Pollard Gets Monkey Off Back, Collects Coors Light 100 Win for First Victory at Five Flags in 2012
Plenty of emotions filled Victory Lane after the Coors Light 100 on Friday at Five Flags Speedway.
Unfortunately, though, they weren’t precipitated by the driver and car the packed house flooded the grandstands and pits to see.
Nationwide Series rookie and 2010 Snowball Derby champion Johanna Long delivered a courageous performance in her return home, running second for most of the night before finishing eighth.
But the night belonged to Bubba Pollard, who took the lead on Lap 87, and held on in the face of some late cautions for his first win in Pensacola this year.
“We enjoy coming down here,” said Pollard, who all but locked up the Buddy’s Home Furnishings Blizzard Series season points title with just one 100 lapper remaining. “The fans are great.”
The Senoia, Ga., driver gave them plenty of reasons for excitement Friday.
After finishing one-thousandth of a second off Augie Grill’s fast qualifying time (16.898 seconds), Pollard started ninth after a 10-car invert was set for the 29-car field.
As 14-year-old Kyle Benjamin led for all but one of the first 66 laps, Pollard maneuvered his way up on the outside, passing five cars in a two-lap stretch at one point.
The lead exchanged hands to 22-year-old Logan Boyett, another local driver, and that’s when Pollard pounced.
He got by Boyett with 13 laps left and withstood a furious rally from veteran David Rogers down the stretch.
It ended a long, strange, recent trip for Pollard, whose racing adventures took him to Michigan and Wisconsin recently.
“It’s been a long couple of weeks for us,” Pollard said. “We struggled a bit, but I’m glad these guys stuck behind me.”
Rogers was looking for his first career win in 35 years of racing at the famed half-mile, asphalt oval.
“Anytime you can run so close to Bubba here that you can see him, that’s good enough for me,” Rogers said. “We had good racecar, but I think we used it up just getting up there.
“We had nothing for Bubba at the end. But I’m glad to put on a show.”
Young Benjamin was the car to top for much of the night until the field began to reel him in the second half of the race.
Boyett, aggressive all night, was the first to get by Benjamin and assumed his first career lead in a Blizzard Series race.
Boyett tried hard to hold on for the win, but couldn’t withstand the power of Pollard.
“Our first two races, we only made 17 laps,” Boyett said. “I didn’t know we’d get up there like this. But it was ‘go broke or go home.’ I had a lotta fun racing with everybody.”
He wasn’t the only one.
D.J. VanderLey, who returned from a suspension, grinded all night to post a very respectable fourth.
But they all were looking at the bumper of Pollard, who earned his seventh career Blizzard Series win — second only to Augie Grill’s eight.
Pollard strengthened his points lead after Grill and Mike Garvey, two favorites who came into Friday second and third, respectively, in points exited before the finish because of mechanical troubles.
Coors Light 100 Results—1. Bubba Pollard, 2. David Rogers, 3. Logan Boyett, 4. D.J. VanderLey, 5. Kyle Benjamin, 6. Hunter Robbins, 7. Ryan Blaney, 8. Johanna Long, 9. Clay Alexander, 10. Junior Niedecken, 11. Allen Karnes, 12. Jerry Artuso, 13. Tyler Miles, 14. Jeremy Pate, 15. Matt Tifft, 16. Danny Bagwell, 17. Bobby Good, 18. Mike Garvey, 19. Augie Grill, 20. Brandon Odom, 21. Anthony Sergi, 22. Kurt Jett, 23. Chris Davidson, 24. Troy Grisaffi, 25. Michael Lance, 26. Hal Martin, 27. Gary Sullivan, 28. Donnie Wilson, 29. Scotty Ellis
The routine is becoming extraordinary.
Steve Buttrick’s dominance in the Sportsman division at Five Flags Speedway has been well documented, winning more than 20 races and claiming two Snowball Derby titles the last three years.
His latest win came Friday with a new twist. Buttrick started 10th in the 11-car pack, but in workmanlike fashion got out front to claim the 25-lap feature checkered flag.
“That was a lotta fun,” Buttrick said. “It’s a lot more fun starting in the back and coming through the field.”
Series points leader and defending track champion Brannon Fowler finished second with Shanna Ard rounding out the podium.
“The car didn’t handle as well as I wanted it to tonight,” said Ard, who owns a win in the division earlier this season. “But I’ll take third.
Buttrick and Fowler shot up to the front from the back of the field and climbed to fourth and fifth, respectively, on the first lap.
Pole sitter Scott Barbaric led for the first halfway of the race, but Buttrick began closing quickly.
He assumed the lead on the inside of Barbaric with 13 laps completed. Fowler took advantage as Barbaric got loose on the following lap.
Fowler pursued his chase, but it was all for naught for the extraordinary Buttrick.
Sportsmen 25-Lap Feature Results—1. Steve Buttrick, 2. Brannon Fowler, 3. Shanna Ard, 4. Scott Barbaric, 5. Randy Thompson, 6. Calvin Cook, 7. Michael Couture, 8. Ethan Hardin, 9. Thomas Faddis, 10. Dayton Sidner, 11. Paul Mathis
A little extra money not only sweetened the winner’s pot but it spiced up the action in the 20-lap Bombers feature Friday.
Curtis Faircloth claimed the win and, thus, the $200 bounty that was up for grabs for dethroning reigning track champion and series points leader Gary Goodwin.
Active Marine Michael T. Nelson finished second and Leonard Craig Jr. nipped Goodwin at the start-finish line for third.
Goodwin had won four of five races coming into Friday night. But his No. 23 was no match for Faircloth’s black No. 7.
“This took a lotta hard work,” said Faircloth, who dominated this series in early 2011. “We found a problem with the car and, obviously, got it fixed.”
Indeed. Faircloth rook the lead early, but passed his most arduous exam on Lap 17.
With lapped traffic boxing him in, Faircloth shot the gap between two cars and pulled away once again.
It appeared as though that would be the last anxious moment of the 20-lap feature.
However, a late caution came out with three laps left to make things interesting, putting Goodwin on the outside of the front row.
But Goodwin’s last-ditch effort and a flat tire relegated him to fourth.
“I’m just glad Curtis won so there’s no bull’s eye on me anymore,” Goodwin said.
Bombers 20-Lap Feature Results—1. Curtis Faircloth, 2. Michael T. Nelson, 3. Leonard Craig Jr., 4. Gary Goodwin, 5. Robert Balkum, 6. Tommy Lowery, 7. John Kevin Merritt, 8. Hunter Baker, 9. Tim Norman, 10. James L. Beal III, 11. Joshua Johnston, 12. Brandin Sidner, 13. Corey Pittman, 14. Brandon Burks, 15. Tracy Soles, 16. Brandon Nettles, 17. Kenny Williams