Official: Pollard wins Pro Lates, Dutilly wins Blizzard; 2 Podiums for Nasseadmin
Dutilly Notches 1st Career Win at 5 Flags; Bromante, Garcia Score LM Track Crowns
By Chuck Corder
Plenty hanged in the balance heading into the Night of Champions at Five Flags Speedway.
Both the Super and Pro Late Models classes entered Saturday’s regular season finale with hardware to hand out and door-to-door points races would decide the recipients.
Anticipation built throughout the week and into Saturday afternoon when short-track’s living legend Bubba Pollard owned qualifying with fast times of 16.611 (SLMs) and 16.854 (PLMs).
But Pollard’s pole sweep was one of the only things that went according to script on the Night of Champions. Pollard blowing up late in the Deep South Cranes Blizzard Series 150 was just one of many spooky surprises eight days after Friday the 13th.
Easily the night’s biggest shocker was Bradenton driver Jesse Dutilly finally breaking through and getting his first career win at Pensacola’s high banks.
Passing then-leader Giovanni Bromante following a late-race restart, Dutilly led the final seven laps to win the Blizzard Series 150.
“The car wasn’t good earlier this week, and I was a real pain in the (butt),” Dutilly said, who was joined in the Victory Lane podium by Bromante and Stephen Nasse. “Thanks for everybody sticking with me and following me around. I was high maintenance this weekend.”
Perhaps, Dutilly’s hyper focus was because of all the disappointing endings Five Flags has handed him.
Dutilly has consistently been a rocket ship in qualifying, often posting the fast time, but his feature results at the famed half-mile asphalt oval had continued to be a point of frustration.
“I’ve always been able to burn a lap around here,” Dutilly of his blistering qualifying runs. “But this place is so hard, and so challenging. It’s eight-and-half hours one-way for us to get here, so that’s a challenge into itself.
“I had always hoped this would come sooner. The track is so hard. We come in here with high expectations so often and it finds other ways to whoop on us every time.”
Dutilly bided his time the whole night, flying under the radar, before taking full advantage of his machine on the final restart.
While the Bradenton veteran made personal history with his first checkered flag at Five Flags, it was an historic night for a 16-year-old from New York, too.
Bromante finished runner-up in the race, but he soared past Casey Roderick and Lucas Jones for the Blizzard Series track championship.
The Locust Valley, NY, teenager became the second youngest driver to capture the prestigious series title. Current NASCAR star Chase Elliott won the championship at 15 in 2010.
“This is just surreal,” Bromante said. “To be the champion of the Blizzard Series is such a great honor. (Car owner) Anthony (Campi) and the team put a lotta work into this car all year long”
Bromante actually led about 15 laps before Dutilly passed him with six to go. After starting 16th, though, collecting a runner-up finish and, most importantly, a Blizzard Series championship were hard fought and well-earned.
Allen Turner Pro Late Models Series
Bubba Pollard wasn’t about to leave Pensacola without checkered flag.
While his SLM No. 26 didn’t deliver a 21st career Blizzard Series victory, all was not lost for the Senoia, Ga., driver on the Night of Champions.
Pollard had the fast time in qualifying for the Allen Turner Hyundai Pro Late Models. And when he rolled a “1” on the die, putting himself on the pole for the Allen Turner Tune-Up 100, Pollard’s rivals knew they were in trouble.
And while eventual runner-up Kyle Plott led the most laps, Pollard led when it mattered most.
The 32-year-old driver led the final 25 laps to collect his fourth PLM win of the season.
“It always feels good to come here and win,” Pollard said. “We’ve got a lotta friends and family here. I wish we would’ve had a better finish in the first race, but this feels good going into the (Snowball) Derby.”
The 52nd annual Snowball Derby (Dec. 4-8) will give Pollard another crack at winning short-track racing’s most prestigious race for the first time in his career. After totaling more than 100 LM wins, the Derby remains the one victory that has eluded Pollard
“We’re looking forward to it,” he said. “We’ve got a lotta testing to do. We’ve been working hard the last couple of weeks and months to get ready.”
After a string of three third-place finishes in each Allen Turner 100 lapper this season, Jake Garcia saw his streak end with an eighth-place finish Saturday.
But, because of his persistence and some mechanical misfortunes to Connor Okrzesik’s No. 14, the 14-year-old Garcia left Five Flags on Saturday with an Allen Turner PLM track championship. Garcia is the youngest LM track champion in Five Flags history and his series trophy stood taller than him as he posed for photos post-race.
“I’ve got a great team,” said Garcia, whose crew chief Ricky Turner has won Snowball Derby titles as a driver and a crew chief for Chase Elliott. “I just do my best on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s great to be a champion here.”
For full finishing order go to RESULTS drop down menu here on the web site.
Full Story to come soon.