Boring. Bland. Tedious. Dull. Uneventful.
Those are five words that should never be used to describe the 2018 Super Late Model season.
During a time in which some folks believe the higher levels of racing have become stale, the action and drama on the national Super Late Model scene has intensified during the 2018 season.
Right from the get-go, this year’s Super Late Model racing season has given us so much to talk about.
Let’s rewind all the way back to January 27. There was doubt as to whether CRA SpeedFest at Georgia’s Crisp Motorsports Park would even happen because of a poor forecast. But it did happen and both races were held on Saturday instead of Sunday.
Bubba Pollard dominated the Pro Late Model race, then assumed the lead in the latter stages of the Super Late Model race, setting him up for a sweep of the day.
But then it got crazy. While battling in lapped traffic, fellow Georgian Chandler Smith tapped the left-rear corner of Pollard’s car and sent Pollard for a spin. Smith was sent to the rear for causing the incident.
Amazingly, Smith and Pollard both worked their way back to the front in the final 20 laps. Smith scored the win and Pollard went home frustrated, even with a win from that day in his pocket.
Fast-forward just a bit to February 3. The location is the historic Greenville Pickens Speedway in South Carolina. Once again, Pollard is the leader in the late stages of the race. It had been a pretty ho-hum affair until a restart with 22 laps to go.
Bubba Pollard is the leader. Matt Craig is in second. Craig went deep into turn one and made hard contact with the back of Pollard’s No. 26. Pollard backed hard into the turn one wall, destroying the read end of his car. Donnie Wilson went high to try to avoid the crash but instead piled into the front of Pollard’s car, destroying that end as well.
Craig, who led much of the first half of the 150-lap race, was parked by Greenville Pickens Speedway officials following the incident. He was then was escorted out of the infield as a safety precaution due to the incident.
If you wanted drama in 2018, you got it right away with those two events, but that’s far from the tip of the iceberg.
As the temperatures rose outside during the spring months, drivers appeared to be in the fighting spirit. Stephen Nasse and Donnie Wilson stole headlines after their confrontation in turn one at Five Flags Speedway. Just a few weeks later, Brandon Setzer went at it with the Kyle Busch Motorsports crew after he was spun out by Raphael Lessard while leading a CARS Tour race at Hickory.
(It’s worth noting that Setzer now works for KBM. No, we’re not joking).
During the month of April, Steve Wallace and Mason Mingus grabbed the attention of the short track world after their teams scuffled in the pit area at the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.
At Anderson Speedway (IN) in July, one of Josh Brock’s crewmembers took to beating the hood of Stephen Nasse’s car after they had a run-in while fighting for second-place in the Redbud 400.
In August, Bubba Pollard travelled to South Boston Speedway in Virginia to race for a guaranteed starting spot in the Oxford 250. On a late-restart Pollard made a mistake and spun out from the lead with less than 10 laps to go. Amazingly, he came back to win the race. A few weeks later, he won the Oxford 250. One week after that, he won the inaugural Canadian Short Track Nationals.
That led us into this past weekend, when Raphael Lessard and Steve Wallace got together while battling for the lead during the CARS Tour race at Orange County Speedway in North Carolina. That incident led to Wallace calling Lessard the “Canadian Ray Charles” on his Facebook page.
See? We told you there was drama. And that’s not even all of it.
The stage is Berlin Raceway in Michigan and the event is the Money in the Bank 150 in June. Bubba Pollard led over Brian Campbell and Kyle Busch as the laps clicked off. Pollard had been money (pun intended) on multiple late-race restarts. Until the one that mattered. Campbell was able to get a strong restart and muscle his way by Pollard in one of the most talked-about finishes of the year.
Now, let’s go back to Anderson Speedway’s Redbud 400 again. Raphael Lessard held the lead on a late-race restart, just like he did in 2017. Last year, Lessard lost the race late. This year, Lessard managed to flip the script and get redemption. He was able to drive away from Stephen Nasse on the restart to take the victory.
The best part in all of this is that we’re only halfway through September. With races like the Winchester 400, All-American 400, Oktoberfest and of course the Snowball Derby still looming, we know that the drama meter hasn’t even come close to pegging just yet.
So, does Super Late Model racing have your attention? It has mine.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Associate Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo credit: Speed51.com