How the 2023 season ended left Bubba Pollard feeling mad and motivated and it propelled him to start 2024 with a third consecutive victory in Speedfest at Watermelon Capital Speedway.
With their Snowball Derby incident still fresh of mind, Pollard on fresher tires started to challenge Stephen Nasse on older tires with about 20 laps to go. Over the radio, spotter Andrea Pollard told her brother to be patience and that he had ‘plenty of time.’
Then they approached a lapped car and Nasse tried to stall Pollard behind it, with the winningest modern driver in the history of the discipline simply forcing it three-wide and to the lead. Casey Roderick took him and Jake Finch three-wide earlier in the race too.
Pollard says he has had enough with being raced a certain way, and after how he was denied the Tom Dawson Trophy last month, plans to make a statement all season and it started on Saturday with Speedfest.
“I am pissed off and I have a grudge on my shoulder,” Pollard said after tech cleared. “There are a lot of things people don’t know about, that will (read these quotes) and say he’s a crybaby but there are a lot of things behind the scenes that people have no idea.
“For us to win races and compete, work hard, I am fired up for this year. Our cars are good. I’m ready to win some races. I’m not done. I still have a couple of years left in me.”
For as indignant as Pollard feels about everything right now, Nasse says he will continue to race Pollard hard and backed it up in trying to defend the lead before finishing second.
“Every racer knows that move and I’m doing everything I can because I know he’s way faster than I am so I did try to pick him down there,” Nasse said. “We did a little bit of rubbing but it’s just hard racing. I’m not going to lay over when I’m in the lead. I’m going to race hard. We rubbed fenders but nothing too serious and we both have race cars we can work on to take to the next race.
“I enjoy this when we’re both running good.”
Pollard had a bit of an edge when asked about the move Nasse made.
“I ain’t taking shit off no body,” Pollard said. “I’m done …They can say what they want to about me, but I work on my own stuff and pay my own bills. I can do what I want and when I knock the fenders off it, I fix it myself.
“I don’t take it to the chassis manufacture and have them rebuild it. I race people how they race me. I give and take a lot with a lot of guys but I’m going to start doing whatever it takes to run up front and run good, and if I make enemies, I’ll get it back.”
Pollard was the class of the field and led the most laps but had to prove it multiple times. He posted the second fastest time in qualifying but started fifth due to the positional redraw before the race. He drove to the lead anyway.
He was torn over whether he should have pitted on the Lap 75 competition caution and wasn’t sure if he could do it from the final planned competition with 25 to go. Instead, the final caution came out naturally with 41 to go and Pollard had more than enough time to work his way through the field.
His closest challenge on Saturday was actually Casey Roderick, who led from Lap 20 and stayed with Pollard even after getting passed for the top spot on Lap 35. He pit at the same time as Pollard but one caution after Nasse came in.
That restart is when Roderick took Pollard three-wide with Finch but he knew that was his only chance to get the track position over the best car of the day. He said he was thinking about it under caution the entire time before the green.
“I knew I had to do something to get a couple of cars between us,” Roderick said. “I knew my car was good enough to pick them off at the restart. My car was really good on the bottom off 2 and I just took advantage of that, get some cars between us and pick them off one at a time.”
It was short lived as Pollard made short work of him in a couple of laps anyway.
“I didn’t realize the car was going to go to the free side the way it did,” he said. “We broke away from a few of those cars. … Those other cars had broken away a little bit and I started feeling my right rear start to hang out too much.”
Pollard didn’t appreciate the three-wide either.
“Ugh, no reason for me to even go there but it’s the same thing,” Pollard said.
Does Pollard recognize that as Roderick’s only shot?
“Listen, I’m not going to take people three-wide like that,” he said. “At the end of the race, you can do that. I don’t put myself in those situations. You have to know who you’re racing with. I’ve been doing this for 24 years and I know who you can race with and who you can’t. People will probably say that about me.
“I don’t know. I knew they would be aggressive. I wasn’t worried about anyone in front of me. I knew I would have a good enough race car to race them at the end.”
Pollard has now won Speedfest at Cordele on four different occasions, 2016, 2022, 2023 and 2024, and it’s special because the race is an hour from his home in Senoia, Georgia.
“it’s special because we have a lot of friends and family that come,” Pollard said. “I hate it was so cold because we had a lot more coming. Me and the ticket lady were joking this morning that I have raced here 24 years, since I was 12 years old, and she’s put my wristband on every time that I’ve come here. She’s been here 35.
“That’s really cool to me and I hope I can just make it another 10.”
- Bubba Pollard
- Stephen Nasse
- Casey Roderick
- Dawson Sutton
- Gio Ruggiero
- Michael Hinde
- Jett Noland
- Cole Butcher
- Matt Craig
- Timothy Watson
- Michael Atwell
- Billy VanMeter
- Derek Kraus
- Jake Finch
- Daniel Webster
- Dustin Smith
- Brandon Jones
- Steve Dorer
- Stuart Dutton
- Tony Elrod
- Michael Goddard
- Hudson Halder
- Colin Allman
- Anthony Cataldi
- Dave Farrington
- Josh Berry
- Connor Orkzesik
- Jake Garcia