Defending Southern Super Series champion Daniel Hemric emerged as the winner of the title-deciding Sunoco 125 at Mobile International Speedway on Saturday night, prevailing in a three-wide finish at the line over Augie Grill and Jeff Choquette.
It was good enough to net him the victory but not enough to repeat as Series champion, honors that went to Bubba Pollard following a fourth place result at the storied Alabama half-mile.
Hemric restarted to the outside of Choquette with nine laps to go and the two remained side-by-side until the drop of the white flag. Entering the final corner of the final lap, Hemric made contact with Choquette, allowing Grill to bridge the gap. Hemric prevailed on the outside with all three cars crossing the line within .008 of a second of each other.
The victory was Hemric’s second of the season in the SSS and he celebrated with a spectacular burnout that utterly destroyed his Ford motor. The emotion and thrill of the victory was still on his face a few moments afterwards in Victory Lane.
“It’s pretty awesome when you can start 25 cars and have a finish like that after 125 laps,” Hemric said. “That’s why fans pay the money to see this series race. When we have finishes like that it keeps them coming back. I am just proud to be a winner on the final night with Carswell Motorsports.”
Trailing Pollard by 16 points when the race started, Hemric did everything that was required of him to score a second consecutive championship but he came up just short in the final race of the season.
“We gave it everything we had and then some,” said Hemric spotter Branden Lines in Victory Lane.
Needing to finish sixth or better in order to secure the SSS championship, Pollard finished fourth on Saturday and ultimately nipped Hemric by seven markers to score the crown one year removed from his single-point Hemric defeat.
“It sure makes up for last year,” Pollard said. “We have had a great year so I can’t say anything bad about it. I hate to say we were points racing tonight but we were doing what we needed to do to be the champion. We stayed up front and got the finish we needed to end up on top.
“I am proud of the season we’ve had. It’s an honor to be the champion and to race with this group.”
As for the three-wide finish, Augie Grill says that while he’s had some side-by-side finishes during the course of his career, he’s never been a part of something as wild as what he experienced on Saturday night.
“They touched there in 3 and 4, late center on the last lap and I had a window,” Grill said. “It was either ride behind Choquette and finish third or take the bottom and see what we could do. We got a good run on the bottom and got second. We were just three feet short.”
Choquette echoed Grill in saying that, he too, has never experienced a three-wide finish.
“That was a first,” Choquette said. “In all my 19 years of racing, I have never been a part of a three-wide finish like that. Too bad we came out on the short end but we had a great car tonight and we’ll head to the (Snowball) Derby from here.”
Official race results and video interviews from the Sunoco 125 can be found below.
1. Daniel Hemric
2. Augie Grill
3. Jeff Choquette
4. Bubba Pollard
5. Mike Garvey
6. Casey Smith
7. Anderson Bowen
8. Donnie Wilson
9. Dalton Sargeant
10. Casey Roderick
11. Garrett Jones
12. Bayley Currey
13. Josh Bragg
14. Denver Foran
15. Jimmy Simmons
16. Ross Kenseth
17. Jimmy Garmon
18. Dustin Smith
19. Kyle Grissom
20. Harrison Burton
21. John Coffman
22. Allen Karnes
23. David Odell
24. Steven Wallace
25. Don Hale Jr.