56th Annual Redbud 400 Up Next for the ARCA/CRA Super Series on Racing America
Jul 13, 2022
This past weekend notwithstanding, Bubba Pollard is having a lot of fun driving race cars again and that wasn’t always the case over the past several years.
Pollard set the fastest time in qualifying against the Southern Super Series field at New Smyrna Speedway on Saturday and was forced to start sixth due to the redraw on an aero sensitive track that just had its rubber washed off by a thunderstorm.
He finished fifth, largely stuck in place.
Pollard was frustrated, but this time it was because he was fast and couldn’t show it, rather than not having the speed he expects from the iconic No. 26. But this year especially, this is the Bubba Pollard everyone expects to see throughout the country and its driver is visibly more enthusiastic.
Pollard was celebrated on a national stage with Superstar Racing Experience at Five Flags Speedway and he’s seen smiling and laughing most weekends these days.
"I really am," Pollard said. "A lot of it's got to do with being with Port City Race Cars and having fun again."
At the tail end of his tenure with Senneker Race Cars, the competition caught up to Pollard and he simply couldn't find the feel he wanted with those cars or even during a one-off with VanDoorn Racing Development at the 2020 Snowball Derby.
Now with Gary Crooks and Port City, Pollard is winning races and in a more positive headspace.
"We're working hard to get back to that level from before and I realize it's going to take some time," Pollard said. "Gary makes it fun to be at the race track. He's a very positive guy, has a positive outlook and it shows in his business too."
Pollard is having so much fun that he's returning to the Redbud 400 at Anderson Speedway this weekend for the first time since a messy and controversial showing in 2017. Pollard was involved in several incidents that night and vowed he wouldn’t return until the regional roster had changed significantly.
The comments drew skepticism from the likes of Johnny VanDoorn, Travis Braden and Chad Finley. As it turns out, the VanMeters didn’t like the quotes either.
"One of the reasons I'm going back to the Redbud is Eddie VanMeter, one of their crew guys pretty much, at Nashville, we got to talking and they didn't like me much," Pollard said. "He pretty much told me I was a chickenshit. So now I've got to go back."
Pollard said that last line with a laugh, but also credited track operator Rick Dawson for bringing him back too.
"Rick is a good guy too and has always wanted me to come back for years and I couldn't keep telling him no."
Pollard has always appreciated it when promoters reach out and make him feel part of something. It's not vanity or ego, but Pollard has a lot of places he could race on a given weekend, and if a promoter feels like he could make a difference and makes the effort, it’s harder to say no.
"It makes you feel good when people want you to come race," Pollard said. "I mean, honestly, you run around here all these years and people just expect you to show up sometimes. So, it does make you feel good when someone calls and makes sure you’re coming because it validates how hard we’ve worked and what we’ve accomplished.
"It’s just a reminder that you can make a difference in drawing fans and helping a promoter out. It’s a good feeling."
Following a blazing start with three wins and several podiums, Pollard has started to taper off a little as spring transitioned to summer. He finished eighth at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville in the North South Super Late Model Challenge, failed to finish the Rumble by the River at Montgomery and Keen Parts 100 at Tri-County.
Then came a fifth place at New Smyrna, despite posting the fastest time in qualifying but Pollard isn't sweating it.
"I feel like our race cars are good, but the field is just so tight these days," Pollard said. "There are a lot of good cars out there and you can't be off even a little bit to win these races. Track position key and the tires are so fresh that it throws a lot of people off sometimes
"At the same time, I still think we're getting better. I hate to admit it, but a year in and we're still learning this car because it's so different than what Port City was doing before. So, we can't test a lot because of the tire shortage, and we’ve only got so much practice times, so it’s not easy for anyone by any means."