Grill Claims Five Flags PLM Opener With Daring, Controversial Last-Lap Pass from Joe Culpepper / track PR
Snowball Derby Champion Tangles With Bubba Pollard for Victory
Pollard was leading when he closed fast on lapped traffic, including Bobby Reuse, in Turn 3 of the last lap, enabling Grill to make up a 7-car-length deficit in seemingly mere seconds. Pollard had nowhere to go, and Grill bravely stuck the nose of his car underneath Pollard for a mad dash to the checkered flag.
The two cars got together, and Pollard got the worst of it.
“We caught some lapped cars there, and I didn’t think at first they were going to be an issue,” said Grill, the cagey driver from Hayden, Ala., who won the pole with a speed of 104.7 mph earlier in the evening.
“The lapped cars bundled Bubba up in the middle of Turns 3 and 4. He moved up enough to give me room. I guess they told him on the radio that I was under him, and he came down.
Bubba Pollard's car sits damaged after contact from Augie Grill at the end of the FIve Flags PLM opener. (5flagsspeedway.com photo)
Augie Grill had a hard time managing a smile, but the 2007 Snowball Derby champion enjoyed a return trip to Victory Lane on Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
Grill nudged his way past spinning leader Bubba Pollard coming out of the final turn to capture the season-opening Allen Turner 100 $10,000 Challenge Pro Late Model feature. Pollard crossed the stripe sliding backwards before slamming the inside retaining wall, while Ryan Crane came home a close third in the 100-lap dogfight.
"I spun him out, but not on purpose by any means. If the shoe is on the other foot, the same thing would have happened. I’ll take this win with a little disgust, but I’ll take it just the same. This is a tainted victory, but I’m still taking the trophy home.”
The win was doubly significant in that Grill can claim a $10,000 bonus should he win the 2008 Allen Turner Snowflake 100 during Snowball Derby Week in December.
Friday’s race boiled down to a three-car battle between Grill, Pollard and Crane, the 2007 Snowflake 100 winner. Grill led 43 laps and Pollard the other 57. There were six caution periods and just four lead changes, the last coming in the final, manic quarter-lap.
After crashing into the wall on the front stretch, Pollard, from Senoia, Ga., stormed to Grill’s car and had some choice words for the winner. Pollard was unavailable for comment later.
Grill first reached Victory Lane at Five Flags Speedway in the 2007 Snowball Derby. He started the 2008 season with a sixth-place finish in the Rattler 100 at Opp, Ala., two weeks ago. The momentum continued into the Allen Turner 100 Challenge.
Pollard had muscled his way past Grill for the lead on Lap 86, completing a pass that took two laps to complete.
Crane, from Panama City, could not muster the power to challenge for the top spot. He finished a half-car-length behind Pollard at the end.
Grill said the possibility of winning the $10,000 bonus was secondary to simply getting a win at the site of his greatest triumph.
“The bonus was incentive to come here, but it wasn’t what was on my mind there in the final lap,” Grill said.
Brandon Carlson of Pensacola finished fourth. Sammy McMullen, the 2007 track Pro Late Model champion, finished seventh. Logan Boyett was eighth, while another Pensacolia and the only female in the field, Johanna Long, finished 10th, one lap down.
Gary Sanford, Jr.
Daren 'dj' Vanderey
Five Flags Speedway
Allen Turner 100