The Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco held its penultimate event of the 2017 season Saturday night at Crisp Motorsports Park (GA). Continuing an indomitable hot streak, it may be fitting that a Peach Tree State driver parked his car in victory lane, accomplishing yet another milestone in his long-held career.
Bubba Pollard climbed out of his No. 26 machine to celebrate a well-earned win in the Watermelon 125. The occasion marked the Senoia, GA driver’s 100th Late Model victory in extended-distance races of 100 laps or more, a sentimental feat he was glad to accomplish in the place he calls home.
“It’s pretty cool to get our hundredth win here, especially in the state of Georgia,” Pollard said. “I raced Legend cars down here for years, but there’s not much racing left in the state. This is where I grew up and I always enjoy coming back.”
Despite having made it look easy, Pollard admitted his competition didn’t go down without a fight. Hungry for his first win, Chandler Smith wore on Pollard’s back bumper early in the race, taking over the lead for a period of 14 laps.
Multiple restarts later in the feature would again test Pollard, repeatedly pitting him against Stephen Nasse, a worthy contender he fought to keep in his rearview mirror.
“I didn’t have it easy by any means,” Pollard said. “Those guys were breathing down my throat. We had a good race car tonight, but so did those guys. All those restarts at the end made it tough, that’s for sure.”
In a sport that requires just the right formulation of talent, skill and luck, Pollard managed to find all three, reflecting greatly on his unparalleled performance.
“You just have to be perfect,” Pollard said regarding his execution of the race. “Glad we could come down here to make it happen. It was fun and I always enjoy coming back.”
Soaked with sweat in second was Stephen Nasse, who felt the heat rising every restart he would go head-to-head with Pollard.
“Those last few cautions made for a hot ride there at the end,” Nasse said. “It was a long, hot one but we were able to pull through.”
Pollard had maintained the advantage every caution, pulling away in great strides as the laps continued to wind down. Slow traffic played no factor as the No. 26 machine wove around, beginning to fade from Nasse’s sight.
“Obviously, [Pollard] was the class of the field tonight,” Nasse said matter-of-factly. “It’s been that way the last few races, but the good thing is we’ve about the only car that can halfway keep up with him.”
Nasse entered the night 11 points ahead of Chandler Smith in the Southern Super Series point standings and left Cordele, Georgia the same way. He’ll now focus on the bigger picture with a series championship well within his grasp.
“We’re going to keep on gaining on it,” Nasse said. “Hopefully, we can pull off a win in this last championship race.”
Chandler Smith rounded out the podium with a solid third-place finish, though the young driver was ultimately disappointed with the outcome.
“You know, I’ve really got to learn to pace myself,” Smith critiqued. “Bubba’s obviously better, and he let me by early on. He just stayed on my tail and let me wear my stuff out. That’s all there is to it.”
Smith’s best efforts were thwarted as Pollard retook the lead after a caution on lap 40. Smith mentioned that his machine had needed some adjustments towards the end, but felt the real issue at hand was his lack of experience strategizing compared to the veteran.
“We were struggling with some drive off tonight,” Smith said. “[Pollard] is a smarter racer than I am, though. I’m just going to have to learn from it.”
Polesitter Casey Roderick and SSS rookie Connor Okrzesik completed the top five Saturday night.
The Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco season will come to a close on Saturday, September 23 when the series visits Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.
For more information on the Southern Super Series, visit www.southernsuperseries.com.
Southern Super Series Watermelon 125 Unofficial Results
Crisp Motorsports Park (GA) – September 2, 2017