Bubba Pollard Aims for First Tom Dawson Trophy in 18th Snowball Derby Trip

Bubba Pollard -- one the greatest drivers to ever pilot a Pro Late Model or Super Late Model in history -- has won 32 times at 5 Flags Speedway throughout his career. However, he has yet to taste victory in the coveted Snowball Derby. Will he change that on Sunday?

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One of the most inexplicable footnotes in the history of automobile racing in the United States was Dale Earnhardt's long, dramatic, frustrating, and persistent chase for the win in the Daytona 500.

Despite Earnhardt winning 32 times at Daytona International Speedway in various events including the Busch Clash, the Qualifying Duels, the Summer NASCAR Cup Series Race, the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, and even in the International Race of Champions events; the Daytona 500 eluded 'The Intimidator' for 20 years.

The driver of the black No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet finally broke down the door to Daytona 500 victory lane in 1998.

This weekend, at the Snowball Derby we have a very similar situation on our hands with one of the best short trackers in history -- Bubba Pollard. The 36-year-old racer is at the Derby for the 18th time in his career, and the native of Senoia, Georgia is still on a quest for his first triumph in the biggest race in Super Late Model competition.

While he's never hoisted the Tom Dawson Trophy, Pollard has collected enough hardware to outfit an entire museum throughout his years racing at the half-mile track in Pensacola, Florida.

In all, Pollard has racked up 32 victories all-time at 5 Flags Speedway, 23 of them in a Super Late Model in Blizzard Series competition. Those victories led to Pollard being crowned as the Blizzard Series champion four times.

The driver also has eight victories in a Pro Late Model, including massive wins in the Snowflake 100 in 2014 and 2017. Pollard has won just about everything you can win at 5 Flags Speedway over the years, aside from the highly coveted Snowball Derby.

Is 2023 finally THE TIME for Pollard's breakthrough? The racer feels he has the car to pull it off.

"Yeah, we've had a good race car all week," Pollard explained to Racing America following a fourth-place qualifying run. "Kind of a really weird weekend. We didn't really know what to do or how it was going to work out, how it was going to play out. We just kind of left the race car how we raced all year. We pretty much had the same baseline race after race. We're close to it, we've stuck with it, and it shows it's got speed and it's fast. I'm excited about Sunday, and looking forward to it. As long as we've got some good tires, I think we'll be alright."

While he certainly feels confident in his car, Pollard has felt confident in his cars in the past. He knows that nothing is guaranteed in the Snowball Derby.

Pollard led an impressive 157 laps in the 2017 edition of the race before ultimately settling for a career-best third place finish. Overall, Pollard has led 302 laps in his Snowball Derby career. However, as a date with the Derby looms on Sunday, Pollard is keeping himself focused on the task at hand -- leading the last lap.

If he can score the win, Pollard says the thing he'll be most excited about is bringing a win for his legion of fans, who have supported him loyally throughout his career.

"I just hope we get to celebrate in front of all of these fans if we can win. This place is a place I call home," Pollard said. "I've always enjoyed coming to, and been racing out here for quite some time. We just have to treat it like another race. Go out there and attack, make the right adjustments, and be there at the end."

He starts near the front. He has a fast car. But it's no layup for Pollard. He has a fierce field of contenders that he'll need to compete with through all 300 laps of Sunday's contest.

Defending champion Derek Thorn has looked about as good as a driver can look all week long. He's been among the fastest in practice all week, and he emphatically scored the pole on Friday afternoon. Thorn has looked calm, cool, and collected all week. He's going to be a thorn (pun intended) in Pollard's side all race long if Pollard intends to score the win.

But the field is much deeper than Pollard and Thorn.

Past Snowball Derby champions Ty Majeski and Noah Gragson will lineup from the second and third starting spots, and Luke Fenhaus -- one of the young stars in the short track world -- will start in fifth.

When you peruse through the full list of 30 drivers that are locked in before Sunday's Last Chance Qualifier takes place, you get the sense that it's a completely loaded field. And that's because it is. But that's precisely what makes the Derby so special.

Drivers from all over, from so many disciplines come out and try their hand at the most prestigious prize in Super Late Model racing every single year. Heck, that 1998 Daytona 500 champion, Dale Earnhardt even competed in the Derby once back in 1977.

Will Bubba Pollard finally collect the Tom Dawson Trophy? Watch the Snowball Derby on Sunday, December 3rd to find out. PPV pre-race coverage begins at 11:30 AM ET, and the PPV race broadcast kicks off at 2:00 PM ET. All of the action will be broadcast exclusively on Racing America (click here to purchase a PPV pass).

Photo Credit: Will Bellamy, Racing America