There may have not been any fireworks in the air at the end of Saturday night’s Baby Rattler 125 at the South Alabama Speedway (AL), but there were certainly plenty on the race track. Bubba Pollard had the lead on the final lap before hard contact between he and Justin South in turn four resulted in Pollard spinning, South crossing the line first and Stephen Nasse being scored the winner.
Pollard was looking for his third straight win in the 125-lap Pro Late Model portion of Rattler weekend. He led South by about 10 car lengths when they took the white flag. Pollard tried to work by a slower car off turn two, and that enabled South to eat up half the distance as they went down the backstretch.
South drove deep into turn three and in turn four he nailed the left-rear of Pollard’s red No. 26, sending Pollard into a spin cycle. South crossed the finish line first, and Nasse crossed in second. Pollard drove across the line in reverse, and was officially scored in the 12th position.
After track officials deliberated for a few minutes Nasse was awarded the victory, and South was penalized for rough driving.
Now that a couple of days have passed since the incident, we wanted to revisit it all and let them play “Monday Morning Quarterback,” to see if there was anything that maybe they’d do differently.
“I would do everything exactly the same,” South told Speed51.com powered by JEGS on Monday afternoon. “I know I didn’t do anything intentionally. I’ve always raced really clean with Bubba like I feel he has with me. If I wanted to take him out I could have done it on lap 80 when he missed a shift on a restart and ran me low going into turn one. I let him go then because I wanted to race. There at the end I took advantage of an opportunity that I saw.”
South explained that he drove as deep as he could into turn three on the final lap, and that his No. 43 bottomed out in the center of the corner, pushing him up the track and into Pollard.
“I was along for the ride, but I had the wheels cut to the left as hard as I could,” he explained. “Then I picked up the throttle. When I picked up the throttle I felt that he was like, not coming across my nose, but we kind of met. I came up the race track, I don’t dispute that. But I feel like he was up there, and slowed way down because he wasn’t on the bottom.”
The biggest problem that South has is the call by track officials to penalize him and award the win to the third-place driver. That’s what has South so frustrated.
“I was asked the question by officials at the track what I would want done if I was in the reverse position, if I was Bubba,” said South. “If Bubba spun me out coming to the checkered, I would want him to win the race. It’s up to the two drivers to figure it out. I feel like this is what’s wrong with racing. It’s like there’s too much governing by the officials. I feel like we should be able to race to the checkered, and we weren’t allowed to.
“The third place guy won the race. I’m not taking anything away from him, but he led zero laps. The race was between me and Bubba. I led the first half and he led the last half and we met at the very end. I just have a whole different outlook on it.”
South compared his incident with Pollard on Saturday night to the incident in turn one of the final lap of SpeedFest in January that saw leader John Hunter Nemechek spin out off the front bumper of Pollard. Pollard was tapped from behind by William Byron and sent into Nemechek who went for a spin. Nemechek and Byron both went to the rear of the field while Pollard held his spot and went on to win the race.
“CRA deemed that it was racing,” South said. “It was the last lap and he got to keep his spot. Nemechek went to the back and Byron went to the back and Bubba got to keep his spot and went on to win the race. I just feel like that was the same kind of situation even though I didn’t receive any contact from behind.
“I just feel like it’s a bogus, BS call to take a win from somebody. I didn’t get thrown out in tech. I didn’t fail post-race inspection. I won the race. I crossed the finish line first, but somebody in a booth decided that wasn’t how the race was supposed to end due to the fact that they didn’t like how I got by him.”
South Alabama Speedway Race Director Kevin Chance explained why track officials made the ruling to Speed51.com Saturday night after the race and that can be read in the post-race story.
Pollard and South spoke briefly about the incident in victory lane on Saturday night after the race. Pollard took his car and parked it in victory lane, blocking South’s path to what he thought was his final destination for the night. The two drivers had what appeared to be a heated, but civil conversation, at least in the eyes of distant onlookers.
But after talking on Saturday night, South said he doesn’t feel he needs to try to explain himself to Pollard any further.
“There were some things said Saturday night that were just uncalled for,” said South. “The way some of his team acted in the pits, and I don’t fault Bubba for anybody on his team. But what Bubba walked up to me and said after the race was just, I don’t think he’s interested in talking. I don’t have a problem with him. I don’t think he’s ever had a problem with me. And if he has that’s been a mystery, because I’ve never really known him and we’ve always raced each other pretty clean. If I he thinks I meant to do it, he’s wrong. But I know there’s no telling him that.”
Pollard was asked on Monday afternoon if he’d like to speak with South in the future about the incident, and he offered up a pretty simple answer in response.
“Justin? No, I’ve got nothing to say to him,” said Pollard. “When you hang out with dogs you get fleas. So I just don’t want to hang around that crowd. I don’t have anything to say to those guys.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Bruce Nuttleman