The expression is French for “already seen,” and that’s exactly how it felt at the end of the Allen Turner Pro Late Model Tune-Up 100 championship race Saturday night at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.
A pair of Georgians— Bubba Pollard and Casey Roderick— both added achievements to their resumes at the end of the night. Pollard was victorious in the race, while Roderick won the season-long war and his second consecutive Pro Late Model championship at the track. But the duo’s trip to victory lane was a little too familiar.
Just two hours prior, both drivers were parked in the same spots, receiving the same awards, albeit for a different event: The Blizzard Series finale. And almost identically to the 150-lap Super Late Model feature, Pollard dominated in the final stretch of the race, while Roderick salvaged a top-10 finish.
“It’s pretty cool to have this good of a weekend,” Pollard said into a microphone overtop a sea of cheers. “I’ve got good people behind me, and it makes my job a lot easier. I can’t thank them enough.”
For Pollard, the night was as inexplicable as the car he piloted to complete the sweep, a car that has yet to lose. Pollard recently pocketed $38,000 USD when he traveled north of the border with the Pro Late Model to Jukasa Motor Speedway (CA) and won. It also happens to be the machine that Pollard drove to his first and only Snowflake 100 victory back in 2017.
“Sometimes you get those type of race cars that just run good and you don’t know what it is about it,” Pollard told Speed51.com. “It’s been a phenomenal car and fortunately, we haven’t lost any yet.”
It’s hard to believe that Pollard’s short track sweep was anything less than a calculated performance by driver and crew alike, but the team struggled throughout the afternoon to find the right setup for both cars. Pollard was visibly upset during practice, at one point throwing his gloves out of the driver’s window in frustration as West Coast invaders like Derek Thorn rose to the top of the charts.
“I just felt like we weren’t where we needed to be in practice,” Pollard said. “It’s so hot and there were 60 cars here, which normally doesn’t happen. I think the rubber took to the track and made it slick and we needed a lot more grip in both cars. I didn’t know what we had.”
Despite Pollard’s underwhelming practice runs, it wasn’t the Californian’s No. 43 machine sitting in victory lane at the end of the 100 laps. Thorn, who ended up two spots short of victory, was content with his performance, however, which doubled as practice for December’s bigger picture.
“It’s tough to come out here from the West Coast running this tire, these types of cars on this track and what not,” Thorn said of his third-place finish. “We came out here to try and get ourselves a little heads up coming into the Derby, and I feel like after both races we have a notebook about a mile long. It’s neat to come out and run against guys as good as this because it only pushes you to be better as a team. We’re going to go back and work on stuff and hopefully come back better than we are now.”
Thorn’s notebook-turned novel is opposite of Pollard’s approach for the crown jewel event, which consists of adapting from a solid baseline, an improvisational sort of strategy that has paid off more than once for the veteran.
“You can’t take much off of this race because it’s too different from Derby time,” Pollard said. “You just have to adapt to the race track for that given weekend. That’s what we did this weekend, we had to get off our baseline and try something different.”
“Different” may make history in a couple of months if Pollard can become the first driver to sweep the Snowball Derby weekend. In the meantime, Casey Roderick and Ronnie Sanders Racing will keep racking up records as the season comes to a close.
“We got us two championships, that’s pretty cool to have on board with us now,” Roderick said. “Thanks to everybody that came out tonight to watch and my crew for hanging in there with me. We’ve got this behind us and now we have one more championship to win, hopefully we can pull that off.”
The 25-year-old became the first driver to win both the Super and Pro Late Model championships at Five Flags and leads the points heading into the Southern Super Series finale at Mobile International Speedway (AL) in October.
Record-setting championships aside, Roderick is still searching for the combination of skill and setup that’s going to etch the yellow and black No. 26 into his rearview mirror.
“We came in, made a shock change on the right rear and it was a little better but not where it needs to be,” Roderick said of his car, which landed him in sixth place. “We’ll go back to the shop and work on it, get it ready for Snowball weekend. We’ve got a lot of work to do to get our car in winning condition.”
Jeff Choquette finished the night in second after struggling with a loose car, while Jared Fryar and Minnesota’s Cole Anderson rounded out the top five.
Race fans can watch an on-demand broadcast of Saturday’s Blizzard Series and Allen Turner Pro Late Model finales on Speed51.com.
-Story by: Melissa Strahley, Speed51.com Gulf Coast Editor
-Photo credit: Melissa Strahley / Speed51.com