HICKORY, N.C. – In racing, the only lap that matters is the last one.
That old adage proved true once again on Saturday evening at Hickory Motor Speedway when Bubba Pollard emerged victorious in the CARS Super Late Model Tour portion of the Race Face Tel-Med 300 after a late-race battle with defending series champion Matt Craig.
Pollard led only the final lap, but it was enough to earn him a $5,000 payday.
Craig dominated most of the 150-lap feature, taking the lead within the first 10 laps after starting from the fourth position. Pollard, on the other hand, faded back a few positions after starting third in order to save his tires.
Pollard eventually began working his way back to the front, moving into second behind Craig on the 97th circuit. A caution flag waved on the 101st circuit, setting up a 49-lap dash to the checkered flag and a battle between Craig and Pollard.
“I had to fall back at the beginning of the race to save my tires on low air pressure,” Pollard explained. “It took 10 or 15 laps to come in and we were able to work our way towards the front.”
When the race resumed Craig initially built a bit of a lead on Pollard, but slowly closed the gap and was within two car lengths with 15 laps left. Ten laps later Pollard was right behind Craig and looking for his opening to make the pass.
With two laps left Pollard got to Craig’s inside and the two stayed that way for most of the final two laps, with Craig leading Pollard under the white flag and into turn one. Coming out of turn two the pair made contact, with Craig grazing the outside wall as they raced down the backstretch.
They stayed side-by-side entering turn three, but as they exited turn four Craig spun as he tried to stay alongside Pollard. That handed the checkered flag to Pollard, who crossed the finish line ahead of Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Chandler Smith.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to run him down. I was watching him, he was pretty smooth off the corner and really good down the straightaway,” Pollard said. “We saved just enough. The car was turning good, they (Craig) get tight in the center. They could leave decent, but we could just roll the center so much better.
“I was driving it sideways, I moved around there a little bit to see if I could find something. I was about half a tenth better than him there at the end. We made something happen. I didn’t rough him up, hit him in the back or anything. I did what I needed to do to win the race on the last lap.”
Craig was able to get his car rolling after the spin and cross the finish line in third after leading most of the race. He admitted that his car was out of control down the backstretch, making it that much harder for him to fend off Pollard on the final lap.
“My car was just fading to the loose side,” Craig said. “Coming off of two on the white flag lap I think I grabbed a little too much throttle and I got a little loose and I bumped into Bubba. I was just out of control the whole back straightaway. I ended up spinning out in three and four. It was a good, hard race.
“I don’t think Bubba did anything. I just grabbed a little bit too much throttle off of (turn) two.”
Carson Kvapil finished fourth, with Kodie Conner rounding out the top-five.
Bubba Pollard, Chandler Smith, Matt Craig, Carson Kvapil, Kodie Conner, Nolan Pope, Sammy Smith, Trevor Noles, Jake Garcia, Jake Crum, Harrison Halder, Hudson Halder, Jeff Batten, Justin Crider, Jeremy Barclay, Tyler Church.