Bubba Pollard basically woke up on Saturday morning and decided to add a page to his already rich legacy.
Okay, so it wasn’t quite that simple, but he did finally earn a victory at the legendary Hickory Motor Speedway with his triumph in the CARS Tour MTP Tire 300.
Pollard didn’t plan to race on Saturday but made the last-minute decision to load up his Super and travel five hours north to the foothills of the high country.
It resulted in a somewhat controversial, but decisive victory, over Brandon Setzer over the closing laps.
Pollard first took the lead, under around Setzer off a Lap 114 restart, but needed to hold the two-time Hickory winner over a series of restarts and one decently-length green flag run.
Setzer could get to Pollard’s back bumper but no closer.
“We just kind of rode there,” Pollard said. “Brandon is the king of this place, and I knew he was really good, and I felt like we were almost equal there at the end. I knew I had to get out in front of him on the restart because I could fire off better than him and then we would level off.”
Pollard began the day by sweeping both practice sessions and qualified third in time trials.
He trailed Matthew Craig and Wyatt Alexander early in the race. A restart violation eliminated Alexander from contention as race control deemed that he jumped too consecutive restarts on Lap 84.
That’s when Josh Berry, fresh off a third-place finish in the Late Model Stock race earlier in the evening, charged to the front.
This is where the race got somewhat controversial. Off a restart with 40 laps to go, Setzer struggled to clear Berry down the backstretch, but Berry spun without contact in Turns 3 and 4. Pollard spun, also seemingly without contact to avoid the sideways Berry.
Pollard spun in a 360 degree fashion, and kept forward progress.
Race control deemed that Berry was the cause of the caution, and would be sent to the rear, while Pollard spun to avoid Berry and was not involved in the caution. Series director Chris Ragle allowed Pollard to retain second place beside Setzer.
That’s all he needed to eventually chase down and pass the second-generation racer.
Ragle called it a judgement call and cited the lack of contact between Pollard and any other competitor for why the Super Late Model superstar was not sent to the rear.
And for Pollard, it was the pathway to his first victory at Hickory, one of the most legendary venues in short track racing.
“I want to win here so bad,” Pollard said. “For years and years, I tried. We took a break for a couple of years. Then we came back and had some more issues. We came here to get ready for the Easter Bunny (150) and we want to win that one too. At least come back and try. But this is a special place. A lot of the guys who made this sport have won here.”
1. 26p Bubba Pollard
2. 6 Brandon Setzer
3. 54 Matt Craig
4. 78 Corey Heim
5. 14 Jared Fryar
6. 37 Dan Speeney
7. 45 Kodie Conner
8. 96 Wyatt Alexander
9. 21 Bronson Butcher -1
10. 97 Josh Berry OUT
11. 17 Mike Speeney OUT
12. 16 Molly Helmuth OUT
13. 8 Tate Fogleman OUT
14. 00 Anthony Cataldi OUT
15. 34 Nolan Pope OUT
16. 49 Jeff Batten OUT
17. 27 Tyler Church OUT
18. 22 Tim Hollis OUT
19. 21t Trey Bayne OUT
20. 26r Christian Rose OUT