The Lee Fields Memorial 150 is well on its way of becoming one of the crown jewels of short track racing and certainly one of the top gems in the highly completive Deep South region. Drawing Pro Late Model teams from across the country, the race, 150 laps split by a break at lap 75, tests the skill and performance capabilities of every driver entered. This year’s race was originally scheduled for early September but rain caused the postponement of the event until the first weekend of October instead, placing the event right at the start of the busiest time of year among all the other major races just around the corner.
Bubba Pollard scored his 17th win of the season by winning the Lee Fields Memorial, the third time he has done so. The win comes at a track where Pollard has been dominant for seasons. When Pollard comes to Mobile International Speedway, he is the favorite to win every time. That’s a fact that is not taken lightly by the Georgia native.
“We’ve been really good here for a while now,” said Pollard. “It’s pretty cool, but something that may not last so we just have to enjoy it every time. Getting this belt is really cool, and getting it here in Mobile is pretty special.”
The belt that Pollard was referring to is the Lee Fields Memorial Championship belt. MIS promoter Rick Crawford had the prize belt commissioned to honor the wrestling heritage of Lee Fields, who himself was a wrestling promoter before he became the owner of Mobile Speedway. As Pollard stood in victory lane, with the belt around his waist, he started a tradition that could carry on to join many other prized jewels in racing, much like the guitars in Nashville, grandfather clocks in Martinsville or the six shooters in Texas.
To make it to victory lane, Pollard had to make his way to the front after an early qualifying draw possibly hurt his timed effort.
“Yeah, we had a good car,” said Pollard. “We went out kinda early in qualifying and that kinda hurt us. I felt like we were good enough to run our own pace there, put ourselves on top and come out ahead.”
Once Pollard made it to the front, he took off like a rocket. At one point he had more than a straightway lead on second place, and if not for large number of yellow flags, could’ve possibly lapped the field. The multitude of caution periods made his restarts very important. Alongside of Pollard on each restart was DJ VanderLey, who did not make it easy for Pollard to get by.
“Our car was great all night long,” said VanderLey. “It just wouldn’t go in quite as well. Our cars were just even all night. It was a close race all night long. “It was a fun race; I had a blast running side by side with Bubba. It was a good hard, clean fought race.”
In the end, Pollard was able to pull away late, and take the checkers. Pollard came away with the first Lee Fields belt... a belt worthy of any champion, while VanderLey went home with the Midwest Cooling Towers Pro Late Model Series championship.
VanderLey’s year has been up and down. As a rookie in the Super Late Model ranks, VanderLey has had unfortunate results, but in Pro Late Models has seen tremendous success. Top-five finishes all year long put VanderLey in the cat bird seat going into the Lee Fields Memorial. Among all his success this season, he has not yet scored a victory. After battling Bubba Pollard all season long, coming up shy of the win on Saturday night was a hard pill to swallow.
“The championship feels good, but I wanted that belt so, so bad. Just came up a little short.”
VanderLey’s sentiment was common among all the top finishers, including Josh Hamner, who made an infrequent start in his family owned car at Mobile.
“We did some hard racing,” said Hamner. “We wanted to get that belt pretty bad. It was a fun night. I wish we could’ve run a little better. Bubba’s been really good all year long and to come down here and run third... we had a fun night.”
Hamner’s last appearance at Mobile was in the season opening weekend for the Super Late Models, driving for car owner Stanley Smith. Since that time, Hamner had raced in Montgomery and Opp (AL) in select races for his father Jeff Hamner.
“We’ve always raced,” said Hamner. “I’ve had great opportunities in the past with Kyle Busch, Stanley Smith and Bobby Reuse. They’re kind of taking a break right now so we decided to get this car back out. We do a lot of R&D work with the motors. We teamed up with Bobby Reuse. He brought me down here this weekend and I can’t thank him for all he does. I’ve got a bunch of great guys behind me. Without them none of this would be possible.”
There were eight yellow and two red flag periods during the race. Of note, Donnie Hamrac took a trip over the turn three banking upside down. Spectators said they could see the roof numbers of his car as it flew over, ultimately landing on it’s wheels, but ending Hamrac’s night. Also, Hamrac’s teammate, Jake Moore, made hard contact with Elliott Massey and the end of the front stretch wall. When hit just right, the turn four end of the grandstand catch fence can be the sight of wrecks that rival hits to the crossover gate in Bristol (TN). All drivers walked away.