It's at least a four-driver championship battle and deep fields every race weekend.
his has to be exactly the kind of set-up Tim Bryant and Nicholas Rogers envisioned when optimizing the Southern Super Series during the off-season.
Every race pays a minimum of $10,000 and the Southern Super Stars program rewards continued participation from week-to-week. The goal was to attract all the biggest names and teams from the Deep South to race in marquee events and challenge for the championship.
Mission accomplished. Like seriously, look at this:
Hunter Robbins -18
Bubba Pollard -22
Jake Garcia -71
Jackson Boone -78
All it would take is for the incredibly consistent Stephen Nasse to use up his one figurative mulligan to create an even more wide-open championship battle with New Smyrna, Pensacola, Cordele and Pensacola remaining.
If that sounds unlikely, remember that Pollard had a similar healthy points lead before a combination of misfortune and mechanical challenges presented themselves across a three-race stretch in Nashville, Montgomery and Tri-County dropped him to 22 points out of the lead.
Before that, Pollard and the No. 26 were the fastest team in the southeast and likely still are with some positive luck over the final three weeks, which makes this race all the more compelling.
Having Pollard and Nasse racing full-time on the tour again was a nice enough treat for those in the region and watching across the country, but it’s an even nicer treat to have Hunter Robbins and Ronnie Sanders Racing reunited and full-time in the Southern Super Series since the inaugural season in 2013.
That the combination won last time out at Tri-County, the first in a Super Late Model for Robbins, is just another rewarding aspect of following the Southern Super Series in 2022. Pollard and Nasse are known modern commodities but Sanders is a legend and having the No. 18 back in the mix every week for a Deep South Late Model tour just feels right.
It’s similar to Sanders himself driving his car to All-Pro Super Series wins against the likes of Jody Ridley, Joe Nemechek, Gary Balough and Rusty Wallace.
Reigning and defending champion Jake Garcia is still in the mix too at 71 points back and just needs Nasse and Robbins to falter with continued Pollard problems -- which isn’t exactly impossible considering the races at Pensacola alone are sure to have near 30 cars and some variables at play.
Matthew Craig would be in that mix too, if his team hadn’t decided to sit out the Rattler 250, but even that is a reflection of the competition level to have entered a number of Southern Super Series events this season.
The Donnie Wilson Motorsports No. 24 team has won races with both William Byron and William Sawalich in one-off capacities. Derek Thorn, Chandler Smith and Sammy Smith are marquee talents making one-off appearances throughout the season to deepen the field.
On Saturday night at New Smyrna, the full-time championship contenders will have to fend off local champion Brad May and ARCA Racing Series championship contender Daniel Dye making one-off appearances.
These are incredibly rich fields reflective of the effort that the series promoter and race director have put into it during the winter. It’s one of the highlights of this summer and here’s to another chapter this weekend in the Battle at the Beach 100.
-Story by Matt Waver for Racing America