While much of the Late Model world had its attention centered on the happenings at Winchester Speedway (IN) this past weekend, 29 of the best shortrackers from the Deep South converged on Opp, Alabama for 200 all-green laps at South Alabama Speedway. Bubba Pollard and Augie Grill came away from the long night with happy smiles and some nice hardware.
Track owner and race promoter John Dykes decided to tweak the procedure of the Alabama Pro 200 for 2011.
Dykes split his annual season ending 200 lapper in to twin 100 lap races.
“It’s just something different," said Dykes. “We hope it will make for a better show for the fans and drivers. We originally got the idea from Mobile, but we changed ours up a little.”
The change to 100 lap races fit right in to what Pollard was used to, at SAS. The 2011 Viper Series champion won four of the six 100-lap point races during the season.
Pollard timed in second quick in qualifying, just 25-thousandths of a second behind Pensacola, Florida’s Logan Boyett, but fell victim to the famed South Alabama Speedway random redraw and started outside the top five.
Chris Davidson, the 2009 Alabama Pro winner, led the field to green and quickly established himself as one the cars to beat. Behind Davidson, Grill and Hunter Robbins dueled hard for the second spot, until the two got together, spinning both cars.
Grill tagged the inside wall with the rear of his Jani-king Ford in the incident.
“I came down on Hunter,” said Grill. “It wasn’t intentional, just happened and wound up tearing him up. I backed into the wall and kind of tore up the spoiler and it was just junk the rest of the first hundred. I was able to get back up to sixth and that was all she had.”
The incident allowed Pollard to slide in to the second spot, until the other front runner was snake bit by a lap car.
Davidson attempted to put a lap on young Spencer Davis, but contact was made between the two and Davidson was sent for a wild spin down the front stretch. The Pearland, Texas native was able to save the car from contact with the wall, but the spin sent him to pit road effectively ending his shot at the win.
“Went into three, I went to go high and he came back up across the nose... ended up wrecked,” Davidson said, matter-of-factly.
Pollard inherited the lead, and was able to outrun Brandon Odom and Dakota Stroup to the finish to put the wraps on the first half of the night’s races
“As long as you have the fenders on your car at the end of the race, then you’ll have a pretty good shot at winning,” said Pollard in victory lane. “We’ve had a good season here, the last couple or three years have been good to us.”
After a brief “half-time” break and some chassis adjustments (if needed), the field reassembled for 100 more laps to make up the Alabama Pro.
The random redraw of the top-seven finishers from race one set the starting lineup for race two, putting Stroup and Grill on the front row.
The first half of the second 100 lapper was marred by big crashes.
On the initial start Danny Bagwell and Chris Serio got together sending both cars hard in to the outside wall at the end of the front stretch.
Pollard came alive on the second attempt to get the race underway, and jumped to the outside of Grill in turn two, and was able to take the lead on lap five.
The night’s biggest incident struck on lap 11.
Logan Boyett had something break in the steering of his racer, and the field stacked up behind him. Cars spun and slid all over the track completely blocking the exit of turn four. Texas driver J.T. Schild was unable to slow and stuck the back of Jacob Wallace’s machine, sending Schild in to the air and over the top over at least two other cars. When all the smoke cleared a total of 11 cars received at least some damage in the mêlée
Grill began his march back to the front on the ensuing restart. The 2008 winner of the Alabama 200 dove under Korey Ruble in turn three and completed the pass off of four coming to lap 35. Ruble had muscled Pollard out of the top spot earlier in the run.
Grill lead the way to the competition caution at lap 75 that allowed the field to come down pit road to make any adjustments they wished, including changing tires.
Grill chose to change just right side tires, while the majority of the field took four fresh shoes. Grill was able to hold off a charging Boyett throughout the final stages en route to the win.
“We were just too good to be denied in that second hundred,” said Grill. “We only took two rights at the second break, and Boyett put on four and we were still able to get away from him. I’m happy with our performance, I wish we could’ve gotten both of them, but one out of two ain’t bad.”
The Alabama Pro 200 ended the year at South Alabama Speedway. The track’s next event is set of the first weekend of March 2012. The late model world will converge on Opp, Ala. for the 36th annual Rattler 250 weekend.