It was the weekend of the All-American 400 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and Bubba Pollard was turning laps by himself 450 miles away at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.
The iconic No. 26 hasn’t been right in almost two years.
Pollard hasn’t shied away from the struggles and has made numerous changes to get back on top of an industry that can leave you behind in a hurry once you fall behind. There have been several chassis manufacturer changes and technologies brought in from his Dirt Late Model endeavor, but Pollard has not consistently won races since last summer.
It probably didn’t help that his family repurchased the dirt track in Senoia, Georgia that they first built in 1969. They still operate Pollard Construction. That is to say there is a lot going on with the Pollards these days, but it was the perfect time for a reset, too.
"We got a late start with (Port City Racecars) and the expectations were really high," Pollard said. "So, we’ve worked really hard to get this to where it needs to be. I don’t really feel like we’re there yet, but there is a lot of hard work and belief in the process from Gary (Crooks, Port City Racecars operator) and everyone on the team to make it happen.
"I’m really looking forward to this weekend because we have put a lot of work into this deal, built some new cars and implemented some new ideas. It’s been fun, but it’s been hard, too."
Pollard missed the All-American 400 to spend that weekend putting in the work. It was work he says that couldn’t be done when he was actively trying to win a race.
"You can't go to the race track to race and try to learn and get better there," Pollard said. "When you get there, you better have your shit together. We needed to come test and really throw a lot of things at it. On race day, you throw small things in a race car. We needed to try a lot of big things to answer some questions we've had. We learned a lot.
"In fact, I've been in racing a long time and I've probably learned more things the last three months than I have my whole racing career. This time has been really good for us."
Pollard plans to race full-time next season. He expects to be back although Sunday could throw a caveat into his plans, depending on how successful his latest Snowball Derby effort goes.
If pollard wins the Snowball Derby, he will embark on a full-time Dirt Late Model career, with only sporadic appearances on pavement. But until he claims the Tom Dawson Trophy, most of his racing ambitions lie on getting his program to the point where it can challenge for wins on the first weekend of December in Pensacola again.
"I'm ready to get back racing," Pollard said. "We built so many cars. I think our program is closer to where we need it to be. Everything happens for a reason and I think we did a smart thing by not running as much this year and getting back here with some confidence."