Three Races, Two Winners, One Wild Weekend
Pollard Sees the End of Win Streak After Tough Weekend
By Daniel Vining - Twitter: @danielvining
Normally, when you think of a combination weekend between Pensacola (FL)’s Five Flags Speedway and Mobile International Speedway (AL) you think Super Late Model racing in the Sunoco Gulf Coast Series.  This weekend, however, was different.  The slightly less powered, yet just as exciting Pro Late Models took center stage.  Five Flags hosted the Allen Turner Tucson 100 and Mobile the Wild Card Twin 50s.  Three races, three chances to grab the checkered flag.  After 200 laps of white-knuckle door-to-door action, one familiar face, and a brand new face visited victory lane: Augie Grill and Kyle Benjamin.

Augie Grill led the majority of The Tucson 100, round three of the Allen Turner Pro Late Model Series in dominant fashion.  Competition came in the form of DJ VanderLey at lap 86.  Following a restart, the two raced hard and close, side-by-side for a number of laps as VanderLey worked the high side.  Bubba Pollard soon entered the mix, following Grill on the low side to take the second position as Grill went on to score the victory.

“The car was the tightest it had been all night,” said Grill.  “The late-race cautions seem to always get us, but I was determined to not let that happen again.  The car got tight and it was real hard to get by VanderLey without wrecking him.  I leaned on him some and he leaned on me a little.  I’m thankful that Bubba decided not to go three wide there at the end, it could’ve caused us all some front clips.”

In Mobile, Grill quickly found himself upfront leading during the first of two 50 lap races.  Grill was able to hold off the advances of a hard charging Kyle Benjamin to take the win.  In that race, Bubba Pollard lost an engine and Mike Garvey went down a cylinder.  Neither would be able to compete in race two.

The second 50 lap race was caution filled.  DJ VanderLey had an adventurous trip over the turn three banking, just one of the many troubles the pre-race favorite had during the event.  Augie Grill continued the same strong effort from the first race, while Kyle Benjamin continued to fly through the field.  Once Benjamin caught Grill, he tried every line he could find to get by the veteran driver.  During his search for the best line, Benjamin found himself flying over the banking in turn four after contact from Jason Young.  A charged up Benjamin shot back up to the front after the restart and passed Grill to take the lead on lap 37 to the roar of the fans in the stands.  Benjamin quickly pulled away to claim the victory, the first of his late model racing career.

“This is awesome,” said a very happy Benjamin.  “I really wish Mike Garvey and Bubba Pollard could’ve been in the race, but it is really cool to race so hard with Augie Grill to win the race.  I like to thank my Papa.  Without him and my Dad I wouldn’t have this car and be able to be here.  I want to thank everybody that’s involved with this, it’s just awesome.”

Bubba Pollard was behind from the word go at Five Flags Speedway after a double tire failure on the team's motor coach caused the Ronnie Sanders race team to arrive at the track late. 

“It was just me and Mr. Ronnie here today,” said Pollard after the race.  “We didn’t get here until after the drivers meeting.  We had to go unload, go through tech, and all.  It really set us back.  We messed up in qualifying and didn’t get any practice.  We only got two laps in practice because we had to come in late.  For what we’ve been through all day, second place is pretty good for us.”

Pollard got to second place by following race winner Augie Grill past DJ VanderLey late in the race.  Pollard had the chance to take the racing three wide going into turn one, but stayed patient and waited for the right time to make the move.  After moving up to second, he set sail for Grill, but couldn’t catch the speedy driver.

“I could stay with [Grill], but I was just on the verge of losing it up off [the corner],” said Pollard.  “I slipped up off of turn two one time and he pulled away by two car lengths there, then I couldn’t catch him.  But it was a good race; I like close racing and it’s a lot of fun.”

Going into Mobile International Speedway, Bubba Pollard was riding on the greatest win streak of his career... an impressive 8 wins in a row in 2011.  After falling behind in Pensacola, Pollard recovered to score a solid top five finish.  He carried that momentum into Mobile, setting top five speeds in practice, then qualifying second for the first of the two 50 lap races.  Unfortunately, that hot streak came to an end, as Pollard’s motor gave out on lap 13 of the first race.  The engine failure prevented Pollard from being able to compete in race two.  Pollard did, however, win the local division modified race after the Twin 50s, leading the most lap in the process.

“We just lost oil pressure,” said Pollard.  “It’s just racin’, just one of those things.  After the weekend we’ve had, I am ready for a vacation.”

Kyle Benjamin (top) went to victory lane for the first time in his year-plus-long Late Model career, while Augie Grill went there twice over the weekend.  ( Photos)