Winning at Daytona presents long odds. But so does making it as a NASCAR driver.

Alex Zietlow, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

If all goes according to plan, Torrance Jackson expects an earthquake. An infield set ablaze. Maybe the frontstretch fence will be toppled over by spectators — their cold hands and cowboy booted feet climbing in a collective I-can’t-believe-we-saw-that high.

Jackson isn’t alone in these predictions of mayhem.

“I said, ‘Tim,’” — as in Tim Bryant, the racetrack owner — “‘what would happen if Bubba wins today?’” Jackson, who goes by TJ, says.

He then smiles.

“And he say, ‘TJ, I’m probably gonna have to build a new track.’”

It’s a Sunday morning in December in Pensacola, Florida, a few hours before one of the biggest short-track races in the country called the Snowball Derby. TJ is in the Five Flags Speedway infield talking about one of his favorite people — Andrew “Bubba” Pollard — who also happens to be one of the greatest short-track pavement racers of all-time.


Pollard has never won this race. His “big one.” In this way, he draws comparisons to Dale Earnhardt and the late legend’s longtime struggles winning the Daytona 500.

Pollard could draw this comparison in other ways, too, perhaps: Rarely do you see the construction-worker-by-day, 36-year-old Senoia, Georgia, native climb into the corrugated chassis he and his family built and not summon Super Late Model magic. Rarely does a crowd not follow Pollard around the racetrack. Racing has been in Pollard’s family for generations, but rarely, too, does Bubba’s last name yield special treatment. The only name that seems to do that around here is “Redneck Jesus,” the nickname he reluctantly accepted after a driver called him that years ago.

“He’s got the redneck part right,” Pollard would later tell The Observer, shyly. “But that’s about it.”

Among all these rarities, though, there’s a glaring “never.”


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