SRX Made 5 Flags, Pollard Look Like a Million Bucks

It was a showcase event for a marquee short track and its champion.


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Saturday night proved to be an incredible showcase for Five Flags Speedway, every attribute that makes it special, and its most notorious modern champion.

Under the literal and figurative bright lights of Superstar Racing Experience on CBS, Bubba Pollard delivered a clinic in overcoming an early flat left rear even if ultimately coming short to Hélio Castroneves in the final rundown.

It placed track general manager and promoter Tim Bryant in an interesting position in the final laps.

The visual of the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner climbing his frontstretch catchfence is simply legendary and will be used in promotional material for years to come. At the same time, Pollard overcoming adversity and defeating the legends of motorsports would be a matter of pride for Bryant and the track he operates.

"Well, I'll tell you, it's six of one, half a dozen of the other," Bryant said.

That means it's the same!

"To have Hélio climbing the fence here at Five Flags is monumental to us, but at the same time, everyone here who has short track roots was kind of pulling for Bubba," Bryant added. "At the end of the day, I think everyone came away with a tremendous amount of respect for Bubba Pollard as a driver."

Pollard looked like the driver to beat, winning the first heat and driving back to sixth following a full field inversion in the second heat. He began the feature on the outside front row and had just taken the lead when he realized his left rear had gone flat during the first competition caution.

That meant Pollard would once again restart at the rear of the field and drove to third at the time of the second competition caution. It was there he found out why Ryan Newman has a reputation as the absolute hardest driver to pass in NASCAR.

It was too late for Pollard to win the race, but he ended up putting Newman into the backstretch wall on the penultimate lap, not entirely on purpose, but got a door slam on the cool down lap for good measure.

Pollard and Newman ended up laughing about it on pit road and expressed a mutual respect for each other after cameras had gone off the air.

"Hey, hey, that was my only shot. Hanging on the outside like that is tough."
"Yeah. I knew what you were doing, what you did."
"That's why I was scared it was going to bite me."
"I enjoyed it.
"I did too. Thank you."

Like seriously, how cool was that exchange?

Pollard believes he could have forced the issue more, roughed Paul Tracy up sooner than he actually did and the same applies to Newman before getting to Castroneves, but he wanted to earn their respect. He’d like to be given the chance to race with them again someday too.

Bryant reserved the Turn 4 party deck for guests of Pollard and his family. There, he was cheered on by his wife, daughters Mac and Merritt, and the entire No. 26 Bubba Pollard Motorsports road crew. That’s really what Saturday was about to Pollard.

"I would have liked to have won, but I hope I made our fans and my family and friends proud," Pollard said. "This is a place I call home and I’ve raced here for a long time. So, it was fun to race here. Great crowd. Great energy."

Meanwhile, Five Flags Speedway has never looked as picturesque as it did on Saturday night dressed up for a national television audience. That isn’t a disrespect to the work Bryant puts into the Snowball Derby, but rather a reflection of the budget put into SRX by owners Stewart, George Pyne and the Montag Group.

It was a two-hour long commercial for the Blizzard Series, Allen Turner Pro Series, the annual ARCA Racing Series event and the Derby itself.

"We worked really hard too to spruce the place up and make a good presentation," Bryant said. "At the end of the day, I think fans saw a great race here, like they always do, and that was icing on the cake for us. We want them to have a good experience. They were troopers today with the brutal heat.

"It all happened so fast with a one-day show. The staff worked extremely hard and we put our best foot forward and now I'm looking forward to watching their next five races."

Next up: South Boston Speedway.