NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. – Flying the TM Ranch colors of the late David Rogers on the hood, Bubba Pollard earned his first victory in the Florida Governor’s Cup Sunday afternoon at New Smyrna Speedway.
It was a hard-earned victory for Pollard, who has struggled to find the performance he is used to in recent months.
“It’s been tough the last couple months. We never give up, that’s part of racing,” Pollard said as he fought back tears in victory lane following the 55th running of the event. “I’ve had a tough couple of weeks. That’s part of racing. You dig through it.”
The early portion of the race was dominated by track champion Brad May, who led the first 87 laps from the pole before giving up the lead to Jesse Dutilly on lap 88. May would then fade through the field as Dutilly stretched his lead.
A competition caution on lap 110 saw the entire field hit pit road for adjustments and tires. When the race resumed, Dutilly held the lead but found himself being hounded by asphalt super late model star Stephen Nasse for the top spot.
Nasse would follow in Dutilly’s tire tracks for the next 25 laps, occasionally looking to Dutilly’s inside to try and take the lead away. However, Nasse’s luck would turn sour just before lap 140 as his car slowed to a crawl with a mechanical issue.
The No. 51 of Nasse would eventually come to a stop on the backstretch to bring out the caution with 60 laps left, which presented drivers with the opportunity visit pit road again for more adjustments or tires.
Dutilly drove by the pits, opting to stay on track, but new runner-up Pollard brought everyone else down pit road for adjustments and tires.
When the race resumed Pollard went straight to work, looking for a way around Dutilly as the lead duo inched away from the rest of the field. Pollard first looked under Dutilly before moving up the track to look for a way around him on the top.
Finally, on lap 155, Pollard drove to Dutilly’s inside in turn one. They stayed side-by-side down the backstretch, with Pollard able to beat Dutilly to the start/finish line to lead that lap. Entering turn one on lap 156 Pollard was able to pull clear of Dutilly at the front of the field.
Now in command of the race, Pollard set sail. He pulled out to more than a second advantage as Dutilly faded through the pack, with Daniel Dye and George Gorham both dispatching the former race leader.
All of that happened well behind Pollard, who held on to win the event for the first time in his career and take home the $15,000 top prize. The victory carried extra meaning for Pollard, as New Smyrna Speedway was the home track for his late friend Rogers, who died on March 8 after a battle with cancer.
“All his guys helped me out. I couldn’t do it without them,” Pollard said of Rogers’ crew. “I’ve got guys back at home that weren’t able to make it. This is for them. They know who it is. We needed to win today.”
Dye, driving a late model owned by NASCAR Vice President of Racing Development Ben Kennedy, settled for second. He admitted that even if he’d gotten a caution to close the gap on Pollard, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to beat him.
“I don’t know if I needed a caution. Bubba probably would have schooled me on the restart like he does to everybody,” Dye said. “I got held up a little bit. People were real rough today and I got a lot of it. Just had to stay out of that and finish second I guess.”
Gorham ended up third in his first start of the year at New Smyrna Speedway. Dutilly finished fourth after losing the lead to Pollard with less than 50 laps left. May settled for fifth after leading most of the first half of the race.
Bubba Pollard, Daniel Dye, George Gorham, Jesse Dutilly, Brad May, Jett Noland, Travis Wilson, Kyle Sieg, Stephen Nasse, Daniel Keene, Bobby Good, Michael Atwell, Anthony Sergi, Ty Majeski, Kris Wright.