A little home cooking - and a very fast racecar - proved to be the winning combination for veteran short-track racer Bubba Pollard in Saturday's Larry Fleeman Memorial 100 Pro Late Model race at Gresham Motorsports Park.
Pollard outdueled young charger John Hunter Nemechek after a late red flag made it a 10-lap sprint to the finish. The Senoia, GA driver, a fixture at GMP since it was completely renovated in 2009, had just enough left to hold off Nemechek, the 16-year-old wunderkind making just his second career Gresham Motorsports Park start.
"John Hunter was really fast," said Pollard in Victory Lane. "My car was going away at the end of the race and I really hated to see that late red flag. I didn't know if I could hold him off after we went green. I thought he might have had me a couple of times, but I really have to thank John Hunter for racing me clean. This was a great win. I always like racing here."
Pollard's run to victory started in qualifying when he toured the GMP half-mile in 16.732 seconds (107.578 mph average) - good enough for the pole in the 22-car Larry Fleeman Memorial 100 starting field.
At the drop of the green, it was Nemechek, not Pollard, jumping into the lead for the first 10 circuits before Pollard hammered by with an outside pass on Lap 11.
From then on, Pollard had the rest of the field in his mirror, but not by much. For the first 30 circuits, Pollard, Nemechek, Anderson Bowen and T.J. Reid battled in nose-to-tail fighter formation with Kyle Plott, Hunter Robbins, Dwayne Buggay, Russell Fleeman and Harrison Burton staging their own battle for fifth through 10th.
The high-speed chase came to a grinding halt on Lap 46 when Colt James pounded the Turn 3 outside retaining wall. The hard contact sent James' racer into a wild spin down the track where it came to a stop. James was unhurt in the incident, but the tough wreck brought out the red flag to clean up the carnage.
Back under green, Pollard and Nemechek again roared off in a 1-2 tandem now with Reid, Bowen and Plott in hot pursuit. With Pollard enjoying a three-car advantage and the finish in sight, he again had to come to a stop when Dalton Grindle's stocker erupted in flames exiting Turn 2. Grindle was able to stop his car midway down the back straight and escaped without injury as GMP safety workers quickly put out the blaze.
The second-red flag of the event then set up the dash to the checkered flag where Pollard was able to hold off Nemechek by a scant 0.445 seconds. Reid, Robbins and Bowen completed the Top-5 with Burton, Fleeman, Bayley Currey, Plott and Riley Thornton rounding out the Top-10 finishers.
"I was a little bit better than Bubba at the beginning of the race and I think our cars were pretty evenly matched at the end," said Nemechek. "I didn't quite have the car to get by him at the end. You have to keep your momentum up in these crate engine cars and I just couldn't get him. The red flags changed the handling of our racecar a bit, but we were still pretty good. This is a fun place to race."
Jason Bates and Matthew Wragg batted bumper to bumper for all 30 laps with Bates winning the Larry Fleeman Memorial 30 Outlaw Late Model division event. The high-speed sprint clicked off without incident a quick 9-minutes, 11.571-seconds. Russell Shore, Lee Langford and David Murphy rounding out the top-5 finishers.
A post-race protest and subsequent crate engine technical inspection later this week will determine the winner of Saturday's Pro Truck 30 event. Matt Vassar crossed the finish line first with Kristen Wallace, Rodney Benefield, Ronnie Wehunt and Kevin Vassar in tow. An official result for this race will be announced after the completion of the protest process.
Saturday's Larry Fleeman Memorial 100 will be televised on a tape-delayed basis to over 100-millon households nationally on multiple networks in about two weeks. Veteran motorsports announcer Rick Benjamin and NASCAR racing legend Kenny Schrader will host the one-hour program.
Air Times and where you can watch the Larry Fleeman Memorial 100 will be announced soon.
Next up at Gresham Motorsports Park will be a Pro Drifting event on Sunday, May 11. Streetwise Drift will invade GMP for a full day of high-speed, slideways action. Gates open at 10 a.m. and Adult General Admission is just $15.
LARRY FLEEMAN MEMORIAL 100 PRO LATE MODEL EVENT
1. Bubba Pollard Senoia, GA 100 Laps $4,000
2. John Hunter Nemechek Mooresville, NC 100 Laps $3,000
3. T.J. Reid Ackworth, GA 100 Laps $2,500
4. Hunter Robbins Shorter, AL 100 Laps $2,000
5. Anderson, Bowen Suwanee, GA 100 Laps $1,500
6. Harrison Burton Huntersville, NC 100 Laps $1,400
7. Russell Fleeman Dacula, GA 100 Laps $1.300
8. Bayley Currey Driftwood, TX 100 Laps $1,200
9. Kyle Plott Marietta, GA 100 Laps $1,100
10. Riley Thornton Peach Tree City GA 100 Laps $1,000
11. Davey Coble Madison, TN 100 Laps $900
12. Frederick Moore Gainesville, GA 100 Laps $800
13. Dwayne Buggay Canton, GA 100 Laps $700
14. Josh Adkins Cumming,GA 100 Laps $600
15. Matthew Wragg Dacula, GA 99 Laps $500
16. Mark Gibson Kernersville, NC 99 Laps $300
17. J.R. Bolden Calera, AL 99 Laps $300
18. Dalton Grindle Flowery Branch, GA 89 Laps $300
19. Darin Cronin Canton, GA 63 Laps $300
20. Kyle McCallum Macon, GA 60 Laps $300
21. Colt James Buda, TX 46 Laps $300
22. R.S. Senter Oakwood, GA 22 Laps $300
23. Emilee Riley Canton, GA DNS $300
Time of Race: 1:11.48.677
Lap Leaders : Nemechek 1-10, Pollard 11-100.
Pole: Pollard 16,732 seconds, 107.578 mph
LARRY FLEEMAN MEMORIAL 30 OUTLAW LATE MODEL EVENT
1. Jason Bates
2. Matthew Wragg
3. Russell Shore
4. Lee Langford
5. David Murphy
6. Brian Hardman
LARRY FLEEMAN MEMORIAL 30 PRO TRUCK RACE
1. Matt Vasser
2. Kristen Wallace
3. Rodney Benefield
4. Ronnie Wehunt
5. Kevin Vasser
6. Jami Weimer
7. Ty Roberts
8. Matt Wortman