Rubber & Specialties 100: Pollard ‘Proves’ He Still Has It, Wins Blizzard Opener; 2 Days Claim Checkereds
By Chuck Corder
Short-track racing has made room for a collection of young drivers to take the spotlight in recent years.
But, Bubba Pollard keeps scoring wins for the “old fogies” at Five Flags Speedway.
Pollard, who officially became a 30-something last month, dominated the Rubber and Specialties 100 on Friday night at the famed half-mile asphalt oval. The Senoia, Ga., driver won by more than three full seconds in the third of 12 races on the Southern Super Series schedule this season.
Pollard, already the all-time leader in Deep South Cranes Blizzard Series victories, added to that total with his 13th career win in the Super Late Model series.
After seeing a few new names ascend to near the top of the sport, Pollard righted the ship in a big way Friday.
“We’ve been struggling,” admitted Pollard, who was the fast qualifier (16.474 seconds), but started third on a redraw. “It’s been tough on us. But, we’ve been working and never thought about giving up.
“We had to come here and prove something. Everybody has been counting us out. This feels pretty good.”
Pollard has now won back-to-back Blizzard Series victories, dating back to last September’s season finale. His impressive victory spoiled a wonderful run from Donnie Wilson, who always seems to be snakebit at Pensacola’s high banks.
The Oklahoma City, Okla., driver finished second and Georgia’s Kyle Plott came home third.
“I can’t thank my crew enough because the driver (Wilson) screwed up qualifying,” Wilson said, falling on his sword for a poor performance in the time trials.
Plott led the first 50 laps before Pollard chose a bold path to the lead on the outside. It was a daring, but brilliant pass from Pollard to get out front.
Daring and brilliant. Two adjectives that describe Pollard perfectly.
“Bubba was hooked up,” Plott said. “My car was good, but (Pollard and Wilson) had the two better cars.”
Pollard was not once challenged in the second half of the race. His lead at one point grew to 3.5 seconds, and the only time Pollard faced any issues was navigating his way through lapped traffic.
But, even that, he made look easy.
“It has been a tough couple of months and been rough on my guys,” Pollard said. “But they fixed this thing.”
Indeed, they did and made the old guy feel young again.
Jay Jay Day is a Pro Trucks pioneer.
When Five Flags Speedway debut the then-new series several years ago, Day was one of just a few drivers in relatively small fields.
As the class has ballooned, so has Day’s talents.
The Theodore, Ala., native scored his first Pro Trucks feature win of the season, and first since 2014, on Friday night at the famed half-mile asphalt oval. Day dusted a 12-car field in the 30 lapper.
“It has been a long time,” Day said. “The Pro Trucks have change a lot. We’ve been in it since the first one. When we started off, it was just three of us. It’s been a lotta work.
“Of course, I’m happy to be back in Victory Lane, but I’m most happy for the guys that work on this truck.”
Pensacola’s Clint Holmes finished runner-up and defending Pro Trucks Snowball Derby champion Jarrett Parker rounded out the podium. Parker, of Molino, was the fast qualifier (18.614 seconds), but came to the pits for a right-rear flat tire following contact with another truck.
Holmes held off Parker by a radiator to earn that second-place finish, coming across the start-finish line sideways.
“We’ll get ‘em,” Holmes said. “It’ll just take a little more time.”
Jensen Jorgensen, younger brother to reigning Pro Trucks champion Taylor Jorgensen, started on the pole following a restart with big sister in his ear all night, acting as his spotter.
But Jensen Jorgensen made a daring attempt at a high-side pass of Day early in the race and it cost him positioning for the remainder of the 30-lap feature.
The only sweat Day endured all night came with about six laps left when the lapped car of Troy Grisaffi nearly came down across his nose.
Day avoided disaster and never looked back.
The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen
On an unlucky roll of the die, they started in the back.
But by the end of the 25-lap feature, the class of The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen had risen to the top.
On first glance Friday night, it appeared that Alabama’s Mark Barnhill had scored his second win of 2017 at Five Flags Speedway. But on further inspection, make that technical inspection, Barnhill’s No. 3 was ruled to be in violation.
That delivered series points leader Brannon Fowler of Molino his third victory four tries, leaving five-time Sportsmen Snowball Derby king Steve Buttrick as runner-up and Jim Pokrant third.
“The car was fighting a loose condition,” Fowler said. “All in all, it was a good night.”
Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks
Whatever obstacles try to derail Jonathan Day, the Mobile driver sheds them like former NFL great Emmitt Smith shed would-be tacklers.
Friday night at Five Flags Speedway, it was a slick track whose efforts proved futile.
Day ran his unblemished mark in Pensacola this season to four, winning yet another Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks 20-lap feaure and on the same night his cousin Jay Jay Day won the 30-lap Pro Trucks feature.
“I tell you what we had a lot nicer of a race this week,” said Jonathan Day, who has retaliated against Alabama driver Robert Loper on numerous occasions in 2017. “We didn’t have anybody come down on anybody else. The cars look the same as the way we began the race.”
Tommie Blocker, another Alabama driver, claimed second and Pensacola’s Robert Balkum settled for another third-place finish.
Day credited his success during this triumphant return campaign to the tireless work and long hours he puts into the silver No. 11.
“I want everything on it to be perfect,” he said. “I just want it to be as good as it’s gonna be.”