Southern Super Series
Wild, Wild SpeedFest Becoming a Super Late Model Major
Jan 28, 2022
SpeedFest stands to be a significant test for the current status of Bubba Pollard’s Super Late Model program in advance of the 2022 season, and everything certainly looked the part during a Thursday test at Watermelon Capital Speedway.
Following a year long slump, Pollard returned to weekly contention after a switch to Port City Race Cars. He skipped the All American 400 in November to shake a new car down for the Snowball Derby. That paid dividends because the No. 26 raced in the top-five throughout the race until a bad adjustment forced him to finish 13th.
Pollard opened the 2021 season by winning the Red Eye 50 against a limited but stout field at New Smyrna Speedway during the first weekend of the year. It was just a test, but Pollard consistently posted the fastest times on Thursday.
All told, there is a lot of confidence emanating from the TM Ranch team.
"We were really better at the Derby that what we showed," Pollard told Racing America on Thursday. "We kind of had a hiccup on Saturday during Happy Hour that set up back and we started the race from scratch a little bit."
Fortunately, last month, Pollard had a teammate in Ryan Preece and crew chief Chris Gabehart that righted the ship early in the race.
"If it wasn’t for them, we would have been in trouble," Pollard said. "But then we go to the Red Eye and while there aren’t a lot of cars, these were good cars. You had Brad May who has won a lot of championships there, and Sammy Smith with Donnie (Wilson) and they’re all capable of running up front."
So, it was a pleasant, but not entirely unexpected development that Pollard unloaded his car and was top of the charts before even taking swings to make it better. That’s a sign that the dark days of late 2021 and 2022 are behind them -- a stretch of races where no one was happy from the moment they unloaded.
This is becoming vintage Bubba Pollard.
"It's a new car, so we're having to start over with our notes and generating knowledge," Pollard said. "So, to be this fast unloading with none of that does mean something.
"The Port City guys have done a hell of a job over the winter, and it started last year, but it's getting to the next level. I can't thank Gary (Crooks) enough for sticking it out. We have good race cars and we'll see how this weekend goes."
Pollard has one victory at Speedfest, 2016, but has routinely been a contender since the event moved to Cordele in 2012. He finished second from the pole in that first season and led laps in six of the nine times it's been held at the Central Georgia just two hours from his home.
When his program is right, he's a Speedfest contender.
And all told, this is an important two-week stretch for Pollard as his family-owned dirt track Senoia Raceway will open its season next weekend with the All-Star Circuit of Champions 410 Sprint Cars. Pollard has cross-promoted with Watermelon Capital Speedway to entice fans to attend both events.
"That was actually Bob Sargent's idea," Pollard said. "And it's so cool that we were able to do that, tweet about this race and them do the same for ours. It's important to promote Georgia racing and if we can get just one dirt fan here, or one pavement fan out there, that's a win.
"Because next time, they'll bring a friend and it will just multiply. So, anything we can do to help short tracl racing in general, dirt or asphalt, that's cool."
Something else that seems poised to help grassroots racing sooner rather than later -- Bubba Pollard consistently fighting for wins again. That will go a long way too.