On the topic of Southern Super Late Model racing, it’s probably a good bet to never count out Bubba Pollard. The 2014 Southern Super Series champion scored what felt like an upset victory on Sunday night at CRA Speefest, outlasting a star-studded roster of short track contenders at the Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, Georgia.
While he rarely arrives to the track as an underdog, Pollard admitted on Saturday that he and his team were just a little off the pace after the two days of practice and qualifying for the CRA season-opening exhibition race.
He qualified 11th on Saturday night, behind the likes of Zane Smith, Ty Majeski, John Hunter Nemechek and defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch and admitted that he wasn’t quite at their level by the end of the day.
And yet, following a series of crashes and controversies involving each of the leaders from the afternoon, Pollard found himself in the lead on a one-lap shootout and just barely held off a hard-charging Harrison Burton to return to Victory Lane for the first time since September.
Pollard drove in too deep off Turn 4, which allowed Burton to door slam him coming to the checkered flag, but it wasn’t enough to keep him out of Victory Lane.
Even despite the recent struggles, even Pollard scoffs at the notion that he was somehow a long shot entering Race Day.
“I feel like we can win every time we go to the race track,” Pollard said. “I feel like we have the car and team capable of doing that. We just have to put ourselves in the right position and make the right adjustments like we did tonight.
“We just keep working. Yeah, we didn’t have the best race car. And yeah, we were a little off. But the difference between me and everyone else is that I wanted this. I’m hungry and I wanted to win. I hadn’t won in awhile.”
Hailing from nearby Senoia, Georgia, this was also an emotional home town victory for Pollard. In a race that featured Nemechek and Busch, Pollard received equal cheers from his fellow Georgians and that fact wasn’t lost on him in Victory Lane.
“For sure, it feels good,” Pollard said. “I have a lot of friends and family who support me, but who can’t get to watch me when we race in California or in the Midwest, but they can come out here and watch me win here.
“Man, I got cheers equal to Kyle Busch and if that doesn’t motivate you when you’re walking across the stage, I don’t know what will. That motivated me to come out here all the more. That was a lot of fun.”
Ty Majeski opened the race from the pole and led the entirety of the first half. He only lost the top spot to Brandon Setzer based on pit strategy, as Setzer took just one tire at the halftime break to assume the lead.
Majeski took two and would spend several laps behind Setzer.
Busch struggled all weekend and his day would come to a quick end in the second half when he drove off the Turn 3 hill and into the shallow creek on the outskirts of the track. It’s worth noting that Watermelon Capital Speedway does not have a wall beyond the one that separates the cars from the grandstands on the frontstretch.
Setzer and Majeski knocked each other out of the race in the closing stages, as Setzer spun across his nose after crossing the start finish line. It appeared as if Setzer had been cleared from the bottom of the track and drifted high into Majeski.
The contact sent Setzer into the wall and damaged the front end of the Majeski Super Late Model, eventually setting the table for the three-way battle between Byron, Nemechek and Pollard.
Officially, Pollard only was credited with leading two laps, but they were the ones that paid the most money.
The complete and unofficial results can be found below.
- Bubba Pollard
- Harrison Burton
- Zane Smith
- Noah Gragson
- Cole Anderson
- Christian Eckes
- Brennan Poole
- Scotty Ellis
- Steve Dorer
- Joey Padgett
- Ty Majeski
- Quinton Bear
- Derek Scott Jr
- John Hunter Nemecheck
- Scott Hantz
- William Byron
- Kyle McCallum
- Kyle Plott
- Jerry Artuso
- Kyle Bryant
- Derek Kraus
- Brandon Setzer
- Casey Roderick
- Kyle Busch
- Brady Boswell
- Wes Griffith Jr
- Brandon Oakley
- Bret Holmes
- Stuart Dutton
- Donnie Wilson