The most prestigious Pro Late Model race of the season was decided in the scoring tower.
Stephen Nasse executed what appeared to be a textbook bump-and-run on rival Bubba Pollard in the final corner of the final lap of the Snowflake 100 on Saturday night at Five Flags Speedway, was flagged the winner at the finish line, but had the victory stripped away from him by race control as Pollard spun into the inside retaining wall.
Nasse was literally on the frontstretch taking pictures with the trophy at the time the decision came down, a credulous smile appearing on his face as the announcement came over the public address system.
Nasse drove his car away from the victory staging area, replaced by newly declared winner Jake Johnson, whom was scored second at the time of the checkered flag.
Instead of packing up, Nasse drove his car to the technical inspection area and discussed the decision with speedway officials. The Jett Motorsports No. 51 went through the technical inspection process as Nasse and crew issued an unofficial protest of the results.
Simultaneously, the local Outlaw Stock division took over an hour to complete a crash filled race, preventing race director Nicholas Rogers from joining the meeting that was scheduled for inside the inspection shed.
Once that race had ended, Rogers and track general manager Tim Bryant joined Nasse and chief technical director Ricky Brooks inside the inspection shed for a contentious closed-door meeting.
After a 20 minute conversation, Brooks emerged with the trophy and placed it on Johnson’s car, signaling that he was officially the winner. Nasse remained in the tech shed and continued to make a case of some kind to Bryant, Rogers and Brooks for another 20 minutes.
Bryant left, and Nasse followed five minutes later, walking to a waiting golf car and zipping towards the Jett Motorsports hauler.
Nasse did not take questions on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Bryant returned to the tech shed and a separate meeting continued with Rogers and Brooks. Rogers took questions and offered the following explanation for the penalty.
“Due to the contact from the Nasse machine to the Pollard machine, it was deemed that there was rough driving involved, that caused Pollard to spin out,” Rogers said. “We looked at multiple replays and slowed the video down, watched the wheel movement, attitude of Bubba Pollard’s race car to see if he ever regained any kind of control.
“In my opinion, he did not. It was a continuous act that caused Bubba to spin off the nose of Nasse. For that reason, he was penalized to the rear of the lead lap, declaring the 15 car the winner.”
Rogers said the conversation was over Jett Motorsports protest of the decision.
“If I were a racer in his shoes, the kid ran his guts out, ran a great race,” Rogers said. “If the contact hadn’t happened on the last lap or if the contact hadn’t been as hard to where both of them came to the checkers, you would have had a different result here.
“They both ran a great race, one of the best short track races I had seen in a long time, between several of them. Unfortunately, there was contact that resulted in a car spinning and for that reason, there was a DQ … not a DQ but sending to the rear of the lead lap.”
Did Nasse and his outspoken, aggressive and hard-driving reputation play a factor in the decision from Rogers standpoint?
“Not to me,” Rogers said. “I’ve had very little issue with Stephen on the race track. He’s a heck of a driver. Whether it’s tonight or tomorrow, we have the best short track drivers in the country in it. You have some guys that run rougher than others.
“Stephen ran with us all year and was our Southern Super Series champion and I told him that I couldn’t remember a time that I penalized him for any kind of rough driving incident. There might be one out there, but it wasn’t memorable enough that I can cite it tonight and recall it as I was speaking to them.
“His reputation does not play a factor in my decisions, nor does any driver.”
Tim Bryant walks away from the tech shed on the phone. pic.twitter.com/gkMT5vgzzt
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) December 6, 2020
Bryant walked away from the tech shed without taking question, appearing to speak on the phone, and driving away from the impound compound in his pickup truck.
The Snowball Derby will take place on Sunday afternoon with both Nasse and Pollard amongst the field of 36.