Robbins Now 2 for 2 After Beating Oil Leak in Elantra 100
VanderLey Shows Strength; Comes Up Short
By: Daniel Vining, Twitter: @danielvining
The Elantra 100 held on April 22, 2011 marked the inaugural race for the new Allen Turner Pro Late Model Series at Pensacola’s Five Flags Speedway.  This was the first of a scheduled five races leading up to the annual Snowflake 100 during the Snowball Derby weekend in December.  Hunter Robbins bested the 24 car field, including a very fast D.J. VanderLey and strong Bubba Pollard to win his second race in as many starts in 2011. 

Qualifying for the Elantra 100 was smooth and fast.  The fastest speed of the night went to Mobile, AL driver Thomas Praytor.  Praytor, who is a rookie in the Super Late Model ranks this year, was excited about his fast lap after struggling early in 2011.  However, having the fastest lap in qualifying doesn’t translate into starting on the pole at Five Flags.  Just before the command to fire engines Praytor rolled a “10” in the “Dice Roll Invert,” inverting the first 10 positions and placing Mobile’s Donnie Hamrac on the pole for the race.

Hamrac led the first 15 laps of the race, opening up a sizable lead over Chris Davidson, Bubba Pollard and Dwyane Buggay before the first of 11 cautions on the night came out.  The lap 15 yellow was due to possible oil on the race track. 

Five Flags Speedway officials quickly discovered that Hunter Robbins was the cause of the oil and sent him to pit road.  They instructed Robbins’ crew that all oil must be cleaned, and the leak fixed before the number 18 could return to the track. 

“We started off pretty good, but then the caution came out and they [race officials] said to come down to the frontstretch [pits] because we had and oil leak so we did.  I knew we did; I looked in the rear view mirror and saw that the spoiler was really dirty and started telling the guys that the only thing we changed before the race was a rear end gear, so something must have happened.”

Robbins and crew sat on pit road throughout the caution, troubleshooting the problem, as the green flag flew and the race resumed.  Fortunately for Robbins, the team discovered that the cause of the leak was from a loose oil plug on the rear end housing. 

“They scrambled to get stuff ready but the plug had backed out and we didn’t have any spare parts so everyone was running around asking [for a spare plug].  Luckily we found one. Then they started to go back to green and then had another caution, so we stayed on the lead lap.  The crew got the oil in the rear end and got the plug in there.”

Robbins’ racing luck allowed him to restart at that tail of the field, but on the lead lap.

Following the green, Hamrac went on to lead an additional 12 laps before Bubba Pollard used the high side to pass Hamrac in turn two on lap 27 for the lead.  Pollard went on to lead the next 30 laps, but couldn’t build a substantial gap from first to second thanks to four yellow flags.  One of those four caution periods came on lap 49 when third place Donnie Hamrac spun in turn two, collecting six cars ending the night for four of them.

After leading 30 laps, and avoiding all the wrecks up to that point, Bubba Pollard ran out of luck in turn three as D.J. VanderLey passed Pollard on lap 57 for the lead.  Pollard began dropping back fast and came to a stop at the top of turn two on lap 61, bringing out the caution.  Pollard had a tire going down, and stopped to draw the caution, which led to a two lap penalty after changing the tire.

After the race, Pollard admitted that he drew the caution intentionally to save his car, which he proclaimed to be one of the best he’s had at Five Flags.

“The motor was running hot; it was too lean,” said Pollard.  “I was having to keep it cool under caution, I wasn’t able to keep the tires clean or even dodge some of the wrecks then we just had a flat.  It’s just a part of racing.  I guess I should’ve waited on the safety truck a little longer.”

Pollard would restart at the tail, two laps down.  After receiving the free pass twice in successive cautions, Pollard battled back to a solid fifth place finish.

“Overall we had a really fast racecar tonight, by far one of the best Pro cars we’ve had in a while, so even though we struggled we are getting better here.”

D.J. VanderLey took his turn at leading the 100 lap race following Bubba Pollard’s tire troubles on lap 61.  VanderLey led, showing the crowd that after a rough start to his season he has more than enough speed to win.  Unfortunately for VanderLey, he didn’t have enough right front tire and lost the lead to Robbins on lap 82.

VanderLey after the race said, “We had a great car all night.  I think we just pushed too hard too soon and it ended up biting us.  If two or three cautions would’ve fallen our way then I think we could’ve pulled it off.  We ended up fourth, and the car is in one piece.  That’s what’s important.  We’ll build on this a move forward.”

Robbins went on to lead the final 18 laps, which were caution free, to pick up his second win of 2011.  Robbins other win came in the Show Me the Money Series opener at Montgomery in the beginning of April. 

“I told my guys that Chase Elliott had to pass more cars than we did tonight to win the Snowflake 100 so it can be done, and be done without abusing our tires so I wasn’t too worried there,” said Robbins.  “The car was really, really good and we were able to drive back up to the front.  I wanted to get around D.J. so I could dictate the restarts; it’s really hard to start on the outside here.  We had a good night, I owe it all to my crew.  If it wasn’t for them running around trying to find a plug for the rear end and scrambling like they were we wouldn’t have won tonight.”

Robbins, a freshman at Auburn University, now leads the points standings in two series at two race tracks early in this 2011 racing season.  He said that he hopes to make it to all the Allen Turner races at Five Flags and that will be easier once the school year is over. 

Brandon Bendele, who ran in the top half of the field all night, quietly finished second.  Dwayne Buggay overcame a spin on lap 46 to battle back for a third place finish. 

1.18 - Hunter Robbins
2.6 - Brandon Bendele
3.45 - Dwayne Buggay
4.2 - DJ VanderLey
5.18 - Bubba Pollard
6.11 - Logan Boyett
7.41 - Chris Davidson
8.66 - Korey Ruble
9.4 - Jeremy Mullinax
10.57 - Mason Mitchell
11.11 - Tommy Rollins
12.64 - David Jones
13.36 - Keith Thorpe
14.89 - Bobby Reuse
15.12 - Thomas Praytor
16.4 - Eddie Craig
17.5 - Kevin Chase
18.41 - Troy Grisaffi
19.19 - Shanna Ard
20.33 - Donnie Hamrac
21.93 - Kyle Sirizzotti
22.79 - Kyle Bryant
23.40 - Tyler Miles
24.94 - Ronnie Smith

Hunter Robbins was the winner at Five Flags in the 100 lap Pro Late Model race. (51 Photo)