Bubba Pollard is now $36,000 richer. The Senoia, Georgia driver invaded Washington’s Evergreen Speedway for the 4th Annual Summer Showdown and picked up $25,000 for the triumph. Pollard also set fast time for the weekend, earning him the Don Shriver Memorial Pole Award and a $1,000 check. And if that wasn’t enough, he also picked up a $10,000 bonus for having the highest combined finish between the Winter (Bakersfield, California) and Summer Showdowns. He won both of those events.
“Coming out to the northwest, we’ve raced against some of the best drivers in the country,” said Pollard. “We’re not used to seeing this many race fans. This is one of the biggest crowds we’ve raced in front of and this makes it really special.”
Three qualifying heat races set the starting grid for the 200-lap feature event. Pollard and Jason Fraser brought the field around to take the green flag. Pollard led the first two laps, only to see the race go red for a multi-car accident, which took out several of the top contenders. An engine failure on Daniel Moore’s car resulted in an oil down. The ensuing incident ended the day for Fraser, Mike Longton, Owen Riddle, Jeff Knight, Jeremy Doss and Doni Wanat. Several other drivers sustained damage and were in and out of the pit area for repairs throughout the night.
Once racing resumed, Pollard picked up where he left off and raced ahead to a ten-car lead. Behind him, Derek Thorn, Garrett Evans, Parker Stephens, Kelly Mann, Shane Harding and Tayler Riddle would battle nose to tail until the second yellow flag of the night was displayed. Blaine Rocha blew a tire, hit the front wall and collected Naima Lang in the process. Lang would drive to the pits for repairs, while Rocha was done for the night.
Pollard’s starter failed under yellow and he would need a push to get rolling for the next restart. After mixing it up with Thorn for a couple laps, Pollard pulled ahead to a five-car-length lead.
A spin by Toby Becker at lap 28 brought out the next quick caution. Just a few laps later, Becker and John Lathrop Jr. would bring out the fourth caution of the evening and that ended Lathrop’s night.
While Pollard led, Evans and Thorn raced side by side with Evans taking over the second position. All the while, Riddle would take the inside groove on Parker Stephens for the fourth position.
Evans pulled away from Thorn and cut into Pollard’s lead, as Riddle moved up to third. The top three drivers pulled away as Thorn’s car started to fall off.
The only female driver in the show, Molly Helmuth, started in the 30th starting position after running the Last Chance Qualifier. Helmuth broke into the top five and then went after Thorn for fourth. She brushed the wall as she moved around Thorn and then showed slight tire smoke from the contact.
Her impressive run came to an end on lap 77. Helmuth and the lapped car of Tom Berrow made contact and her car hit the front stretch wall.
Once the Helmuth incident was cleared away and racing resumed, Pollard, Evans and Riddle led from the field once again. Pollard would get just a few laps of breathing room as the field hit the halfway mark. At that point drivers received a seven minute window to change tires and make adjustments to their machines.
Starting the second half, Pollard jumped right out to the lead. Riddle got the inside groove on Evans to take over second and then set his sights on Pollard.
With pressure for the first time of the night, Riddle made a strong move to the outside just as John Bender and Tyler Baker got tangled in turn four bringing out caution number six. Bender would retire for the night. Baker would make repairs and return to the track.
Pollard got a huge jump as racing continued and set his fastest time of the night on lap 112. Riddle reeled him in and caught him by lap 125. With a bold move on the outside, Riddle passed Pollard and became the second leader of the race.
During the next 50 laps, Riddle would extend his lead to five seconds, with Evans gaining on Pollard for second. Word from Pollard’s crew was tire conservation mode and hope for a late race caution.
Baker spun to bring out the seventh caution. That eliminated Riddle’s advantage and gave Pollard the break he needed.
Riddle got the edge on the restart, but Pollard came back on the inside and took the groove and the lead on lap 185.
As Pollard inched ahead, Riddle, Evans, Mann and Thorn scrambled for position in line. Evans continued to work on Riddle and within a few laps took over second. With Riddle’s tires apparently gone away, Thorn and Mann were also able to pass.
Berrow cut down a tire for the eighth and final caution to set up a five-lap shootout for the checkered.
Pollard saw the green and took off first into the corner. Evans and Thorn battled side-by-side for second without letting Pollard get too far ahead. Evans got the advantage and a strong run on the outside of Pollard. With the fans on their feet, Pollard would cross the stripe first and pocket the big payday in one of the richest races in the country. Evans finished second with Derek Thorn coming back, after falling back as far as ninth, to take third.
“We caught a break at the end,” said Pollard. “Riddle was running a speed we couldn’t keep up with, and all we could do was hope for a late caution.”
Evans finished second and had this to say of Pollard, “We tried really hard at the end. He raced me clean and gave me a line on the outside. We just couldn’t get it done.”
By Shari Garber – Speed51.com Northwest Correspondent
2015 Summer Showdown Finish
1 26P Bubba Pollard 204
2 64 Garrett Evans 204
3 43 Derek Thorn 204
4 9 Kelly Mann 204
5 4 Parker Stephens 204
6 29H Shane Harding 204
7 15 Tayler Riddle 204
8 78 Joe Constance 203
9 88 Jason Gilbert 201
10 10L Dylan Lupton 199
11 32 Mike Holden 197
12 86 Tom Berrow 196
13 26K Jason Kooy 189
14 30 Tyler Baker 181
15 12J RJ Johnson 176
16 5 Ryan Wells 162
17 73 Gary Lewis 157
18 77 Toby Becker 113
19 18 John Bender 107
20 90 Molly Helmuth 78
21 3s Luke Selliken 61
22 00 Naima Lang 50
23 39 Pete Harding 46
24 7 Ron Eaton 46
25 22 John Lathrop Jr 37
26 29v Greg Voigt 27
27 21 Blaine Rocha 13
28 75s Brandon Scheiber 8
29 10 Owen Riddle 2
30 31 Jason Fraser 2
31 37 Mike Longton 2
32 70 Jeff Knight 2
33 89 Doni Wanat 2
34 75d Jeremy Doss 2
35 65 Tyler Tanner 2
36 16m Daniel Moore 1