Last Friday night’s Blizzard Series showdown at Five Flags Speedway (FL) was postponed after heavy and persistent rainfall at the Pensacola half-mile. However, the rains came after draws for heat races, which has led to a week of anticipation for the 10-lap duels.
It will be a first-of-its-kind night for the Blizzard Series, which has traditionally used single-car time trials to set the field for feature races, typically running between 100 and 125 laps. However, Friday’s event will instead use three 10-lap heat races to set the field, with the lineups for those heat races determined by random draw.
Bubba Pollard and Donnie Wilson will both be part of the event, and are both looking forward to the heat race format.
“I’m excited about it,” Pollard said on Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring” Monday. “I think it’s going to go well for a lot of different reasons. I hope it’s going to bring respect to the drivers, to drive a little different, be there at the end. I think you’re going to see different winners. I think you’re going to see different heat race winners.”
Pollard’s heat race promises to be an exciting one, as he was drawn into the third and final heat race. He will start second, alongside CRA SpeedFest winner Connor Okrzesik. The heat race also features defending Southern Super Series champion Casey Roderick, as well as Logan Boyett, Boris Jurkovic, Giovanni Bromante, Mike Garvey and Jesse Dutilly.
“That third heat race the other night at Pensacola was going to be stacked,” Pollard said. “It was going to be a great heat race. Somebody was going to have to start near the back and race their way to the front.”
Pollard hopes that excitement will bring fans to the track to see the excitement of the heat races. He also knows that it is an unknown for racers going into the 75-lap main event, which could make for even more exciting racing.
“Hopefully the heat races can draw some attention for the crowd, get some fans in it,” he said. “Get to where we don’t have to be there. Give teams extra time to work on their cars, where we don’t have to practice so much. Just be there the day of the race. I hope it works out.
“All these years, I know what pace I want to run during the race, where I want to be throughout a race,” Pollard added. “Now, my strategy for a 100 or 125-lap race is out the window now. I didn’t have a plan and still don’t. You don’t know what’s going to happen, so I think it’s going to be fun.”
Donnie Wilson is also excited for the heat races, a throwback to his earlier years in dirt racing.
“I think it’s a pretty cool deal, honestly,” Wilson stated. “I’ve got a background in dirt track racing, like a lot of racers. That’s where I got my start. I’ve had my fair share of heat races years ago. I think it’s pretty cool to do. A little luck of the draw plays into it, but it is what it is and I think it will be exciting for the fans.”
However, Wilson drew the final starting spot in the first heat race of the night. With only 10 laps to gain ground, it will be a delicate balancing act between pushing for a better feature starting spot and taking unnecessary risks.
“That’s the million-dollar question,” Wilson said. “Honestly, you’ve got to be smart about it, but you want to start the best you can for the feature. 75 laps is pretty short for a race at Pensacola for us. You want to start in the top 10 for sure. I would need to finish third to start seventh, so I need to pass four cars in 10 laps. That’s my goal.”
Wilson admits he would prefer a single-car time trial format, but that heat races might actually be beneficial to his driving style and skillset.
“I prefer to qualify, but I think this is just a different avenue to get more people in the stands,” he said. “It might intrigue more people to come to the track and race, if they don’t like to qualify. Let’s be honest, some people are good at qualifying and some people aren’t. I would classify myself as not a great qualifier. It might help me more than others.”
Full lineups for the heat races are available below.
Fans unable to make the trip to Five Flags Speedway Friday can watch the heat races as well as the 75-lap feature on Speed51’s Summer Thunder TV broadcast of the event. The broadcast is scheduled to begin at approximately 8 p.m. CT, and is available to Premium Members of the Speed51 Network.
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Heat Race #1 Lineup
|2||20D||Jack Dossey III|
Heat Race #2 Lineup
|7||03||George Gorham III|
Heat Race #3 Lineup
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo