Pensacola, Florida - To say that Senoia, Georgia’s Bubba Pollard has been dominant in Pro Late Model competition this year would be an understatement. A perfect eight-for-eight dating back to March in PLM races, Pollard had a birds-eye view, from second, as that streak came to an end Saturday at Florida’s Five Flags Speedway in the Allen Turner Tune-Up 100.
When the checkered flag flew, it was veteran Mike Garvey who found himself back on top as he captured his third win in the annual event, after a year that has provided more downs than ups.
“We’ve been working and working and working at it," said Garvey. "For the last year we’ve been terrible so about a month ago we just changed everything completely. We made wholesale changes.”
Behind the race leaders, the battle for the 2014 Champion came to a thrilling conclusion as Garrett Jones came up just one spot short of securing his second-consecutive Pro Late Model title at Five Flags.
Former track champion Johanna Long used a model of consistency to capture the Pro Late Model title which was her second of her career, and third overall counting her Blizzard title in the Super Late Models.
“This feels good. It’s finally over with," said Long. "Garrett Jones had an awesome year. He was tough to beat. We were way to tight at the end of the race, I definitely thought I was gonna lose the Championship."
Long and Jones swapped the point lead during the race as they each gained and lost positions along the way. In the end Jones' fifth wasn't enough to overcome Long's seventh-place run.
"We had a really good car," said Jones. "We just had to go a little bit harder than we wanted to at the beginning just to get to Johanna. I was trying not to think about the Championship. We were trying to save as much of the tires as we could. We just missed it a little bit."
Garvey took the lead on a lap 41 restart and his only competition the rest of the way came from Pollard, who set fast-time in qualifying, but would start sixth after the invert.
“I knew we were good but you never know how good Bubba is. He just runs so good here.” said Garvey.
A lap 67 restart was as close as Pollard would get and he held the lead briefly before Garvey showed his hand.
“You don’t ever know how much each of us are saving until it’s time to throw it down there," added Garvey. "I know I was saving a little, I know he was trying to save. It was time to just throw down there at the end and we just both went after it. Luckily we had enough this time.”
“The car would run for a couple of laps (on restarts) and then it was done,” explained Pollard. “We started the race tight, we finished tight.”
Pollard was not as disappointed as one might think after seeing and impressive 2014 Pro Late Model streak coming to an end.
“We had a good run there but you get into that comfort zone," said Pollard. "You get into a box and you don’t wanna change it. These guys have all caught up now and we gotta go to work.”
The next time the Pro Late Models hit the track will be for the annual Snowflake 100 as part of the 47th Annual Snowball Derby. After a trying year for Garvey, he feels like his program is right where it needs to be heading into the year-end event.
“I don’t know how I could make the car any better than it was right there. That package right there, that’s what we’re coming to the Snowflake with.” Garvey added with a big smile, “We finally got that little bit we need.”
As for Pollard, it looks like it will be a busy eight weeks in preparation of the Snowflake, “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We just gotta do our homework.”
“We’re fighting the same thing in the Super (Late Model) that we’re fighting in the Pro (Late Model). I think it’s our front-end geometry, the whole front-end package. The shock and bump stop package. But we’ll figure it out and we’ll be back.”
By Mark Keeler – Speed51.com / Speed51.com photos
Allen Turner Tune-Up 100
Five Flags Speedway (FL)
- #1 Mike Garvey
- #26 Bubba Pollard
- #43 Justin South
- #99 Wayne Niedecken Jr
- #88 Garrett Jones
- #18 Korey Ruble
- #11 Johanna Long
- #14 Ryan Luza
- #51 Perry Patino
- #21 Riley Thornton
- #30 Bobby Knox Jr
- #66 Ryan Redmon
- #89 Bobby Reuse
- #55 Ronnie Osmer
- #5 Bret Holmes
- #4 Elliott Massey
- #05 Bayley Currey
- #42 Steven Davis
- #11 Willie Allen
- #30 Rusty Sanford
- #91 Madison Schneider
- #3 Brennan Willard
- #41 Troy Grisaffi
- #21 Larry Blount