18.39 - Gary Sullivan 19.22 - Jeremy Pate 20.4 - D.J. Vanderley, - 3 Laps 21.10 - Ryan Crane, - 10 Laps 22.27 - Bobby Good, - DNF 23.12 - Thomas Praytor, - DNF 24.32 - Ron McDonald, - DNF 25.67 - Daniel Hemric, - DNS