It’s not the first weekend of December nor the Snowball Derby but Stephen Nasse earned a degree of vindication on Friday night by winning the Southern Super Series race at 5 Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.
This was the first Super Late Model race of the season at Pensacola since Nasse and his Jett Motorsports team were disqualified from the 2019 Snowball Derby for an unapproved brake package.
Nasse has been adamant ever since that his brakes did not win him the race, but the polarizing moment lit a fire under his team over the winter, and the work was validated on Friday night in the Forever 11 David Rogers Memorial 100.
As was the case in December, Nasse parked his car in the inspection area at Five Flags Speedway but was not greeted by usual technical director Ricky Brooks — who was fulfilling his Trans-Am Series duties at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course over the weekend.
The absence was not lost on Nasse while in the inspection bay.
“We haven’t cleared tech, so you never know what kind of shenanigans are going to go on, but the key ingredient ain’t here right now so we might be alright,” Nasse told Short Track Scene after the race.
Nasse passed inspection this time — securing the first Blizzard Series victory of his career as a result.
“It’s definitely some redemption coming back for us,” Nasse added. “I knew this season would be a good season for us. I knew it would be a strong one. I’ve been saying it. I’ve been feeling it. Every practice, every test, I feel a lot of raw speed. We’ve come a long way as a team. It’s satisfying to start clicking off these wins.
“We’ve added some new sponsors like Deep South Crane to take care of tires. It feels good to have this kind of support and to get back in Victory Lane.”
Nasse started the race in sixth and had taken the lead from Hunter Robbins on Lap 65. There was a caution and restart with 23 laps to go but the Jett Motorsports No. 51 was too good and simply drove away from the field.
The first 65 laps were the first laps Robbins had led in several years, due in part to a three-year stint in which he had served as a race engineer and car chief in NASCAR for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Robbins moved back home to the Gulf Coast over the winter and reunited with Ronnie Sanders, who he last drove for from 2012-2014.
Robbins ultimately finished second in just his third start back in the legendary Ronnie Sanders No. 18.
“It was a good day,” Robbins said. “I don’t know that I expected it. Tires and speed were more important than they’ve ever been here. We had a really good race. The invert went our way and that let us start on the pole.
“We led a bunch of laps. I don’t remember the last time we led this many laps in the Super. That was a real good confidence booster. That was the biggest thing. I’ve ran two races in the past five years, so I just needed to get my confidence back up from being on the other side of the wall the past few years.”
After Friday night’s run, he’s got it, and is ready for Saturday’s follow up.
“Just going to bolt four tires on it and try again,” he said.
The race was named the Forever 11 100 in memorial of David Rogers, the 1994 NASCAR All American Weekly Series champion, who passed away in March due to complications stemming from lymphatic cancer.
Rogers was a fixture in the Deep South Super Late Model racing for 40 years and had just broken the Snowball Derby starts record in December.
Bubba Pollard drove his iconic TM Ranch No. 11 colors to a championship during the 2019 World Series of Asphalt and was selected by the team and family to drive it one more time on Friday night at Pensacola.
Pollard fell two positions short of driving the paint scheme to victory lane but was proud that the TM Ranch Racing team asked him to drive the No. 11 in one last race.
“David would have been upset with third,” Pollard said. “He would have wanted to win. That’s what we expect. We would have liked to have gotten the victory but came up a little short.”
Pollard said his car, a new Senneker chassis, was just too free to compete for the win.
The No. 11 paced the field during pace laps during a touching tribute to one of the most admired personalities of modern short track competition.
Former Series and track champion Casey Roderick made his debut with his own No. 25 Rowdy Manufacturing Super Late Model on Friday and appeared to have the car to beat if not for a persistent fluid leak that twice eliminated him from contention.
He was running second on Lap 33 when was called to pit road by race control for leaking fluid onto the racetrack. He took his brand-new car from the rear of the field back to second on Lap 77 when he was again called down pit road for leaking fluid.
This time, it ended his race.
“It’s all brand new everything, really. Trailer, pit box, car, everything. I’m proud of what we were able to bring to the racetrack,” Roderick said. “A lot of hard work went into getting the car done.
“It was kind of a surreal moment for me. I came here with my own program and we had the fastest car on the racetrack tonight. I think a lot of people saw that and I’m proud for that.”
With his win, Nasse scored $5,000 but also collected an addition $5,000 thanks to the Southern Super Series ‘Double Down in the Next Town,’ loyalty program since he started the previous race on the tour in May at South Alabama Speedway.
Nasse could earn a total $35,000 this weekend if he can double up on Saturday night.
It would be a $25,000 pay day for winning the second Twin 100 — $5,000 for win, $5,000 for ‘Double Down at the Next Town,’ $10,000 for sweeping the weekend and $5,000 for Phoenix Construction’s best weekend average bonus.
The only major incident took place on Lap 1 when the midfield got stacked up on the initial start, resulting in a massive crash that destroyed the cars driven by Jack Dossey III, Donnie Wilson and Kyle Sieg. Dossey got turned sideways in front of the field and drivers had nowhere to go.
Green flag for the Southern Super Series and immediate caution and red flag for a crash in Turn 1
Donnie Wilson, Kyle Sieg and Jack Dossey couldn't drive away.
Dossey got turnee around in front of the field and cars had nowhere to go. pic.twitter.com/54aZhb6TiP
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) June 27, 2020
What did Wilson see?
“Nothing, and I just collided into it,” he said.
As for Dossey:
“Someone in front of me missed a shift and car behind me just drove through us is what it looked like,” Dossey said. “I saw (Connor Okrzesik drive under Kodie Conner but I don’t know if that’s where it started and escalated.
“I was already on the brakes at the start finish line and it was just the accordion effect. I had nowhere to go.”
Wilson has a back-up car but isn’t sure if he will race on Saturday, fearing the loss of two cars on one weekend, while Dossey plans to use his back-up car for the second race.
The second Rowdy Energy Twin 100 takes place on Saturday night at 8 p.m. CT. Nasse drew a 12 for the invert, meaning he will start 12th. Friday night fast qualifier Kyle Plott and reigning Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway track champion Jackson Boone will lead the field to green.
The results from Friday night can be read below.
- Stephen Nasse
- Hunter Robbins
- Bubba Pollard
- Jeremy Pate
- Carson Hocevar
- Willie Allen
- Connor Okrzesik
- Jake Garcia
- John DeAngelis
- Logan Bearden
- Jackson Boone
- Kyle Plott
- Perry Patino
- Daniel Dye
- Kodie Conner
- Boris Jurkovic
- Austin Nason
- Bob Lyon
- Colton Nelson
- Chris Davidson
- Jesse Dutilly
- Michael Atwell
- Casey Roderick
- Nick Neri
- Kyle Ivey
- Kaden Honeycutt
- Friday Hassler, Jr.
- Terry Senneker
- Preston Peltier
- George Gorham, Jr.
- Hudson Halder
- Kyle Sieg
- Jack Dossey III
- Donnie Wilson
- Shefflon Clay