A pit-road fight between Bubba Pollard and Jeff Craig, father of race winner Matt Craig, set social media ablaze following Saturday night’s CARS Tour Super Late Model portion of the Throwback 276 at Hickory Motor Speedway.
On Monday, both Matt Craig and Pollard joined Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring” to discuss the post-race incident, as well as their thoughts about each other moving forward.
The fight between Pollard and the elder Craig broke out on pit road as Matt Craig performed a celebratory burnout on the frontstretch.
“I did my burnout and everything, and I pulled into victory lane, and I saw the skirmish and everything,” Craig explained. “Once I was out of the car, it was pretty much over.
“I saw everything going on and I went over to talk to Bubba,” he added. “As soon as I got to Bubba, I started talking about the race. I felt like I was in the lead most of the race, so I didn’t have the chance to run behind Bubba.”
However, Pollard took no offense to the battle for the win over the closing laps. He was adamant on clearing that up during his interview.
“There’s a lot of things that a lot of people don’t know about,” Pollard began. “That’s the biggest thing. It looks like, yeah, Bubba got mad because he got beat. That’s not the case. We’ve raced long enough, we’re going to get beat. I’ve been racing 18, 20 years now. There’s a possibility I’m going to get beat. Getting beat and getting mad is not part of it.
The incident which sparked his ire was a hand gesture and rhetoric used by Jeff Craig as Pollard pulled down pit road heading to post-race technical inspection.
“On the way to the tech shed, I get a little friendly finger and a ‘f’ you,” Pollard said. “This has been going on for a while. You’ve won the race, have a little respect. That should be enough just to beat me, enough satisfaction just to beat me. Why add the finger gesture and so on?”
There is plenty of history between Craig and Pollard. Most notably, the two came together at Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC) in February last year, ending with a destroyed race car for Pollard.
“This leads back to way back, at Greenville-Pickens, when he pretty much took me out,” Pollard said. “There was every opportunity for him to call me and talk it out. It could have been handled that day at the track if the track and teams and his daddy would have let us. It could have been handled instead of escalating into what it is now.
“He cost me $40,000, $50,000, $60,000, like someone coming into your house and tearing up your house,” he added. “Something you worked hard for, not only but the guys who help you. They’ve got a lot of sweat, tears, anger, joy and everything else into it. This has been going on for a while. Some of it took place at the PRI Show and other places as well. Saturday night, I had just had enough.”
Craig also discussed the Greenville incident, taking full blame for the on-track incident and acknowledging he did not contact Pollard to discuss it afterwards.
“I’ve never talked to Bubba,” said Craig. “I guess it was my job to approach him about it. For a while we didn’t race at the track after that, and then it was so far back it wasn’t worth bringing up.
“That wreck at Greenville was totally my fault. When we took that restart, the wreck was not in my mind. It was just a product of racing at Greenville. Everybody waits until the last minute to brake, and I just braked too late. I ran into the back of him, and I take the full blame for that.”
Pollard admitted that, as a husband and father, he regretted throwing punches during the post-race incident with Craig, but did not back down from feeling the need to stand up for himself.
“The only part of it I regret is I never want to embarrass my family, my two little girls and my wife,” Pollard said. “That’s the only thing I regret. I probably should have done it five or six years ago. This is a cruel world we live in. I’m going to teach my little girls to stand up for themselves, don’t back down from nobody. I don’t go looking for a fight. I don’t go to start any problems or any drama. But I’m going to teach my girls to stand up for themselves, because if you don’t, it’s a long row to hoe ahead of you in life.
“If you don’t like Donald Trump, you’re not going to like Bubba Pollard,” he added. “I tell it like it is. At the end of the day, that’s who I am. There’s a lot of things a lot of people don’t know about me. If you don’t like me, that’s fine. There’s a lot of people I don’t like, but I don’t taunt them or talk crap about them behind their back. I just do my thing, support my family, go to work every day.”
Craig hopes that, despite the history between the two, they can move forward and continue racing with intensity but not malice.
“Monday morning, we’re back at the shop,” Craig said. “We’re not worrying about last week anymore. We’re working on making our cars faster. We won, we’re ready to move on to the next race.
“I fully expect the next time Bubba and I are racing for a win, it will be rough. It will be hard, tough, bumping and grinding racing. I’m ready for that. I’m not scared at all to race hard. I’m okay with moving on to the next race.”
Pollard questioned the authenticity of those words, referencing a since-deleted Tweet by Craig in which the North Carolina native celebrated the win, including the hashtag #rattledthebear.
“You know that was sent towards me. To me, this book is still open,” Pollard stated. “If he was a man, he wouldn’t make these gestures on social media. This book is still open if he’s going to do that.
“When you get on social media and say you rattled the bear, you ain’t done with it. So, don’t say on this radio show you’re done with it and instigate on social media. If they want to leave it open, I’m open for it. If they want to handle things the way they did, it’s not over.
“Would I like for it to be over? Yes. Will I race him hard the next time I see him? Damn right I am. That’s part of who I am as a racer. We’ll see where it ends.”
Fans who missed Monday’s show can re-watch the episode by visiting our archive here. Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring” airs on Mondays starting at 7:00 a.m. and can be viewed on Speed51 as well as Speed51’s Facebook Feed presented by Five Star Race Car Bodies.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo