In many corners of the racing community, Bubba Pollard is a household name.
One of the nation’s top short track wheelmen, he has won some of the most prestigious races and championships across the country. Highlights on his lengthy resumé include the 2014 Southern Super Series title, two consecutive Winter Showdown wins at California’s Kern County Raceway over the last two seasons, and a victory in this past October’s All-American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.
Those were on asphalt though. Recently, the 29-year-old native of Senoia, Georgia, has been taking on another challenge: dirt.
“I think it makes you a better race car driver to see different things, learn different things,” says Pollard about his foray into the dirt scene. “There’s things you can take from one to the other and vice versa, so it makes you a versatile driver.”
Pollard was busy with his full-time job at Pollard Construction Disposal throughout the summer months in 2016, while during the rest of the year, he was also getting ready to welcome a daughter and building a house. His schedule often didn’t allow him the time to travel extensively and take the two or three days usually required for big asphalt Late Model shows. Instead, he decided to have some fun with a Crate Late Model on the dirt tracks.
“The asphalt guys don’t talk to each other,” he says, laughing. “Dirt guys, they don’t get mad if you come over and see what tire they’re running on the right rear.”
Asphalt racing can be more stressful with an every-man-for-himself attitude, while dirt racers help each other out, he says.
Pollard competed on several occasions throughout 2016 at Senoia Raceway, taking multiple feature wins in the Crate division while making his Super Late Model debut at the track in June. He also made starts in locally sanctioned or NeSmith touring shows at tracks including East Alabama Speedway, Rome Speedway, the Talladega Short Track, and Southern Raceway.
Pollard’s home state is steeped in dirt racing history, with some of the earliest oval tracks rising out of the Georgia clay in the moonshining era. Pollard was not new to dirt racing either; his father and grandfather both raced on Georgia dirt tracks for years. His friend Clint Smith, a fellow Georgian and longtime World of Outlaws Late Model Series competitor, lets Pollard sample his car from time to time as well.
It should come as no surprise then that while Pollard insists this season was about having fun and focusing on personal milestones, he does have greater dirt aspirations for the future.
“We definitely want to run more dirt races, that’s kind of where I feel like we’re headed in our program,” he says.
“I want to be able to do both [asphalt and dirt racing]. So we’re looking to get a new car here in the offseason, a new dirt car, hopefully a Super motor and definitely go run some of the bigger races, a Lucas or World of Outlaws [event] maybe close to home. We’re going to see if we can do that and have some fun.”
Pollard is hoping to find out where he stacks up against the best Dirt Late Model drivers. To do so, he’s had to acknowledge some notable differences between the asphalt and dirt disciplines. Most significant has been learning how to handle the lack of radio communication on the dirt side. He has also had to study where and when to move around the track as it goes through a change, whereas on asphalt, the quickest way around the oval is often planted to the bottom.
Still, for all the differences, Pollard says he and his team have been able to apply some technology from asphalt racing to the dirt car and that the general principles remain the same.
“I was able to jump in and get a feel for it pretty fast,” he says. “I mean you hold that right pedal down, that’s all that matters.”
Main image by Barry Cantrell/Short Track Spotlight