Morning. Afternoon. Night.
Donnie Wilson swept each and every timed Super Late Model session on Saturday en route to claiming the pole for Sunday’s Mobile 300 at Mobile International Speedway (AL).
Wilson backed up his blistering practice speeds during the day with an ultra-fast lap under the lights during time trials. Wilson circled the track with a timed lap of 17.460, which bested Bubba Pollard and Connor Okrzesik – who tied for second with identical lap times.
Wilson was pleasantly surprised with how flawless his day progressed, especially since the car that was doing it was an afterthought earlier in the year.
“This car is different from the one we have been running,” said Wilson. “It was just sitting in the corner, and we decided to bring it out. I have been really pleased with. We haven’t been here in a year, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. We had a good car all day, and I think we have a really good car for tomorrow.”
Wilson’s perfect day comes on the heels of a solid performance at the Winchester 400 a couple of weeks ago. After struggling for most of the season, the Oklahoma City-product is hopeful the newfound good times keep rolling on the Gulf Coast.
“This year has been terrible,” Wilson said. “It hasn’t really been by our own doing, but we have been behind the eight-ball all year. We got out of Winchester with a sixth-place run, and were competitive. Now this weekend gives us a little more confidence.”
Pollard and Okrzesik both timed in with a lap of 17.540. Per series rules, Okrzesik will start on the outside of the front row because he turned the lap first.
Pollard’s quick time came as a surprise. Throughout the day, the team worked on race setup to dial in the handling of the car. He hopes for the car to have more long run speed for the 300-lap dance Sunday afternoon.
Stephen Nasse and Casey Roderick rounded out the top five in time trials.
With the qualifying sprint in the rear view, the focus shifts to Sunday’s marathon.
Both Pollard and Wilson know what it takes to win at Mobile, but of them have wins under the unrelenting, scorching summer sun.
With the air a little cooler, there will be a touch more grip on Sunday. But both drivers feel there will be a lot of coming and going early and often.
“It will take a lot of patience and tire conservation,” Wilson said. “You got to be really easy with that throttle. It will be hotter tomorrow than it has been. That might throw a monkey wrench in to things. We have 300 laps to show what we have.”
Pollard has won nearly two-dozen late model races at Mobile, and is looking forward to the challenge of extra-distance racing at one of his favorite tracks.
“You will have to race smart tomorrow,” said Pollard. “This track is worn out, and we have slowed down almost a second since a couple of years ago. The racetrack has gone through a change. Three hundred laps around this place is a long time. This place is fast and changes a lot from new tires to old tires. You have to be aggressive with new tires and then ease up on the pedal when it starts to fade. It is one of my favorite places to come race.”
In addition to 300 laps of white-knuckle, hold-you-breath speed, Sunday will also see the crowning of the 2018 Southern Super Series Champion.
Casey Roderick has the championship in his back pocket already, having gained enough points to win the title just by starting tomorrow’s race. Roderick will join the elite club of series champions: Pollard, Wilson, Nasse, Daniel Hemric and Casey Smith.
While he already has won the war, Roderick would love to claim the final battle as well.
“You have to stay focused, sharp and keep your mind clear,” said Roderick. “When you make a change, you have to be sure to make the right ones. If you are in position at the end, you have done all you can do. Hopefully we can go out with a win. We have a lot to be proud of regardless. This is my first Southern Super Series championship, and that is pretty cool. It’s a really neat list to have your name on.”
Fans can catch all the action and pageantry with Speed51’s live PPV broadcast. For purchase information, visit https://speed51.com/speed51-tv-2018-mobile-300-mobile-intl-speedway-al.
Mobile 300 - Qualifying Results
Story by: Ryan McCollough - Deep South Correspondent - Twitter: @RyanLMcCollough
Photo Credit: Speed51.com Photo / Melissa Strahley