Healing takes time. Days, months and years will pass and yet the loss of Pro Late Model standout Beau Slocumb will still impact many in the Southeastern Late Model scene on a day-to-day basis. The last few months have been very hard for the Slocumb family and those who were lucky enough to call Beau a friend.
Everyone knew that the Beau Slocumb Memorial 100 was going to be emotional, but what they didn't count on was the healing that could take place over 100 laps. Beau's good friend Bubba Pollard, who has been racing 2011 as a tribute to his friend, did what was only expected of him.
Pollard won the race for Beau. He did it at the Gresham Motorsports Park, a place run by a family that owned the Late Models Beau won with just a few years back.
"I’d give up my 18 wins (this season) for this race," said Pollard with a tearful voice after the race. "I really mean it. This is special to me."
It was special not only to him, but the entire Slocumb family, Gresham family and the Pollard race team who have carried several tributes to Beau this season on their cars. Saturday's race was no different as Pollard had Beau's face on his hood leading the way to victory.
"I told Bubba 'Merry Christmas. He told me 'Merry Christmas.’ It was great," said Butch Slocumb, Beau’s father, in victory lane. "Unbelievable. It couldn’t have been any better. All the stuff the Greshams have done, all that for Beau, I don’t have any words really."
The spotters’ stand at Gresham was renamed the Beau Slocumb Memorial Spotter's Tower with a huge sign that was unveiled in pre-race ceremonies. After the checkered flag flew, it was still touching to several.
"Don't ask me about that," said Beau's wife Jessica Slocumb. "It's hard to not look at it and tear up. Both (the sign and the win) were incredible. The Greshams, the Elliott family, all of our friends and family came from all over. I cried so many times earlier that I actually shed a few tears when Bubba won, but I was more so excited than anything else."
In December of last year, Pollard traded in his number 18 for 08, the number famously piloted by Slocumb over the years, at the Snowball Derby. He was leading in the closing laps of that event before getting spun out of the lead. That was the last time Beau was at the track to watch Pollard race.
Pollard would return to the Gulf Coast and sweep the first rounds of the Blizzard and Miller Lite Series titles as Slocumb’s condition was worsening hundreds of miles away. Only a few days later, Slocumb passed away.
Pollard's next race found him honoring Slocumb with the camouflage #08 again and he scored the win at South Alabama Speedway. All the tributes were special, but Gresham was different.
“It’s hard to explain it when you’ve not been in that situation," said Pollard recapping the win. "Beau meant a lot to me and my family and we pretty much grew up racing together since we were young. It’s just hard to see someone like him, such a young age, get taken away. It’s hard to see his car and all the people. Words can’t describe it I guess."
The race was not a cake walk as the 100 laps were split into two segments and Pollard had to hold off a hard-charging Willie Allen to seal the win.
“Every once in a while I’d be turning the steering wheel right, (but) he’d (Slocumb) be turning it left for me," said Pollard. "I definitely think he was riding with me. That smile that was on the hood of the car – if you’ve never seen him smile and laugh – it’s just something you can’t explain. I’m sure he was laughing at me tonight."
After the race, the winning car of Pollard and the Slocumb Memorial Late Model were pushed nose-to-nose for a series of photographs that will forever be a symbol for the inaugural Beau Slocumb Memorial. Everyone smiled; just the way Beau would have wanted them to.