Pollard, Choquette Deliver Clash for the Ages with Bubba Winning 2nd Career Snowflake 100
By Chuck Corder
There have been 31 fewer Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100s than today’s 50th annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway.
While the country’s preeminent Pro Late Model race might not have the history of its big brother, it has had its moments.
In 2010, a then-15-year-old Chase Elliott came from near the back of the pack to win the first of his three Snowflake 100s. Last December, Augie Grill was overcome with emotion in Victory Lane when he celebrated his third ’Flake.
But, arguably, no prior ’Flake began with quite the bang that reverberated Saturday night around the famed half-mile asphalt oval.
Bubba Pollard, he of the more than 100 career Late Model wins, and Jeff Choquette engaged in an epic battle of door-to-door racing and lead changes that brought a packed house roaring to its feet.
Pollard finally pulled away from Choquette on Lap 45, easily handled the one caution down the stretch and cruised to Victory Lane for his second career Snowflake 100 win. His first came in 2014.
“This thing is bad,” Pollard said of his No. 26 rocket ship on Saturday. “It shows what we’re capable of. Good racecars and this great team behind me is why things have seemed easier this year. I’m grateful for a lot this week, but things have been especially smooth because of quality racecars.”
He’ll go for an unprecedented ’Flake-Derby sweep this afternoon at the golden running of the Snowball Derby, a 300-lap race for Super Late Models that is revered and awed by the racing world.
Today will be a tough encore after his spellbinding performance Saturday. Never doubt Bubba Pollard, who starts outside Row 1 today, though. That only adds more fuel to his motor.
“That’s what we came to do,” Pollard said of the potential sweep. “It gives us a lotta confidence knowing the cars are nearly identical. Day racing vs. night racing might be a little tough, but the plan is to win both.”
He won Saturday from the pole after a blistering qualifying lap of 16.702, a full tenth faster than Chandler Smith’s run that saw him qualify second.
In winning, Pollard denied PLM track champion Casey Roderick, who won all four 100-lap races during the regular season at Five Flags, of a season sweep and his 19th Late Model victory of the year.
“We built this car, in part, because Casey Roderick was winning every Pro race this year,” Pollard said.
Spencer Davis had a phenomenal night, as well. After a mediocre lap in qualifying, Davis climbed through the 36-car field full of the nation’s elite PLM drivers to come home as runner-up. Anthony Cataldi impressed by hustling from his 28th starting spot and rounded out the podium.
“We knew we had a lotta work to do starting 16th,” Davis said, “and we were able to take advantage of some people’s misfortunes.”
Choquette started fourth, but was pressing Smith for second within the first 10 laps and finally made the pass on Lap 12.
Choquette set his eyes on the polesitter and first began engaging Pollard following the first restart with 14 laps completed.
Pollard elected to start on the outside lane, a selection he made time four separate times Saturday, but it was Choquette dashing to clean air.
“He wanted to lead, so I let him go,” Pollard said. “It was fun.”
The fun continued for the full house, too, as the back-and-forth with Choquette was edge-of-your seat stuff.
Pollard responded to Choquette’s lead by slingshoting underneath and the two were number-to-number for two full laps before Pollard’s No. 26 machine reclaimed it on Lap 17 from Choquette and the No. 9.
Following a long red flag delay to clean up a Turn No. 4 mess that involved more than 10 cars — one of which was partially airborne because a car rammed into its bumper and lifted it off the pavement as the car’s front end was boxed in by two more cars — Pollard continued to keep the Loxahatchee native at bay until Choquette pulled back ahead on Lap 28.
When the night’s fifth caution flew with 39 laps completed, care to guess where Choquette restarted? On the outside.
After Pollard had taken reins of the race at the 45-lap mark, the last caution came with 68 laps completed. This time, Pollard chose the inside lane, putting everybody’s mind in a pretzel.
“I determine if I restart on the inside or outside depending on how the car behind me reacts to the groove they’re running,” he explained. “I wanted to see what he had. I knew I had to pick the bottom late in the race because (Choquette) wasn’t getting good runs through (Turn Nos.) 1 and 2.”
That kind of gamesmanship, strategy and heart-stopping battle between two or more drivers is what encompasses short-track racing and is what makes it such a beloved sport by its most passionate fans.
There is no place more wonderful and beloved to witness it than at Pensacola’s high banks. Especially during the 50th Annual Snowball Derby week.
And, especially, when a particular 30-year-old driver from Senoia, Ga., is in the mix of a race, be it the ’Flake or Derby.
Allen Turner Snowflake 100
50th Annual Snowball Derby
- 26P Bubba Pollard
- 5D Spencer Davis
- 00A Anthony Cataldi
- 9JC Jeff Choquette
- 112G Augie Grill
- 43S Justin South
- 51SN Stephen Nasse
- 78 Corey Heim
- 95G Derrick Griffin
- 18R Casey Roderick
- 14H Carson Hocevar
- 99N Junior Niedecken
- 46W Cole Williams
- 22D Steven Davis
- 12L Dan Leeck
- 26CS Chandler Smith
- 51K Zachary Knowles
- 51F Eddie Fatscher
- 00C Brandon Curren
- 55BO Brandon Oakley
- 16T Scotty Tomasik
- 24D Mason Diaz
- 14O Connor Okrzesik
- 21P Ryan Paul
- 2A Austin Wood
- 24 Christopher Tullis
- 97A Cole Anderson
- 30K Bobby Knox Jr
- 15J Jake Johnson
- R7 Ryan Worsham
- 21J Brandon Johnson
- 04 Corey Roper
- 51P Perry Patino
- 11M Jordan McCallum
- 12G Joe Graf
- 4M Elliott Massey