PENSACOLA, FL - Bubba Pollard may have had the fastest car in qualifying and the dominant car in the Mountain Dew Kickstart 125 presented by JRi Shocks Friday night at Pensacola, Florida's Five Flags Speedway, but winning the event come night's end was far from easy.
Pollard, 27, led the majority of the 125-lap combination event between the Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco and the Five Flags' Buddy's Home Furnishings Blizzard Series. The Senoia, GA speedster lost the lead shortly after the lap 75 competition caution after contact with Anderson Bowen. The two leaders slid up the track and third-place John Hunter Nemechek capitalized to take the lead.
By lap 85, Pollard was back in front by using the high lane on a restart. He went on to hold off Nemechek and Donnie Wilson for his fourth career Southern Super Series victory and his eighth career Blizzard Series win.
After being collected in an incident while battling for the lead in the season-opening Southern Super Series race at South Alabama Speedway in March and more bad luck while at the front of other races dating back to the 2013 season, Pollard wasn't going to let another victory slip from his grasp after the contact late in the race Friday.
"He got under me clean and he should've passed me clean," said Pollard of Bowen. "He had plenty of room. I'm not taking it anymore. We've torn up too many racecars leading too many races."
Bowen chalked the incident up to hard racing between the two Georgia-based racers.
"I was just racing hard and I feel like it was just a racing incident," said Bowen of Suwanee, GA. "I got in there a little too hot and got loose and I chased it up the track. He was racing hard, trying to keep me pinched down like he's supposed to do and I just slid up into him. I feel bad about it because that's not really what you're supposed to do, but we had a really good car all night. I just hate it for my guys that I messed up on that part."
Pollard knifed his way back to the lead shortly after losing it and held off Nemechek, who was in search of his first Southern Super Series victory, to the checkers.
"He's a good racer and he had a good racecar," said Pollard of his battle with Nemechek. "I didn't know if we'd have anything for him on the restart with 25 to go. I had saved just enough to have something left at the end."
Nemechek, who had finished first in the most recent SSS race earlier this month at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville in Tennessee, only to have the win taken away in post-race technical inspection due to an illegal driveshaft, came up just a bit short of victory at Five Flags.
"Bubba had a little bit better car there at the end," said Nemechek. "We were just trying some different stuff tonight trying to get ready for the Snowball (Derby) and try to win that at the end of the year. It's all a learning experience. It's good to finish second, but it's better to finish a spot ahead. We'll go back and think on it and see what we need to do to get that next spot."
Oklahoman Donnie Wilson, the declared winner of the Nashville race, overcame an early-race tangle with Johanna Long to finish third at Five Flags. Augie Grill finished fourth with Bowen fifth.
Earlier in the night at Five Flags, Pollard picked up his 10th career Southern Super Series fast time award.
Southern Super Series
Five Flags Speedway - Pensacola, FL
Mountain Dew Kickstart 125 - April 25, 2014
1. Bubba Pollard
2. John Hunter Nemechek
3. Donnie Wilson
4. Augie Grill
5. Anderson Bowen
6. Mike Garvey
7. Stephen Nasse
8. Casey Smith
9. David Rogers
10. Chris Davidson
11. Hunter Robbins
12. Daniel Hemric
13. Justin South
14. Kyle Grissom
15. Kyle Bryant
16. Landon Cling
17. Allen Karnes
18. Spencer Wauters
19. Keith Cahela
20. Daniel Webster
21. Johanna Long
22. Casey Roderick
23. Nathan Davis
24. Jeremy Pate
25. Chase Spradlin
26. Jake Perkins
27. Will Gallaher