Bubba Pollard flashed a grin and waved the checkered flag as he climbed out of his car, completing a familiar scene in South Alabama Speedway victory lane when he won the Pro Rattler 125 Saturday night. Yet while Pollard’s 23th career Late Model victory at the Opp, Alabama speedplant may not have been unexpected, it was not attained in the traditional Pollard dominance.
In a race that went back and forth like a sidewinder, Pollard capitalized not from his own fortune but rather the snakebitten luck of his fellow competitors, watching numerous other drivers fail to capitalize on their time at the front.
In front of a packed house, Pollard started 6th place in the 125-lap feature, and slowly but surely made his way to the front. Most of the heavy hitters were content to ride behind PLM newcomer Brandon Morris, the Florida regular who came out of the gates strong by leading the first fifty laps. But Pollard came to second at that point and the seemingly inevitable was occurring as Pollard zeroed in Morris’ bumper. That’s when the race took a drastic change.
Pollard caught Morris in a hurry on corner exit on lap 50 and the two wound up hooking fenders. Both had to back way off the throttle before they slid into the inside wall. By the time they were back up to full song, both found themselves out of the top-ten.
Harrison Burton and the rest of the pack charged by but Burton was only able to hold on to the top spot for a single circuit before ceding it to Korey Ruble.
Ruble then checked out for the next twenty-five laps, but suddenly seemed to lose the handle on his car and was drop kicked to the rear of the top-five in the span of about three laps. Justin South took the lead in his Tracy Goodson Racing machine, trying to win for the first time with his new team.
While all of this was happening, Pollard was methodically working his way back through the field while Morris could never regain his previous form. By the time lap 100 came about, Pollard had charged back to second and began to hound South. The winning pass was made on lap 105 as South quickly fell back through the field.
After posing with the traditional rattlesnake in Victory Lane, Pollard reflected on his record 3rd Pro Rattler victory.
“Them guys up front were running hard,” Pollard said, beginning from the start of the race. “We had a really good racecar. We were just trying to ride there early in the race, but then we wound up running the engine a little too hot. We started off with too much tape. So I was pushing for the lead when I got into the 56 [Morris] there because I felt like I needed to get up front to try to cool the car down. I hate it for those guys but we were rolling the middle of the corner so good and when he came down on corner exit I tried my best to avoid him. What can I say? The car is fast and it wants to win races.”
“After that, we just had to exercise patience. The car was still just as fast but being patient is all you can do sometimes. We made our way forward, made our moves where we needed to, and came away with the win. It was fun racing with those guys though; they also ran a good hard race.”
Ruble, after falling from the lead to 5th, salvaged his evening by coming back to finish second. Always tough at South Alabama, the former Viper champion felt as though he let a win literally slip through his fingers midway through the event.
“The leaders touched there and when that happens you just stay in the throttle and keep racing,” explained Ruble. “So I just hung in there and when they flew the caution, they gave me the spot and we were able to take advantage and pull away for a bit.
“But as the tires started wearing down, I kept trying to adjust the brake bias. Turns out I was adjusting it the wrong way and I wound up getting freight trained there by about four or five guys. Eventually a caution came out and I was able to figure out what I had done with the brakes. We had the track position but obviously just wish I hadn’t done that with the brakes.”
Fast qualifier Burton finished 3rd, never quite contending in the way most envisioned after setting fast time. Ryan Luza and Bret Holmes had solid outings to round out the top-five.
Other winners during the evening were Billy Melvin (Modified), Dennis Thomas (Street Stocks), and Bubba Winslow (Super Stock).
Tomorrow’s Rattler 250 for the Southern Super Series rolls off at 2 PM CDT. Anderson Bowen won the pole earlier Saturday afternoon. Live Trackside Now coverage from South Alabama will begin around noon CDT.
CLICK HERE for Saturday’s Trackside Now replay.
–Story by Tim Quievryn // Speed51.com Southeast Editor // @thethirdturn
–Photo Credit: Speed51.com
| 1||26P||Bubba Pollard||125||21|
| 2||18R||Korey Ruble||125||24|
| 3||12H||Harrison Burton||125||3|
| 4||14||Ryan Luza||125||0|
| 5||2||Bret Holmes||125||0|
| 6||1S||Justin South||125||29|
| 7||21||Riley Thornton||125||0|
| 8||26M||Matt Mills||125||0|
| 9||51||Perry Patino||125||0|
| 10||01||Derek Scott, Jr.||125||0|
| 11||23||Dalton Grindle||123||0|
| 12||99||Casey Smith||112||0|
| 13||13||Hunter Baize||111||0|
| 14||56||Brandon Morris||103||48|
| 15||96||Steven Davis||103||0|
| 16||12B||Brandon Brilliant||103||0|
| 17||81||Brandon Odom||83||0|
| 18||18P||Ryan Paul||83||0|
| 19||8||John Hunter Nemechek||54||0|
| 20||1A||Josh Adkins||32||0|
| 21||54||Clayton Green||28||0|
| 22||33||Dustin Smith||14||0|