Gulf Coast Championship Leftovers
The Happenings at Mobile and Five Flags
By Elgin Traylor
Grill Dominates on His Way to Victory at Mobile

Augie Grill had a near-perfect weekend at Pensacola and Mobile.  He won two poles, led a bunch of laps, won on Saturday night at Mobile Int’l Speedway and finished second on Friday at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola.  I guess you could say that there is no way that his weekend could have gone any better – well, unless you were Augie Grill.

“It could have,” joked Grill.

After losing the race on Friday night by a nose, Grill made sure it didn’t happen again on Saturday as he rocketed away from the entire field to score the victory in the second round of the Miller Lite Series.  

“That is by far the best car I have ever had here at Mobile,” said Grill.  “It was a good at Pensacola last night as well.  It was a really good weekend for us.  I am pretty proud of myself and all my guys for all the work they do to keep this thing fast.”

At one point it looked as if they might have given the race away just before halfway.  Grill came by the start-finish line as the pits where opened by race director Dan Spence.  Grill drove right past the entrance to the pits as half the field behind him came in.

“I thought we were supposed to follow the pace car around for a lap, but when the pace car picked us up the pits were open.  Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I knew our car was good enough to make it back through the field.  Low and behold it didn’t take that long to get back by them thanks to a few wrecks, but we’re glad that didn’t cost us the race.”

Grill looks to be on of the few drivers who still has a shot at the Gulf Coast Series Championship which consists of the Blizzard Series races and the Miller Lite Series races.

“The points cross your mind,” said Grill.  “Since I started racing I have never really run anything for points.  We went to the track to win races.  It would be bad to win all three (Series), but right now we want to win races.” 

Fultz Comes Close to Ending Winless Streak

Jeff Fultz has been trying to get the monkey off his back, as he hasn’t visited victory lane since 2007.  Five Flags Speedway brought him no luck and after qualifying at Mobile things looked the same.  Fultz made up for when the green flag came out at Mobile as he came through the field like a hot knife through butter.  In the end the results didn’t show the strength of the run as Fultz finished 16th.

“We really struggled this weekend,” said Fultz.  “We worked our butts of here to get the car right and it was a rocket ship during the race.  We were right there with Augie (Grill) and I knew that we had something for him on the short runs.  On the long runs he would just drive away with his big motor.”

Fultz pestered the back bumper of Grill on the restarts and nearly wiggled him up out of the groove once.  In the end, he was left back peddling through the field in the closing laps.

“We think we ran out of fuel,” added Fultz.  “We lost a cylinder and we ran a bunch of laps of caution so that what ended our night.”  

Next time you see Jeff Fultz in the pit area give him your lucky penny.  Because he needs just a little luck and he’ll be back in victory lane before you know it.

Bryce Walker Impressive In Third-Place Run

The last six months for Bryce Walker have been all about transitioning from a Legends Car driver to a Late Model driver.  Week after week and lap after lap he’s gotten better and better.  The results really shined through at Mobile when he scored a career-best third place finish.

“It’s amazing,” said Walker who was really happy in the victory circle.  “My career highlight is right now.  I am tired after this run because we lost power steering after 10 laps, but you can’t argue with a third-place finish.”

Walker knows that he’s come a long way since his Legends car championships from 2008.  His “push to pass” style has been changed and one big reason for that is Jeff Fultz who has taken Walker under his wing and transformed him into a Late Model contender.

“His ability speaks for it’s self,” said Fultz. “We didn’t have a great car for him at Five Flags, but we back that up with good stuff here at Mobile.  He really uses his head out there and he’s already a great driver, were just going to try and help him get to that next level.  He lost the power steering and still finished strong.”

Walker is very grateful to what the multi-time NASCAR Southeast champion has done for him in a short amount of time.

“He’s been a great help and he’s been a great mentor,” added Walker. “Jeff is a great guy and a great person and we wouldn’t be here with out his help.”

Hamner Says “We Sucked this Weekend”

Josh Hamner is not known to be bashful about how he runs and how he finishes.  He has always told the truth when it comes to his racing and results.  So when the checkered flag flew at Mobile on Saturday night he was relived.

“We sucked this weekend,” said Hamner honestly.  “We are going to start over with the stuff that we know works.  I think I am going to go buy me a World of Outlaw dirt car.  Because I can drive those things after driving this place as sideways as we were tonight.”

Hamner will run with the ASA Challenge Series on June 13th at O’Reilly Raceway Park (IN).  It’s a track that Hamner has run in the past.

“I am real excited about ORP,” said Hamner.  “It’s one of the few tracks that I have been too. We’re looking forward to it, we learned a lot up at Milwaukee.  The cool thing about racing is that you never stop learning and we have learned a lot in the last few weeks.”

Pollard Caps Off Weekend With Runner-Up Finish

Bubba Pollard showed he had a lot of faith in his racecar after he pitted out of the lead with just over 20 laps to go at Mobile.  The trip to pit lane for new rubber pushed him all the way back to the 19th spot.  An impressive run, with the aid of some caution flags, allowed Pollard to move back to second to score another podium finish.

“It’s all luck when you choose to come in,” said Pollard.  “We figured that more guys would fall out allowing us to not loose as much ground as we did.  We had a good car, but it was a long ride back to the front without power steering.  We could have raced Augie (Grill) a bit harder if we hadn’t lost the power steering.”

Pollard had been leading for several laps, but Augie Grill who had taken tires was quickly reeling in Pollard right before the yellow flag came out.

“It’s hard to not take tires when they are available to you,” added Pollard. “They make a big difference and we were going to be a sitting duck anyway if we had stayed out.”

Smith’s Great Weekend Goes Down the Tube

Casey Smith has really gotten back on his game thus far in 2009.  Solid runs and a podium finish at Five Flags on Friday night had him licking his chops for Mobile a track where he has won before.  However a broken gear had them on the side lines before the end of the race.

“I am not sure what’s going on,” said Smith. “We broke one with at the Rattler and this one was brand new.  It’s a shame. We didn’t have a car to win, but we would have been right up there.”

Points Battles Down to a Handful of Drivers

Bubba Pollard, Augie Grill and Johanna Long have really stunk up the points race thus far for the Gulf Coast Championship Series.  Long won the first race of the season followed by two victories by Pollard. Grill then went to victory lane at Mobile making the trio 100 points in front of the fourth place driver.

Pollard leads Augie Grill by 44 points and Grill leads Johanna Long 58 points after four of 10 races.  One thing to keep in mind is any of the doubleheader weekends could go sour for a driver who runs into trouble on Friday night.  That could easily transfer over to Saturday.

Long vs. Grill

The mid-race pit stops at Five Flags Speedway on Friday night created some interesting drama as the leaders were left in the middle of the pack.  Two key players in one multi-car wreck were Augie Grill and Johanna Long.  Although nether one of the cars suffered any damaged they created a stack up behind them.  Long got out in front of Grill on the restart as they headed back to the first turn on lap 52.  As Grill closed in on Long, the two cars made contact and Long slid into the grass and came to a stop on the backstretch. The field stacked up behind them causing several cars to get together.  After the race Grill was verbally attacked by the Johanna-mania section on the frontstretch.

“We were four car-lengths behind her and by the time we got to the entry of the corner I was right on her and we touched,” said Grill.  “I am not sure if she waved me to the outside or what.  I didn’t drive that lap any different then I drive any other lap.  I know some of the fans were not too happy, but I’ll take to good with the bad.” 

Long rebounded to finish to finish in the top 10 and wasn’t too upset about the incident.

“It stinks that we got spun out,” said Long.  “We were just happy that we could rebound to finish in the top 10. Those things will happen in racing, we’ll just get them next time.”

Mercer Weekend Ends Sour

Eddie Mercer had a strong run on Friday during the Blizzard Series race at Five Flags Speedway, Mercer got the lead thanks to great pit work, and if it happen been for a lap car he could have sailed away way for a victory.

“I though we were better then Augie (Grill),” said Mercer.  “We were a little loose towards the end. I just got caught up by a lap car that had been giving us the right lane all night.  I tried hard to get back to Augie and I just broke way loose off turn two and we were done after that.

Mercer ended up finishing fourth that night, which was much better then a month ago when tires issues left them struggling when the race started.

The following night at Mobile things were good and another solid run was in the works until a mid-race spin and some overheating problems left them out of the mix early on.  Mercer retired early and finished 23rd.

Pollard Wins One for Beau Slocumb

Bubba Pollard’s victory at Five Flags Speedway was a tribute to his fellow Georgia driver Beau Slocumb who has spent the 2009 season not in the racecar, but battling cancer instead.  In victory lane the team held up signs that said well soon Beau.  Even though Pollard beat out 20+ other cars, he wishes that his fellow Late Model driver could have be racing too.

“Beau and I have been friends for a while,” said Pollard.  “We have raced with him for year, and we are just praying for him to get better so he can come back and race with us. We understand he’s going though a lot, but we’re thinking about him”  

Bubba Pollard had a win and a second-place finish. (51 Sports Photo)
Augie Grill scored the win from the pole on Saturday at Mobile.. (51 Sports Photo)
Jeff Fultz ran well at Mobile, but ran out of gas late.. (51 Sports Photo)
Bryce Walker finished a career-best third on Saturday at Mobile. (51 Sports Photo)
Josh Hamner had a top five on Saturday with a very loose racecar. (51 Sports Photo)
Johanna Long managed a top 10 on Friday night despite a spin in the 100 lap event. (51 Sports Photo)
Eddie Mercer had a good night at Five Flags, but not at Mobile. (51 Sports Photo)
Bubba Pollard and his girlfriend Amber Odom hold up signs in hope that fellow racer Beau Slocumb will be back racing soon. (51 Sports Photo)