Many track championships can be won with merely solid finishes alone, but Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, home of the famed Snowball Derby, is not one of those tracks. The 2009 Blizzard Series Championship has come down to a battle between three of the best short track Super Late Model drivers in the country, and they’re not on top because of a series of top-five or top-10 finishes. One of these drivers has won every race of the season thus far, and the other two typically rounded out the top three.
Now all three will battle for the 2009 Blizzard Series title in the final event of the season, the Miller Lite 100, this Friday, September 25th, at Five Flags. Points leader Bubba Pollard, who has one win in the season and has not finished further back than second, knows that going into the last race of the Blizzard Series, which is used as a prepping ground for the Snowball Derby in December, there will be a stiffer crowd of competitors in attendance. Many cars, including several teams making their first Five Flags appearance of the season, will be coming to utilize their last chance to prep their rides before the Derby weekend.
“I think it’s going to be a good race,” said Pollard. “There is going to be a lot of tough competition coming in for the last race that hasn’t been there yet this year, since it is the last one before the Derby. But it is going to make it a good race, and I’m looking forward to it. I think we’ve got a good car, so hopefully we’ll get a good finish.”
When it comes to defending his current lead of 23 points over local hotshoe Johanna Long, Pollard knows that he is going to have to keep his eye on the prize in the Miller Lite 100 and not distract himself by worrying about the points race.
“We’ve got to keep racing this race like we have all year,” explained Pollard. “We’ve got to keep finishing up front and stay out of trouble, and I think we have a good shot at winning. Right now we’re not thinking about points. We want to win the championship, but we’re not thinking about points right now. We’re just going to go out and try to win. That’s what we’ve been trying to do all year, and we’re going to stick to that.”
Long also knows that she will have to be at the top of her game Friday night if she’s going to best Pollard and be crowned champion.
“We’re all going to have to have our game faces on,” said Long. “I’m not saying it can’t happen, but it’s definitely going to be hard. Bubba [Pollard] had been so good all season that it’s going to take a lot to beat him.”
A trophy and a prestigious title are not the only gift that the Blizzard Series champion is awarded; the champion and runner-up are also guaranteed a starting position in the Snowball Derby, and all drivers know the importance of that.
“When you go to the Derby, it’s tough just to make the field,” said Pollard. “There are some great drivers that have had a hard time making the Derby. We were close last year to make the Derby, and we had a top-five car the whole race. Going into the Derby week, it would take a lot of stress off of you and definitely help you to relax, knowing you’ve got a guaranteed spot.”
Although Augie Grill, who is third in points, should he need it, would be eligible for the most recent past champions provisional. Johanna Long, who is second in points, would love to have the security of that guaranteed spot in the biggest short track race in the country.
“It would feel awesome,” explained Long. “The Snowball Derby is the biggest race in short track racing, and to know that you’re going to be in the race would be great. You never know what is going to happen during qualifying; you might have a really good car and something could happen that you didn’t see coming, and you would still have the security of knowing that you would still be in the race.”
The final race of the Blizzard season will be this Friday night, September 25th, at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. The Super Stocks, Sportsmen and Bomber divisions will also be competing. Tickets are available for the Miller Lite 100 at the Five Flags Speedway box office, but fans unable to attend the event can listen to the Miller Lite 100 on Speed 51 Radio’s live broadcast of all the action on RaceTalkRadio.com Saturday night.