Bubba Pollard has won big races all over the United States during his 15-year career competing in the Late Model ranks. He’s won in the Southeast. He’s won in the Midwest. He’s won on the West Coast. But his win this past weekend in his first trip to the Northeast is his most impressive accomplishment yet.
After years of reading comments on social media asking him to travel to the Oxford 250, Pollard traveled north for Sunday’s 45th Annual Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. He did so after dedicating much of his 2018 season to being prepared for this one race.
Pollard made his way to Oxford, Maine ready to make his Oxford 250 debut the right way. He wasn’t making the haul from Senoia, Georgia to finish second, and he didn’t.
To the surprise of his fellow competitors, fans and the media (including this writer), Pollard won the Oxford 250 in his first attempt. While many of the skeptics knew Pollard was good, they might not have realized just how good he really is.
For much of the weekend, Pollard struggled to find the speed he needed to be competitive at the tricky 3/8-mile oval. This forced his team to put in overtime following Friday and Saturday’s practice sessions. But even after putting in overtime, Pollard still didn’t appear to be a dominant force early in the day on Sunday.
That was until the first green flag waved.
After drawing last in his heat race, Pollard charged through the field to finish seventh. That wasn’t good enough to transfer into the main event, so he was forced to start in one of two consolation races. He finished second to fellow Senneker Performance driver Ben Rowe in his consolation race, which lined him up 29th on the starting grid for the 250-lap main event.
From there, Pollard’s performance in front of a jam-packed crowd at Oxford Plains Speedway was the stuff of legends.
A driver that didn’t top the speed charts all weekend was all of a sudden charging through the field. When he first cracked the top five just after the halfway point of the race the general consensus in the press box turned into, “This guy is the real deal, huh?”
A few laps later that turned into a local television reporter asking, “Who is the 26?”
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to tell the full story so I simply responded with, “Bubba Pollard. He’s from Georgia. He wins big Super Late Model races all over the country.”
When Pollard took the lead for the first time on Lap 217, heads started shaking in disbelief. Nobody could believe that the invader from south of the Mason-Dixon Line was going to win the Northeast’s crown jewel event in his first attempt.
Kyle Busch didn’t do it. Mark Martin didn’t do it. Jeff Gordon didn’t do it. Davey Allison didn’t do it. But Bubba Pollard did.
Bubba Pollard mastered the one track and the one race that very few thought he could.
“I can’t believe Bubba was able to come up here to Oxford, the one track that somebody should not be able to come up and master like that, and he did it,” third-place finisher Reid Lanpher said. “Props to him. I think he shocked a lot of people there.”
If there was any doubt before about Pollard being called the top Super Late Model racer in America, the doubt has been washed away like the rain.
“Bubba, man. What can you say about Bubba? He’s the best in the country,” runner-up finisher Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. said. “Florida, California, Oxford, Maine, the guy is good and you can’t take that away from him. “
While his wins in big races such as the All-American 400, Slinger Nationals, CRA SpeedFest, Summer Showdown, Rattler 250 and Winter Showdown are impressive, the Oxford 250 victory is “the most badass thing he’s ever done in a race car.”
That doesn’t take away from the significance of any of those other races he’s won, it simply adds to the legend that is Bubba Pollard.
-Story by Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / John A. Miller