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Snowball Derby

Bubba Pollard’s 15 years of trying and 15 years of frustration at the Snowball Derby

Matthew Bishop | STS

We’ve seen this movie before, but perhaps this time around, the ending changes for Bubba Pollard.

The 30-year-old has dominated the headlines this week in advance of the Snowball Derby. That by itself is an impressive feat considering the return of NASCAR champion Kyle Busch and the pageantry surrounding the 50th running of the discipline’s most prestigious event.

It’s a cliché narrative at this point, but Pollard is truly approaching Dale Earnhardt in the Daytona 500 status when it comes to his winless streak in the Super Bowl of Short Track Racing.

It took Earnhardt 20 years to win the Great American Race, and Pollard is working on Year 13 of the Snowball Derby.

Like Earnhardt at Daytona, Pollard is ‘the man’ at Pensacola, even if the beginnings were modest.

He made his event debut back in 2005, but didn’t actually qualify for the 300-lap main event until 2008. Pollard won the pole in 2011 and posted fifth-place finishes in 2008 and 2015. But more telling, he is the winningest active driver at Five Flags Speedway, scoring track championships in 2012, 2014 and 2017 with 17 overall victories in both a Pro and Super Late Model.

And yet, one trophy has eluded him — the Tom Dawson.


This weekend has seen Pollard record the fastest overall lap in practice, while leading four of the seven fastest practice sessions over the past three days. He qualified on the outside pole to Preston Peltier on Friday night and now he’s captured his second career Snowflake 100 Pro Late Model victory on Saturday night.

This is like Earnhardt winning countless Daytona Twins, Firecracker 400s and Bud Shootouts but failing to score the big one until 1998.

So let’s ask Bubba the question that annoyed Earnhardt to high heavens: Is this the year you win the big one?

“Yeah, we’ve been here before, fastest lap of the day, and all you guys want to talk to me,” Pollard said. “These are not the laps that matter. So let’s see if y’all wanna talk to me on Sunday after the lap that does.”

Man, he even sounds like Earnhardt in his own Senoia, Georgia way.

Twenty years of trying, and twenty years of frustration might be a bit of an overstatement, but this weekend has definitely squared Pollard up for the biggest triumph of his career.

This is the 50th Snowball Derby and he’s built the fastest car in town. The man has won everything there is to win at Five Flags and earned every distinction offered this weekend with the exception of the pole — and he only missed that by 0.025 of a second.

Pollard is a folk hero in these parts, receiving the kind of cheers and media attention that Dale Earnhardt Jr. attracted at Cup Series venues. That’s not an overstatement. Pollard comes from a family of blue collar construction-working racers, is a candid straight shooter and doesn’t look like a clean-cut celebrity steering wheel holder.

Over the past two years, he’s become a husband and father too. He’s basically one of us.

Pollard is the embodiment of the discipline and is the face of Super Late Model racing. It’s a face that has starred in a decade’s worth of Snowball Derbies. He’s also starred in a decade’s worth of Snowball Disappointment.

But maybe, just maybe, on its golden anniversary, Pollard is about to flip the script.

He is about to start writing the script for a new ending.

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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