Bubba Pollard has been racing in the Gulf Coast Super Late Model series for several years, but it took him until last weekend to accomplish something that few before him had – a weekend sweep. Winning both races between Five Flags and Mobile has put Pollard on the point in the standings after two rounds for the third time in four seasons. (There was no Gulf Coast Series in 2008, but Pollard would have been the leader).
"It's really cool that we can do this," said Pollard. "We were kind of wondering what we need to do to win one because we had three seconds already this season. Now we are rolling and we will see how far we can go."
Pollard was strong both nights, but it was all at the end of the events where he flexed the most muscle. He played the waiting game at Five Flags and at Mobile and made his move when it counted. Only a late-race yellow slowed his advances towards what would have been a 31-minute caution-free race.
"The yellow always seems to come out late when we are leading," added Pollard. "No worries tonight because we were able to hold them off."
Enfinger A worthy Opponent
Perhaps the biggest standout driver thus far in 2011 is Grant Enfinger. Fresh off his Rattler win he went to the Gulf Coast looking to contend. Enfinger took both fast time awards, finished second each night and easily could have been in victory lane if ether race unfolded differently.
"We just unloaded this car out of the trailer Thursday before Pensacola," said Enfinger. "We didn’t go anywhere to practice or test or anything and the car was still good. It was still the basic setup from Opp (South Alabama Speedway, home of The Rattler, a race Enfinger won last month) and it’s working. I can’t tell Josh and George Bragg thank you enough for letting me drive a great car."
When asked if he will be back in the car for the next round, a surprising answer followed.
"I have no idea," said Enfinger with a smile. "We really weren’t expecting to come to this one until a couple of weeks ago. I hope to be back soon because we’ve got too good a car to leave it sitting in the trailer."
Enfinger will head to the high banks of Talladega next with the ARCA Racing Series.
Home Coming For Jo Not as Good As Derby Win
Johanna Long started off the weekend at her home track, Pensacola's Five Flags Speedway, struggling to find the setup in her Super Late Model. That didn't stop her from qualifying her Panhandle Motorsports #10 in fourth position for the Pepsi MAX 100. Long fell back early but managed to stay with the leaders and came home with a 10th place finish.
"We missed the setup just a little bit,” said December’s Snowball Derby winner. “There was as an awesome group of cars and if you miss it just a little then it's really noticeable, especially at Pensacola."
Long went into the Mobile International season opener full speed ahead. Practice times kept her in mid-pack and after being the first driver to take to the track for qualifying, she placed the 10th fastest time. Thanks to the luck of the Dice Roll Invert, Long would be moved up to the outside pole for the start of the race. She took that lucky break to lead the first 87 laps of the race before her tires began to fall off. On lap 88 of the 100 lapper, eventual winner Bubba Pollard took the lead from Long, who would begin to drift back into the pack.
With five laps remaining, Long spun in turn four to bring out the race's first caution.
“After Bubba got by me I got a little greedy and over drove it; I took out myself I guess you could say… but we finished and will go onto the next one."
After spinning and pitting for minor repairs, Long managed a ninth-place finish in the Miller Lite 100. The "next one" for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie is the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway this Saturday in the Panhandle Motorsports #20 Toyota.
Champ Down For the Count
Chase Elliott won the Gulf Coast Championship Series last year along with the titles in the Blizzard Series and at Mobile. He will not get a chance to defend his crowns, but fans will likely see the #9 back on the Gulf Coast in May as his website lists the next two events on the Panhandle on its schedule.
Steven Davis Almost Pulls Off Minor Upset
Mobile racer Steven Davis was another driver that capitalized on the Dice Roll Invert. After pole sitter Grant Enfinger rolled a 10, Davis' original qualifying spot of eighth was improved to fourth. Early on, Davis settled into a steady rhythm in the top five. On lap 34, Davis moved around post-invert pole sitter Jeremy Pate to cruise to a top-three finish in the Miller Lite 100.
"We had a pretty good night,” said Davis. “The car wasn't too bad for being the first time out after rebuilding it. We have a little work to do to catch Bubba and Grant but I am pretty happy with third."
While some drivers moved backward, race lap leader Johanna Long included, Davis was able to conserve his tires and maintain his top five run all night long. When asked about the new Hoosier rubber, he said that he liked it.
"I felt like we could've raced a little bit longer. I feel like if we had ridden a little bit longer we might have a better chance, but I think Bubba and them just had a little bit better car than I did."
Davis had a shot a stealing the victory from the Series contenders after a late-race caution put him on the front row for the lap 97 restart alongside Bubba Pollard. On the first attempt at the restart, Davis got going a little too fast for the liking of Race Director Dan Spence. Spence waved off the start and warned the Mobile racer that the next jump would get him sent to the back.
"I knew all I had was one shot to try to get him so I had to try it," Davis said with a grin on face.
Two Early for Grill?
Some might look at Augie Grill leading most of the Pepsi MAX 100 at Five Flags Speedway, only to fall back to third, as him going too hard too early. The tale of the stopwatches told a different story, however, as he backed the field up into the 18.4 second bracket as the leader. In the end it came down to the final restart that took him out of the lead and left him third.
"I was just really taking it easy and on one of the restarts, Johanna (Long) started on the outside of me and got really racy," said Grill. "I felt like I could get by the two cars in front of me quicker than to race her side-by-side for 10 laps; so that’s what we did. We went ahead and got the lead and I was taking care of it the best I could. I think my car was as good as theirs at the end. I just screwed up on the restart."
Doubling to the East and Not the West
Most of Friday night’s Five Flags Speedway field made the trip West to Mobile on Saturday night, while Central Florida veteran David Rogers drove Eastward across the Sunshine State on Saturday to run the Pete Orr Memorial at New Smyrna Speedway. It was a good weekend for Rogers who got seventh at Five Flags and then a third a New Smyrna. Rogers missed the Snowball Derby in 2010, so this has him off to a good start in the points.
Absent From The Weekend
John Bolen, Eddie Mercer, Casey Smith, Jeremy Rice, Dale Little and Dave Mader III where just a few of the no shows on the Gulf Coast during the weekend. We did see Mader getting a hot dog and he hopes to have a few starts later in the year.
Brandon Carlson was ill according to two-time Blizzard Series Champion Scott Carlson. With the son on the sidelines that left the elder Carlson with a chance to race and he didn't have to think twice about the opportunity. Scott posted and 11th-place finish, the best for the family owned, Pensacola-based team since last June.
Gulf Coast Standing After Two Races
1Bubba Pollard125 2Grant Enfinger124 3Augie Grill103 4Mike Garvey97 5Donnie Wilson97 6TJ Reaid73 7Josh Hamner69 8Johanna Long68 9Clay Alexander58 10Chris Davidson58 11Jeremy Pate54 12 Dylan Presnell53 13Steven Davis52 14Thomas Praytor42 15Allen Karnes42 16DJ Vanderley42 17David Rogers36 18 Daniel Hemric24 19Ryan Crane22 20Bobby Good21 21Scott Carlson21 22Gary Sullivan21 23Dwayne Buggay21