The 2017 Southern Super Series season kicks off this weekend with the 41st Annual Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway. With another exciting year on the horizon for the fifth-year series, we’ve put together some news and notes heading into the season.
A Quest to Defend: Donnie Wilson enters the 2017 season on top of the world as the defending champion in the Southern Super Series. Wilson had a fine season, but really his reach extends back a few seasons with lots of success. In 2014 he missed a race, but won three times and contended for the title. In 2015, he was second in points before completing the deal in 2016. He is the best candidate to win back-to-back SSS titles in series history.
First-Time Club: Over the last few years, the Southern Super Series has produced some new winners in what is considered by many to be the toughest Super Late Model division in the country. Last year Ty Majeski, Cole Anderson and Garrett Jones were the three drivers who recorded their first wins. Who can we expect this year? Stephen Nasse has been running well, Jeff Choquette is due and perhaps Zane Smith is next? Lots of questions will be answered and perhaps some names will rise that we didn’t mention.
Burton to Be a Ringer: Harrison Burton has been one of the shining stars to start the 2017 season. However, he’s going to be nothing more than a ringer in the Southern Super Series. By our math he could likely make half a dozen starts as he will be forced to miss some dates due to his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule.
Chasing Big Wins: Another driver who will be making starts in big SSS events will be 2004 Snowball Derby winner Steve Wallace. He isn’t scheduled to run the full season, but will kick off the season at The Rattler this weekend. We can imagine Bubba Pollard will have this mindset as well, unless the No. 26 team rattles off a few early season wins.
Dramatic Endings: As the Southern Super Series enters it’s fifth year perhaps we were spoiled by the early history. In 2013, Daniel Hemric slipped past Bubba Pollard by one point to win the championship on the final night. A season later Hemric won a three-wide photo finish with Pollard finishing fourth to win the title by seven points.
The most recent two years have seen titles get locked up by much larger margins, despite the parity in the series remaining healthy. Last year, no one had more than two wins and four different drivers picked up a pair of wins. We hope to see a title fight go down to the wire this year. We are not sure who the key players will be just yet.
Rookie Contingent: Having fresh blood in the series is always key to success for the next year and the year after that. Kyle Plott and Connor Okrzesik are two names that stick out right away. Plott ran strong in a few events last fall and won the big money independent race at Greenville Pickens Speedway (SC) in Super Late Model action. Okrzesik was 13th at the Snowball Derby after starting 33rd in his first Super Late Model start. He’s not run many races, but he’s been impressive and should be more polished at season’s end. Maybe another name will pop up as well.
Streaking Alive for Georgia Ace: Bubba Pollard ended the 2016 season with a victory, making him the only driver to score a Southern Super Series win in all four seasons. Pollard has 12 wins and 18 fast time awards. When it comes to fast time awards, Pollard is the runaway leader after he set fast time nine times in 2013.
The Road to the Golden Derby: The Snowball Derby turns 50 this year and lots of planning is going into make this race special. Already the marquee event of the year we wonder what tricks does Tim Bryant and his staff have up their sleeve? We’ll have to wait to find out, but one thing is for certain: the Southern Super Series champion will receive a provisional for the historic race. That’s something for drivers to set their sights on.
The Road to Bristol: May will be a big month with the much anticipated race at the Bristol Motor Speedway (TN). Teams will flock from three different series to produce a car count that could be the largest of the season for Super Late Models. Very few drivers have ever had a shot at the Bristol high banks, let alone race there.
Combo Club: For fans who wondered about points at combo events then look no further; it’s simple. Drivers who race Bristol or Anderson will score points for all series involved. At Bristol, it will be the Southern Super Series, CRA Super Series and the CARS Tour Super Late Models. Later on at Anderson, it will be the Southern Super Series and the CARS Tour Super Late Models.
Past Series Champions
2016 Donnie Wilson
2015 Casey Smith
2014 Bubba Pollard
2013 Daniel Hemric
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent – Twitter: @ElginTraylor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com