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Commentary: Bubba Pollard and Stephen Nasse set the tone for explosive 2020

The two biggest names in Super Late Model racing gave us a lot to talk about over the weekend

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Super Late Model racing is fortunate to have both Bubba Pollard and Stephen Nasse.

Above all else, that is an irrefutable fact.

The feedback and reaction to their confrontation on Saturday night at Watermelon Capital Speedway is a testament to what they have built over the past decade and what they have the potential to provide over the next one.

Pollard and Nasse are the two biggest personalities in the discipline right now and supernovas are the result of a stellar collision. Make no mistake: this was a supernova.

WHAT HAPPENED ON TRACK?

Pollard and Nasse were racing for the win on a restart with 17 laps to go in CRA Speedfest when the two repeatedly came together. Nasse pinched Pollard on corner entry and Pollard didn’t back down with 17 to go or with 16 to go. It wasn’t egregiously dirty but was simply a byproduct of hard racing at one of the tightest bullrings in the country.

Pollard didn’t lift and Nasse pinched again with 15 to go. Pollard had two fresher tires and was clearly quicker.

Nasse pinched again in Turn 1 with 13 to go and pinched even tighter in Turn 3 – obvious contact resulting between them.

So, when they came back around in Turn 1 and Nasse pinched even tighter, the resulting contact shot Nasse up the track. Nasse responded on the opposite end of the track by sailing deep in the corner and catching Pollard in the left rear as he jumped back on the throttle.

The light contact was just enough to send Pollard around on the frontstretch.

It’s worth considering two things at this point:

First, neither Pollard nor Nasse were racing each other on ground rules that were established during this five-lap battle. The two raced around other throughout the afternoon and were often in close proximity to each other. There was periodically contact between them.

Second, while there is respect between them, Pollard and Nasse simply do not see eye-to-eye, the differences between them enough to generate animosity and the similarities in attitude enough to make them combustible.

So, it was to no surprise whatsoever when Pollard essentially dumped Nasse on the backstretch on the ensuing restart, once both drivers restarted at the tail-end of the field. Pollard felt wronged by what had happened in Turns 3 and 4 with 12 laps to go.

Nasse felt as if this was just another chapter of the lingering animosity that has been brewing between them over the past 10 years.

READ MORE: Inside the mind of Stephen Nasse — SLM’s most polarizing figure

WHAT HAPPENED OFF TRACK?

So, what changed?

Nasse is on the cusp on ascending to Pollard territory. He flat dominated the Winchester 400 and was in position to win the All-American 400 before an incident with 14 to go eliminated him. He took the checkered flags at the Snowball Derby before Titanium Gate stripped the Tom Dawson Trophy from his exuberant hands.

Even with the controversies, Nasse is ascending to elite territory in Super Late Model racing.

In many ways, Pollard and Nasse are very similar archetypes. Both are no-nonsense, politically incorrect and hyper-competitive alpha racers. While Nasse has earned (and largely owned) the polarizing bad boy persona over the past two years, Pollard has increasingly shown a combative temper in his 30s.

It started with a long-simmering feud with Matthew and Jeff Craig that culminated with Pollard pummeling the elder car owner after getting shown the middle finger during the Throwback 276 cool down lap.

Pollard has warned Nasse about his admittedly lengthy list of antics, while Nasse would rightfully point out that Pollard was heralded for his behavior at Hickory when he would have been endlessly chided over it.

The question isn’t why are these two feuding but rather, how did it take this long to boil over?

READ MORE: Bubba Pollard is short track racing’s blue collar future hall of famer

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

And honestly, none of this is a bad thing.

While no one benefits from a prospective Pollard-Nasse fist fight, the two drivers exchanging very loud words and middle fingers is just plain fun.

While some casual observers roll their eyes over the theatrics of short track racing, the close competition and big personalities is everything that makes stock car racing fun. It’s a throwback to what NASCAR used to be before multimillion-dollar sponsorships and television considerations filtered everything into something homogenized, pasteurized and sanitized for your enjoyment.

No, this doesn’t happen every week.
Yes, this happens more when you put 30 cars on tracks that are shorter than a half-mile.

Saturday reflected everything that’s right about short track racing in 2020. Car counts have steadied and are ripe with parity. The close quarters combat of racing on bullrings encourage rivalries and remind fans why they wear the colors of a particular driver.

That should be appreciated and not criticized.

Pick a side.
Buy a ticket.
Order a PPV.

If Speedfest is any indication, the 2020 short track season is going to be a tremendous amount of fun.

HEIM AND PLOTT WARRANT OUR ATTENTION

It’s going to get lost in the aftermath of what happened between Pollard and Nasse, but we shouldn’t skip over what happened in the final laps between winner Corey Heim and runner-up Kyle Plott.

It was a fitting juxtaposition against the previous battle for the win that Heim and Plott were able to swap positions, undercut and crossover without wrecking each other. There is a tremendous amount of mutual respect between them that dates back years.

They even share a spotter on occasion in the form of Lloyd Garner.

Unlike Pollard and Nasse, Plott and Heim still have NASCAR ambitions. Plott made his NASCAR Truck Series debut late last year and Heim is still working his way up the ARCA ladder system. Both are underrated talents who are going to take their shots at racing in front of a mainstream audience.

Heim has come close so many times to winning the big one, having the Martinsville Late Model Stock 300 stripped from him in painstaking fashion, while the Plotts are the family team that make a lot out of little in the grand scheme of things.

It was refreshing to see the two of them race hard but clean in the aftermath of the theatrics. They put themselves in position to capitalize and delivered the icing on top to what was an otherwise perfect night of racing in South Georgia on Saturday.

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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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