HICKORY, N.C. – Matt Craig survived a stern challenge from Bubba Pollard to win the CARS Super Late Model Tour portion of the Throwback 276 Saturday night at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Craig started from the pole in a Robert Hemke throwback scheme and led most of the race, but found himself forced to hold off Pollard during a 25-lap dash to the checkered flag after a caution flag on lap 113 of the 138-lap race.
Once the race resumed Pollard hounded Craig for the lead, with Pollard using his bumper coming out of turn four on lap 114 to get Craig sideways. Craig held serve and maintained the position as Pollard tried desperately to mount a challenge.
Throughout the final 25 laps Pollard would drive his No. 26 deep into turn one in an effort to get to Craig’s inside, but each time Pollard washed up the track and lost momentum. That would allow Craig to pull out to a slight lead each lap.
On the penultimate lap Pollard tried one last time to get to Craig in turn one, but his run sent him high out of turn two and allowed third-place Brandon Setzer to get to his inside. At the front Craig scooted away to score the victory.
“That was intense. I kind of forget to breath there for awhile,” Craig said. “He was trying everything he could to move me out of the way or whatever he was trying to do, wreck me…I had just enough to stay ahead of him during that last 20 lap run.
“Finally I got a little room to breath and I was able to maintain a small gap. I can’t thank Rowdy Manufacturing, my dad, Richard (Hamke) enough for just giving me the opportunity to come out here and run this good. It feels good to beat Bubba.”
However, the fireworks weren’t done.
Post-race Pollard exited his car and marched down pit road toward victory lane, where he began throwing punches at Craig’s father. The incident was quickly broken up by police and officials, with Pollard escorted away from the scene after having words with the race winner.
Craig admitted that members of his crew may have used some inappropriate gestures towards Pollard, which probably contributed to the post-race fisticuffs.
“Our team was fired up and might have made some gestures at him that ticked him off a little bit,” Craig admitted. “I told Bubba that my bumper never touched your bumper. I don’t know what you’re mad about. He said my team was, I don’t know, ugly I guess.
“We’ve got to keep our cool, but I think Bubba lost his cool even more than we did. I think he was very upset he got beat tonight.”
Pollard, who ended up third behind Craig and Setzer, was not available for comment immediately after the race.
Matt Craig, Brandon Setzer, Bubba Pollard, Tate Fogleman, Donnie Wilson, Jared Fryar, Corey Heim, Kodie Conner, Carson Kvapil, Nolan Pope, T.J. Duke, Derek Lemke, Molly Helmuth, Brandon Johnson, Dylan Bigley, Jared Irvan, Jeff Batten, Lee Tissot, Daniel Webster, Justin Crider, Gus Dean, Harold Crooms, Kyle Ivey.