Bubba Pollard is the best driver you've never heard of.
Just a year ago, the Georgia-native was ranked the top super late model driver in the country by every reputable media outlet in the country and was declared the winningest driver of 2011. Again, he's very good.
But he hasn't won the prestigious Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway and he hasn't competed in NASCAR. He's looking to achieve both goals later this year.
First up is September's SuperSeal 150 at Mobile International Speedway, a $10,000-to-win sprint that could see the winner take home an all-expenses paid one-race deal in the Camping World Truck Series for Tagsby Racing at Darlington Speedway in October. That's the No. 73 - an entry typically piloted by part-timer and Mobile track promoter Rick Crawford.
But like anything else with value, there's a catch. The SuperSeal 150 is the second of a two-race series spanning both the United States and Saskatoon, Canada.
The first leg of the US-Canadian SuperSeal Shootout will be held at Auto Clearing Speedway on Sept. 1 with the winner receiving an invitation to compete three weeks later at Mobile against southern late model racing's best. Should the Canadian winner manage to make the podium at Mobile, he or she will be awarded the Truck Series ride, regardless of who wins the race.
Should the Canadian winner finish outside of the top-three at Mobile, the winner of the race will be rewarded the Truck Series ride, unless it's someone ineligible for the ride based on an age limit or other qualifying factors. In the event that someone like Chase Elliott or Kyle Benjamin wins the race, the Canadian challenger will be awarded the Truck Series opportunity, regardless of where he or she finishes, a convoluted format that has been criticized by some.
Pollard is sympathetic but even-handed.
"There are sponsorship obligations with SuperSeal," Pollard said. "They have obligations to their Canadian drivers and they want to give them every opportunity and incentive to make that trip. But ultimately, the competition level in the south is so great that I think you'll see the regulars at the front in the closing laps."
To expound, the winner of the Auto Clearing Speedway race will have to make the podium against a field that's sure to include Pollard, Augie Grill, DJ VanderLey, Casey Smith and a host of others who have a myriad of success at a track the Canadian is competing on for the first time in his or her career. Finishing in the top three will be no easy task. And Pollard expects to be in contention.
Pollard was first introduced to America on Discovery Channel's Roush Racing: Driver X. Since then, he's won countless late model races, modified events, and competed in the ARCA Racing Series. NASCAR is the natural next stage of his career.
"Everyone knows our situation, being an underfunded team, and the struggles that come with it," Pollard said. "Competing in the Truck Series would be huge. Everyone knows our financial situation and this is a chance for us to get some exposure on both a National level as well as bringing some attention to our short track program."
He's referring to a short track program that has yet to win the biggest race in his discipline - the Snowball Derby. In four attempts, Pollard has won the pole, led laps, and racked up three top-15s. He's hopes to catch that elusive victory this December at Pensacola Five Flags Speedway.
"With the Snowball, it's all about preparation," Pollard said. "I don't think we'll do things much differently this year because we've had some good runs lately. Now it's time to put it all together. I really can't wait to get out there and race next month because the Snowball is the biggest part of our season. "
Winning the Snowball Derby may hold even more importance to his stock car future than competing in the Truck Series. Johanna Long won the 2010 race, catapulting her to a part-time Truck Series ride for Billy Ballew Motorsports. She was so successful that she's since graduated to the Nationwide Series with ML Racing. Success in 2011 has made her a much sought-after free agent, a path that began at the historic half-mile in Pensacola, Fla.
That's a model that Bubba Pollard hopes to follow in the coming months, transforming him into the best driver you've just now heard of.