By Kyle Brandt
IRVINGTON, Ala. (April 26, 2014) – Falling to second in the points standings after a disappointing finish at Gresham Motorsports Park two weeks ago, Bubba Pollard circled this weekend’s gulf coast doubleheader as an opportunity to rebound.
Following points leader Anderson Bowen’s disappointing result Friday night at 5 Flags Speedway in Pensacola, the championship complexion of the series was systematically blown wide open yet again – setting up a fantastic battle until the end of the season, and an opportunity for Pollard to capitalize.
After finishing third on Friday night in Pensacola, Pollard was quick off the trailer the following night at Mobile. In qualifying for Saturday night’s Pepsi 125 at the half-mile speedway, nobody could come close to Pollard and his No. 26 Ford, allowing the Senoia, Georgia native to notch his third pole of the 2014 season – and send a message to his foes that he would be the car to beat.
As the green flag waved, Pollard quickly secured the lead– doing what he has done time and time again at arguably his most successful track. Donnie Wilson, however; would keep him honest, riding closely behind him in second.
The 21st lap of the race was a major bellwether of how the entire race would play out, as Wilson, the winner of the May race at Mobile, would pass Pollard for the lead – but it wouldn’t last long. Over the next 28 laps, the two would trade the lead two more times before the night’s first caution on lap 49.
On the resulting restart, Pollard would take the lead once again, but the high speed game of leap frog between he and Wilson would rage on.
Despite falling to third on lap 66 after being passed by both Wilson and Augie Grill, Pollard would surge back to take the lead again seven laps later as the top three ran nose-to-tail.
Pollard would hold the race lead when the lap 75 competition caution halted the race for the second time of the evening.
During the ten-minute break, all of the drivers would elect to visit pit road for tires and adjustments except for Harrison Burton – the 13-year-old son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, Jeff Burton. Having took two tires on the lap 49 caution, Burton and his crew decided to gamble by taking tires early and conserving his tires on the run to the competition caution, placing him in the lead for the restart with Pollard to his outside.
Wasting no time, Pollard quickly reassumed the lead on the restart in turn one as Wilson followed closely behind in second – setting up what many though would be a continuation of the dogfight between the two that took place over the opening 75 laps of the race.
Pollard would have none of it, however; as he was able to hold off the advances of Wilson and Mike Garvey over the final 50 laps and score his series-high fifth win of the season – putting him right back in the thick of a highly contested championship battle.
“You won’t find any better competition than these guys down here in the South,” said Pollard in victory lane. “You can throw a blanket over the top five or six of us and we can all win — you better come to these races on you’re a-game. We had to do our homework after last week with this new racecar, we worked hard and hopefully we found something in it.”
With the championship battle once again wide open following the weekend’s Gulf Coast doubleheader, Pollard admitted in victory lane that qualifying and mechanical failures will determine the eventual championship winner.
Fans of the Southern Super series won’t have to wait long to find out as the series returns to action August 9th for the World Crown 300 at Gresham Motorsports Park.
Leading the Bomber division points standings by a whopping 142 points, BJ Leytham had full control of the series leading in to Saturday night’s 20 lap feature at Mobile – and his hot streak continued.
Following a complete restart on lap one following an incident involving Troy Bartlett, it took Leytham all of five laps to take the lead despite starting outside of the top-five as his teammate, and then leader, Gene Denmark would make a mistake in turn three and fall all the way to the third.
With no caution flags to halt the race, and his lead being unchallenged, the Mobile native would cruise on to yet another win – continuing his undefeated streak at the track this season and notching his 17th consecutive win dating back to 2013.
With a hotly contested battle taking place atop the Sportsman division points standings, Brannon Fowler, Lee “Red Dog” Reynolds and Mark Barnhill looked to Saturday night to take control of the series’ championship picture.
Trading wins each time out; the three were only separated by 39 points leading in to Saturday night’s 25-lap feature and would start at the front of the pack.
Following a missed shift by Reynolds at the start of the race, Fowler quickly took the lead with Barnhill closely behind in second. By time the race’s first and only caution flag waved on lap 12, Fowler opened up a lead of six car-lengths over Barnhill, but he would have to hold him and the rest of the pack on the resulting restart.
Not being challenged when the green flag waved, Fowler would cruise to the win with a new transmission in his car.
“I had a rough night in Pensacola (last night) and we worked our tails off- me and my dad,” said a winded Fowler in victory lane. “Racing for these points and all, we’ve hard to work long hours these past couple weeks and he’s done a lot by himself. Thanks, Dad. I love you.”
With Barnhill and Reynolds finishing right behind him in second and third, however; he wasn’t able to pull a gap in terms of his points lead – continuing a championship battle that appears to not be settled in the last lap of the final race of the season.
The odds-on class of the field in the Super Stock division at MIS, Dave Mader III appeared to have the series’ championship under control just two months ago.
After his car failed to pass technical inspection following a win on May 24th, however; Mader’s win was disallowed and he was awarded no points for the night – blowing the division’s points standings wide open. Trailing points leader Jason Johnson by 83 points, the former NASCAR driver would have to rely on wins and bad luck from Johnson to get back into championship fold – and on Saturday night, he would cash in on both.
Needing just eight laps to take the lead after starting third, the Irvington, Alabama native would cruise on to the win, beating second-place finisher Bobby Baria to the line by nearly 10 seconds.
With Johnson finishing fifth, Saturday night was a mission accomplished for Mader, but he will still need similar results to score the series title as the end of the season is rapidly approaching.
With just 37 points separating the top four drivers in the standings, Jay Jay Day and his Super Trucks competitors looked to Saturday night’s feature as a chance to take the championship by the horns.
Points leader Okie Mason had the ultimate say, however.
Starting in the second position, Mason needed just six laps to take the lead following a masterful pass of Day on the front stretch, but he wouldn’t have much breathing room.
With Day closely behind Mason, the two were able to pull a gap of two seconds on third-place. As the laps wound down though, Mason found something extra in his No. 6 truck and pulled away to score the win and remain in control of the championship.
Donald Crocker, Day, Ray Hoey and Ricky Vice rounded out the top-five.
Up next at the Mobile International Speedway is a packed night of racing from the Pro Late Models, Pro Truck, Super Stock, Sportsman and Bombers on August 9th at 7pm.
About Mobile International Speedway: Mobile International Speedway is the longest continuously operating sports facility in Mobile County. It was built in 1964 and has presented weekly motorsports events every year since then. As an indication of increasing community acceptance and enthusiasm, both the Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Mobile Sports Authority became MIS partners beginning in 2013.
Family attendance and participation have been the keys to the track’s continued success. Kids 5 and under are always admitted free to the grandstands. Family nights and family-oriented shows have always been staples of the annual MIS schedules. Over 30,000 people will attend the 14 scheduled MIS events in 2014.