Every driver has a theory, but none agree on what makes Bubba Pollard’s Pro Late Model car so good. The only agreement his closest competitors can reach is that Pollard is in a class of his own currently.
Pollard once again dominated the competition Friday as he racked up another win in his Senneker Performance car and his 27th victory of his career at Mobile International Speedway.
“Every win is special to me, because you never know if it might be your last,” said Pollard. “Winning is tough. These guys we race against are some of the best in the country.”
After setting fast time by being more than two-tenths faster than the rest of the field, Pollard laid back on the start, allowing Stephen Nasse to take the early lead. Multiple times through the early stages, Pollard would pull right to the rear of Nasse’s machine and then fall back eight-to-ten car lengths. A few laps later, Pollard would motor right back to Nasse’s machine.
Pollard said he was “feeling his car out,” in the event’s early laps. Nasse has a much different view.
“Bubba was just playing games,” said Nasse of the early stages. “He has a rocket right now, and is just a couple of tenths quicker than everyone else. I wanted to get just enough ahead of him where I could maybe make him use his stuff up fighting with me. But there was no doing that.”
The see-saw battle continued until Pollard dropped the hammer with 20 laps to go. The battle for the win was quick, but far from painless for Nasse.
There was nothing he could do but watch Pollard drive further away over the final laps. Nasse had to settle for fourth.
What does Nasse think is Pollard’s secret? The car itself.
“His (Pollard) car isn’t really a Senneker car,” said Nasse. “He has had some extra work done to it. People cannot get what he has…I’ve tried. He’s got it figured out right now. He is a good driver, but he ain’t a magic man. He has a good car right now, and that is where all the magic is…in that car right now.”
Casey Roderick, Pollard’s closest rival in 2018, came home third. Roderick, who’s dominant stretch over the last couple years – including a 19-win campaign a few seasons back – led to Pollard’s new car and return to PLM competition, says that without a doubt the 26 is head and shoulders above everyone else.
“He is more prepared than everybody else,” said Roderick. “He works harder than everybody else. They take time to test and prepare. They don’t run every race possible. That car and the type of package it has on it in the front end and back end is special. It is the best thing going right now.”
Johanna Long, making a return to racing after a brief hiatus, has raced against Pollard for years and feels his recent dominance boils down to one thing.
“It’s all him,” said Long. “He is just that good. He sets up his own cars, and he knows what he wants and how to get it out of the car. Drivers don’t beat him because they don’t know when to push to have some left at the end.”
Since debuting his new car towards the end of the 2017 season, Pollard has parked it in victory lane at some of the continent’s biggest Pro Late Model events, such as the Baby Rattler, Master of the Pros and Canadian Short Track Nationals.
No matter what region, competition or track, Pollard has bested them all. A good racer, like a good magician, never reveals his secrets.
“If I knew why this car was so good, I would put it on all my other cars,” said Pollard with a grin. “Sometimes you just build one that is different. This one just runs well as a baseline no matter where we go in the country. We don’t have to work on it much.”
Veteran driver Chris Davidson has seen chassis fads, fix-all setups and trendy gear box systems come and go through his career, and doesn’t believe Pollard’s success is entirely because of a tricked-out car.
He feels that it isn’t one thing in particular that makes Pollard better; it’s being the best at a lot of things.
“He goes everywhere, and he wins everywhere,” said Davidson. “He has a great car. He has a great team. He is a great driver. It all adds up. If it was one setup that made him so good, everyone would have that on their car.”
Even with another dominant performance behind him, and another trophy headed for the house back in Georgia, Pollard isn’t satisfied. He said the work ethic to always get better was instilled in him by his father, and the other racers he watched and learned from as child and teenager.
Pollard mentioned in victory lane that he wouldn’t race the undefeated Pro car until December’s Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. However, just because it won’t be raced, doesn’t mean it will sit idly by.
The wheelman from Senoia has a plan.
“We were okay tonight, but not where it needed to be,” said Pollard. “We will tweak it and get it where it needs to be for the Snowflake. It can always be better.”
-By Ryan McCollough, Speed51.com Deep South Editor – Twitter: @RyanLMcCollough
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Melissa Strahley