Super Late Model machines hit the pavement on Sunday afternoon at New Smyrna Speedway for the 55th annual Halifax Health Race to Stop Suicide Florida Governor’s Cup 200. At the end of the day, it was Bubba Pollard who would accept the accolades for his victory in a race broadcast by NBC Sports Gold Track Pass.
It was the first Governor’s Cup triumph for the veteran racer from Senoia, GA.
Veteran campaigner and New Smyrna regular Brad May set the fast time in qualifying with a lap of 17.820 seconds around the half-mile paved oval to top Jesse Dutilly, Daniel Dye, Jett Noland, Stephen Nasse, Bubba Pollard, Kyle Sieg, Michael Atwell, George Gorham, Anthony Sergi, Kris Wright, Travis Wilson, Daniel Keene, Bobby Good and Ty Majeski.
At the start of the 200-lap main event it was May who bolted to the early lead ahead of Noland, Dutilly, Pollard and Dye. Nasse moved forward on lap 4 when he took fifth away from Dye then wrested fourth away from Pollard one lap later.
Dutilly settled into second after he passed by Noland on lap 6 at the same time Dye gained the fifth spot by passing Pollard.
The top-4 of May, Dutilly, Noland and Nasse spent time clicking off laps as they separated from the pack. May then began to pull away from the tight battle between Dutilly, Noland and Nasse while Dye and Pollard battled further back on lap 25. The top-6 tightened up as drivers appeared to in a conservative mode as they made their way toward the competition caution that would come after 50 consecutive green flag laps.
None of the front runners opted to pit for adjustments under the lap 50 caution.
The No. 91 of Majeski, who had advanced well into the top-10 from his 15th starting spot, spun on the lap 56 restart and banged off the inside wall. The damage done to his car ended the day for the three-time Governor’s Cup winner.
Another pre-race contender narrowly averted disaster on lap 65 when he recovered from a near spin but lost multiple positions back to ninth. All the while, May continued to show the way ahead of Dutilly, Noland and Nasse.
Early race leader May began to fade just after the 90th circuit as the competition reeled him in. Dutilly took the race lead on lap 90 then Noland, Nasse, and Dye followed suit by passing by May in succession.
The second competition caution flag of the day waved on lap 109 with the Dutilly, Noland, Nasse, Dye, Keene, May, Gorham, Pollard, Atwell and Wilson making up the top-10 just after halfway. All front runners hit pit road for tires and adjustments during controlled pit stops to set themselves up for the race’s second half.
On the lap 116 restart, Nasse bolted all the way up to second. Soon afterward, Dye and Pollard also began to rise as they passed by Noland for third and fourth respectively just after an episode of hard racing. Nasse moved up and began to apply heavy pressure to the rear bumper of Dutilly’s leading machine. However, Nasse’s hopes faded as he suffered mechanical issues on lap 140 and fell from contention.
A lap 143 yellow flag waved for the stalled car of Nasse. After coming to pit road, the No. 51N crew was able to make repairs to allow their driver to return to action but two laps in arrears.
Dutilly stayed out under the caution as Pollard, Dye, Noland and Keene hit pit road for new tires and adjustments.
After the lap 147 restart, Dutilly held the lead with Pollard close behind while Dye, Noland and Gorham fought for the remaining positions in the top-5. Gorham eventually emerged from that battle with Dye and Noland trailing.
With 43 circuits remaining, Pollard was finally able to get by Dutilly for the race lead after several laps of harassment. Dutilly then fell back into the clutches of Gorham, Dye and the lapped machine of Nasse as Pollard worked to get away from his pursuers.
Gorham got by Dutilly for the runner-up spot on lap 163 then Dye moved around Dutilly to grab third. Dye would then take second from Gorham with 25 laps remaining.
As the laps wound down, Pollard built a comfortable advantage and maintained that pace until he sailed under the checkered flag for the victory.
In victory lane an emotional Bubba Pollard remembered his friend and longtime competitor David Rogers.
“It feels good,” Pollard declared in his post-race interview. “I might get emotional but it’s been a tough last couple of months but we never give up. That’s part of racing. I’ve got a good group of guys, a good group of people helping me out and I can’t say enough about it. We’ve been struggling and I’ve had a tough couple of weeks.”
“It does feel good,” Pollard replied when asked about bringing Rogers’ crew to victory lane. “All his guys are here. It meant a lot to us and David for all his guys to help me out. I couldn’t do it without them and all our guys back at home who weren’t able to make it. This is for them, they know who it is. We needed to win today.”
Florida Governor’s Cup 200 Finish: 1. Bubba Pollard, 2. Daniel Dye, 3. George Gorham, Jr., 4. Jesse Dutilly, 5. Brad May, 6. Jett Noland, 7. Travis Wilson, 8. Kyle Sieg, 9. Stephen Nasse, 10. Daniel Keene, 11. Bobby Good, 12. Michael Atwell, 13. Anthony Sergi, 14. Ty Majeski, 15.Kris Wright