Leftovers: Sunoco Gulf Coast Series Rounds 3 & 4
A Regular Take a Break, Two Longs, and More
By Daniel Vining -Twitter @danielvining

Bubba Pollard is four-for-four in 2011 at Mobile International Speedway and he doesn't show any signs of slowing.  Pollard passed race leader Augie Grill with seven laps to go Saturday night in the 100-lap Miller Lite Series event to get his third win in the Gulf Coast Championship Series in four starts.

“With 20 to go we were sitting there third and he (Grill) was so far out that I knew there was no point in pushing the car too hard because there was no way I could catch him," said Pollard.  “I just sat there and saved, hoping for a caution... and we got one.”

Pollard was won his last six starts in Late Models at Mobile dating back into last season: three in the Super Late Models and three in the Pro Late Models.


Josh Hamner’s season hasn’t gone the way the Chelsea (AL) driver envisioned at the beginning of the year.  In six starts, Hamner has struggled.  He began the year driving for Stanley Smith in The Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway.  His day there ended almost before it began after a vicious wreck destroyed his racecar early.  That’s been the story for Hamner this year. 

The multitude of torn up racecars eventually led to Hamner bringing a family-owned car, a Pro Late Model, to Montgomery at the beginning of the month where he had his best run, starting first and finishing third.  Hamner carried that momentum to South Alabama finishing solid ninth at the last Viper Series race.  The plan was to race in Pensacola in the Blizzard Series race, but lack of sponsorship and funds prevented Hamner from entering.  Instead of driving, Hamner worked with the Scott Carlson team, helping with Carlson with engine tuning and setup for the Papa John’s 100.  Carlson’s night was a tough one, he had handling issues and finished 19th.


Dwyane Buggay came to Pensacola in March to race the opening round of the Gulf Coast Series.  That plan was cut short after a hard hit against the turn four wall in practice the night before the race.  Buggay’s car was destroyed in that accident, which was caused by a still unknown parts failure.  Buggay broke his right elbow in the crash and came back to Pensacola in April to finish third in the Allen Turner Pro Late Model race.  Heading into the Papa John’s 100, Buggay and his freshly re-built Super Late Model were ready for action, even though the Red Top Auction driver was still wearing an Ace bandage on his elbow.

"Yeah, it's good to go now, just hope to build on what we did here in the last Pro race," said Buggay.

Unfortunately, Buggay’s night ended early with mechanical issues.


DJ VanderLey knows the tracks at Pensacola and Mobile.  He is the reigning champion at both tracks in Pro Late Models and currently leads the point standings in Mobile.  In Super Late Models, however, VanderLey has struggled.  Driving for veteran racer Eddie Craig, VanderLey has been fast but has not been able to piece all the parts together to go home with a solid run.  In the Papa John’s 100, VanderLey ran up front early but faded and wasn’t a factor, finishing 12th.  At Mobile the following night, VanderLey’s night ended before it started as he was involved in a first lap crash in turn three.  The crash ripped the entire right side off of his car and he finished 55 laps down.  Even with the bad luck, the rookie has a positive outlook about the weekend.

“For a weekend that had such potential, it didn’t go at like we planned. We’ll just learn from it and try to come back better.”


Chris Davidson didn’t mince words about his car in Pensacola.  He said that they have struggled there.  During practice, Davidson and crew worked hard on his car and got it the point where they thought it would be good.  Given the heat of the day, and the slick race track, they wanted to make sure that they didn’t tune themselves out of a good car early, so with over thirty minutes left in practice  Davidson was already in street clothes.

"You can only learn so much during the day here. We're going to stop before we go too far with changes. I like where we are at right now."

That decision played out in spades as Davidson worked his way through the field to finish fifth in the Papa John’s 100.


Donald Long returned to the driver’s seat of a Super Late Model for the Papa John’s 100.  He had the chance to race against his daughter, Johanna Long.  This a special birthday request of Johanna, a past Blizzard Series Champion, the defending Snowball Derby winner, and  2011 Rookie of the Year candidate in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.  The two had solid runs in the race, Johanna finishing ninth, Donald 11th.  Johanna carried that run over to Mobile the following night where she worked her way through the field to finish a very strong fifth.


Allen Karnes could be a strong candidate for this weekend’s hard luck award.  In the Papa John’s 100 he spun on the backstretch during a caution and received significant damage to his car, ending his night.  Karnes went to Mobile in catch-up mode.  The team spent the whole day repairing the damage from the night before and as a result didn’t get any on track time during practice.  Mobile Speedway officials allowed Karnes a few courtesy laps after practice before qualifying to shake down his car after the repairs.  As result, Karnes was penalized one of his qualifying laps.  He qualified slowest of the 20-car field and after qualifying, the team wanted to pull the car from the impound lot to continue effecting repairs.  MIS officials told Karnes that if he did that, he would not be allowed to race.  Dejected, the team loaded up the car and did not start the Miller Lite 100.

“Screw it,” a member of Karnes’ team said to Speed51.com.  “If we can’t work more on the car then we might as well load it up rather than risking more damage to race for last place.”


Four time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion Ron Hornaday, Jr. came to Mobile to race in the Miller Lite 100.  In qualifying, Hornaday’s car bottomed out in turn one and resulted in the second slowest lap.  Hornaday started the race from the back and was collected in a lap one crash in turn three after Donnie Hamrac’s loose car bunched up the field going into the corner.  Hornaday spent the next 84 laps in the pits repairing his car, but did return, 84 laps down, and finished the race.

“I want to thank Rick Crawford for having me tonight, it's an honor to be here,” said Hornaday before the race.  “There is a lot of strong cars here tonight.  My car bottomed out during qualifying and now I've got my work cut out for me.  No matter what happens tonight, I will be back.”


The start of the racing activities was delayed by over three hours at Mobile International Speedway on Saturday night.  The delay was due a three-inch hole blown through one of the transformers on a power pole in the infield, preventing the lights in turns one and two from working.  Track officials contacted the local power company, Alabama Power, and before long a crew was on site working the problem.  In what could’ve been a disastrous situation, track promoter Rick Crawford used the down time to give fans the opportunity to meet the drivers, take pictures, get autographs and even take rides in the pace car.  Crawford even gave refunds and two-for-one admission tickets to the fans that decided to leave.  For the fans that stuck around, the power poles were eventually repaired and the rest of the racing night went on without a hitch.

Gulf Coast Standing After 4 of 10 Races

1 Grant Enfinger 240
2 Bubba Pollard 235
3 Augie Grill 217
4 Donnie Wilson 184
5 Mike Garvey 161
6 Johanna Long 149
7 T J Reaid 148
8 Clay Alexander 125
9 Chris Davidson 118
10 Jeremy Pate 103
11 Steven Davis 102
12 Daren Vanderley 96
13 Thomas Praytor 85
14 Ryan Crane 84
15 David Rogers 83
16 Josh Hamner 69
17 Travis Kittleston 57
18 Casey Smith 54
19 Dylan Presnell 53
20 Allen Karnes 43
21 Gary Sullivan 42
21 Dwayne Buggay 42
23 Dale Little 34
24 Donnie Hamrac 31
25 Cale Gale 24
25 Daniel Hemric 24
25 David Odell 24
28 Donald Long 21
28 Bobby Good 21
30 Ron McDonald 20

DJ VanderLey has not had much fun in 2011 while lots of problems.  (51 Photo)
Grant Enfinger was second both nights. (51 Photo)
Donald Long was back behind the wheel at Five Flags Speedway. (51 Photo)
Fans waited out a long power outage. (51 Photo)
Bubba Pollard has won both races in the Gulf Coast at Mobile.  He also has four win there this season and six in a row in Late Model action. (51 Photo)