BUBBA’S BACK!

Pollard Pounds Pavement En Route to Allen Turner PLM Victory; Champs Crowned in Kids Bike Races

By Chuck Corder

Homecomings are always fun.

They’re even better when you drive away victorious.

Bubba Pollard was his vintage “Redneck Jesus” self on Friday night at Five Flags Speedway, driving masterfully and making a triumphant return to the famed half-mile asphalt oval in winning the second Allen Turner Hyundai Pro Late Model 100 race of the season.

“I just love coming to this place,” said Pollard, who might be back for next week’s Deep South Cranes Blizzard Series race barring the birth of his second child. “It’s an awesome place to race. It’s awesome to see these fans come out and support short-track racing like this. Seeing them excited is pretty cool for me, too.”

It marked his first time at Pensacola’s high banks this season. After pulling off an improbable sweep at the Night of Champions last September, Pollard has now won the last three regular season late model races he has entered at Five Flags.

His pass of then-leader Connor Okrzesik around the Lap 70 mark was a masterclass of Pollard’s experience overcoming Okrzesik’s youth and exuberance.

In the preceding laps, Pollard took several peeks at the inside of Okrzesik’s No. 14 machine. But all that maneuvering proved to be a Pollard ploy, setting up Okrzesik for the move that flipped the race upside down.

As they came to the line for Lap 70, Pollard darted to the high side and took the long way around to blow by Okrzesik on the back straightaway.

Pollard never relinquished the lead, dodging one restart, and lapping more than half of the 17 cars that made up the field.

“With the caliber of cars that run nowadays, I figured we wouldn’t have any cautions,” Pollard said. “I was concerned Connor might get out too far, and I wouldn’t be able to catch him. I used the lapped cars to my advantage and, eventually, got a chance to pick ’im off.”

Okrzesik dazzled all night long, but had to settle for runner-up honors while 14-year-old Jake Garcia took home his second third-place finish in as many PLM races this year.

“It’s tough to win against Bubba,” said Okrzesik, who held a straightaway lead for the first quarter of the race. “He’s a great driver. We were lacking a bit of drive-off. If we had a little bit more, we might’ve put up a good fight at the end.”

Kids Bicycle Races

Age Group Winner
5-and-under Liam Michael Morales (Atmore, AL)
6-11 Gabe Sapp, Cantonment
12-and-up Nathan Jones, Pensacola

The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen

Tommie Blocker might be a relative newcomer to The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen class.

But the Irvington, Ala., driver knows when opportunity knocks, make sure you open the door.

As a result of his heat race win earlier Friday night, Blocker started on the pole for the 25-lap feature. He led wire-to-wire and drove to Victory Lane for the second race in a row at Five Flags Speedway.

“This is truly a dream come true,” said Blocker, in his first full season of Sportsmen racing after a successful run in the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks. “It’s what we’re all out here trying to do.

“I knew when I was fortunate enough to start on the pole that I’d better take advantage of it and get gone. I knew there was a pack of cars behind me, and everyone was capable of getting this win.”

Shanna Ard of Milton and Mark Barnhill, a neighbor of Blocker’s in Irvington, finished second and third, respectively.

After a string of three wins, Barnhill has now fell short of the top spot in back-to-back races. After starting third, he immediately began yielding spots to the rest of the field.

Barnhill rallied to finish on the podium, but two spots shy of his desired target

Ard, meanwhile, has found the fountain of youth in returning to Sportsmen racing after a few frustrating seasons of growing pains with the WCIparts.com Pro Trucks class.

Ard has only raced three times this season, but has come home with a top-five result each time.

“This is a blast. I’m enjoying every week in this car,” Ard said. “Once (Blocker) gets out front, it’s hard to catch ’im.”

Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks

Work never stops for Mobile’s Michael Moody.

Thankfully, neither has the winning.

The Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks driver has been rewarded with a rocket ship this year for his tireless efforts in the shop. That continued Friday night at Five Flags Speedway when Moody won for a fifth time already in just seven 20-lap features this season.

“I’m building a brand new one,” said Moody, who added his 13- and 10-year-old sons have already expressed interest to drive. “The car ran pretty good tonight. We’re trying to do a bunch of different things. So, it started off free. After six or seven laps, though, it got pretty good.”

Indeed it did. After battling with eventual runner-up Caleb Burkett in the opening laps, Moody quickly began putting distance between he and the rest of the field.

John Kevin Merritt, in his first race of the season, rounded out the podium.

“He just outdrove me,” Burkett said of Moody. “Mike’s a helluva competitor.”