Bubba Pollard Leads At The Right Time
Bubba Pollard officially led one lap, but it was really only about 10 feet.
The Georgia driver made a dramatic pass of Augie Grill just in front of the finish line to take the Papa John’s 100 Super Late Model Blizzard Series feature Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
It was one of the most dramatic finishes since the Blizzard Series started in 2004.
“That was awesome,” said a jubilant Pollard in Victory Lane. “I haven’t had that much fun in a race car in a long time.”
As the white flag came out for the final-lap sprint, Pollard pulled even with Grill, but Grill inched ahead down the backstretch. But coming out of Turn 4 to the checkered flag, Grill started to slide sideways and Pollard pulled low and edged him for the win.
“If only I’d kept it a little straighter,” Grill said with a smile. “That was exciting and fun. He barely got me. What can you do?”
The final 50 laps were filled with drama.
Grill, who was the fast qualifier, led the 27-car field through the first 50 laps, which were caution free until Wayne Niedecken Jr. and David Rogers got together.
When the lead cars pitted for new tires, Pensacola’s Eddie Mercer emerged from the pits first. On the restart, he was second behind Ken McFarland, who did not pit, while Pensacola’s Johanna Long, the winner of the season opener, was third.
Mercer quickly passed McFarland to assume the lead, but Grill tapped Long and sent her sliding through the grass, dropping her back to 13th.
It appeared that Mercer was cruising to a victory until he came upon the lapped car of Chet Morrison, who stayed on the low side. That forced Mercer to slow, while Grill zipped around the outside to take the lead with 19 laps left.
Mercer stayed right behind Grill and appeared set to make a pass, but he got loose on Lap 89 and fell back to fourth.
Meanwhile, Pollard closed behind Grill for the final dramatic laps.
“We had such a good car,” Pollard said. “We saved our tires. This is still old Pensacola, so you have to be patient and be careful.”
Casey Smith started seventh and finished third. He said dealing with the lapped cars were a problem.
“One would go high and one would go low,” he said. “You never know. I was driving my butt off.”
Mercer finished fourth and Hunter Robbins was fifth. Long took eighth.
It took three restarts to get the Sportsman feature started, but once it did, Randy Thompson made quick work of the competition, taking the 20-lap feature.
He and Steve Buttrick squeezed around polesitter Marty White in Turn 1 on the opening lap. Thompson grabbed the lead and never was challenged after that.
Billy Hoover moved up to second. Shanna Ard, who had suffered damage on one of the restarts and had to pit briefly, came from the back and worked his way up to fourth by Lap 6. He caught William Kitchen for third on Lap 18.
Hoover was disqualified in postrace inspection, giving second to Ard, while Chad Robinson was third.
Daryl Lynchard won his first Bomber feature in exciting fashion, passing Pete Kitchen two laps from the finish.
Kitchen, the polesitter, jumped out to the lead and his brother, Michael Kitchen, the points leader, followed him in second.
On Lap 11, Michael pulled even with Pete in turn 1 but the caution came out shortly after that. On the restart Lynchard jumped out to second, but got loose a lap later and dropped back to sixth.
But luck was on Lynchard’s side as the caution came out again, allowing him back into second place since that was his position on the last completed lap.
On Lap 17, Lynchard pulled even with Pete on the backstretch and took the lead coming out of turn 4 with two laps left. Michael passed Pete for second and made a run at Lynchard, pulling even in turn 1. But he got loose and Lynchard took the checkered flag.
Danny Bagwell won the 35-lap Modified feature, taking the wheel just minutes after driving in the 100-lap Late Model race.
He finished 14th, two laps down in the Blizzard race, then started ninth in the Modified feature.
He was running third when leader Chris Cotto was spun out by Nathan Ingersoll on Lap 26. Bagwell took over the lead and held off Mike Maddox for the win. Ryan Redmon finished third.
Papa John’s 100 Blizzard Series – 1. Bubba Pollard; 2. Augie Grill; 3. Casey Smith; 4. Eddie Mercer; 5. Hunter Robbins; 6. John Bolen; 7. Ryan Sieg; 8. Johanna Long; 9. Josh Hamner; 10. Jeremy Colangelo; 11. Stephan McCurley; 12. Jeff Fultz; 13. Bryce Walker; 14. Danny Bagwell; 15. Scott Carlson; 16. Matt Smith; 17. Tim Martin; 18. Stanley Smith; 19. Cecil Chunn; 20. Chet Morrison; 21. Ken McFarland; 22. Donald Long; 23. Brandon Harris; 24. Donnie Wilson; 25. David Rogers; 26. Wayne Niedecken Jr.
Sportsman feature – 1. Randy Thompson; 2. Shanna Ard; 3. Chad Robinson; 4. William Kitchen; 5. Steve Buttrick; 6. Tina Davidson; 7. Bubba Winslow; 8. Michael Ledlow; 9. Freddie McCall; 10. Wayne Burkett; 11. Jay Coleman; 12. Marty White; 13. Jack Backham; 14. Thomas Faddis; 15. Jim Pokrant; 16. Stevie Mercer
Bomber feature – 1. Daryl Lynchard; 2. Michael Kitchen; 3. Pete Kitchen; 4. William Goulet; 5. Bo Hancock; 6. Michael Nelson; 7. Devron Brooks; 8. Ssam Mellema; 9. Dayton Sidner; 10. Rick Thompson; 11. Timothy Hendrix; 12. James Beal; 13. Gary Burkett Sr.; 14. Tim Norman; 15. Mike Goraum; 16. Kody Grimes; 17. Keith Coggins; 18. Brandon Burks; 19. Rick Grimes; 20. Courtney Rodrigues; 21. Michael Johnson
Modified feature – 1. Danny Bagwell; 2. Mike Maddox; 3. Ryan Redmon; 4. Gerald Wilkerson; 5. Nathan Ingersoll; 6. Ricky Neal; 7. Phillip Merryman; 8. Ron Schneider; 9. Chris Cotto; 10. Scott Barbaric; 11. Todd Jones
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