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Bubba Pollard expects Late Model skills to translate to NASCAR Xfinity car

There is hype and pressure but no expectations

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Credit: Dave Kallmann / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Bubba Pollard has been told that the NASCAR Xfinity Series car is basically a big Super Late Model and that Richmond Raceway is basically a big Five Flags Speedway so he has a chance to be immediately comfortable.

Unlike the Cup Series car, which is now a cross between an Australian Supercar and a GT3 and a NASCAR Truck, the Xfinity Series platform has a similar driving characteristics as the Super Late Models he has mastered over the past 20 years.

It also helps that abrasive Richmond is most like the half-mile in Pensacola that he has made his most starts and enjoyed his most success.

“Everyone says go out and do what you do every week,” Pollard said on Wednesday during a media conference call. “Getting the simulator time, I can see that when it comes to a race run and the characteristic of the race track has a lot of similarities to what I am accustomed to at Five Flags and Super Late Model racing in general.”

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The aforementioned simulator work at the Chevrolet building was a brand-new experience for the 37-year-old last week, and it’s also one that also left him feeling a degree of vertigo and nervousness that he didn’t maximize the time for his No. 88 team.

“The first time didn’t go so well,” Pollard said. “I got motion sickness and everything.

“We did the stationary simulator today and got some laps in; very helpful tool we can hopefully apply to Saturday. We’ll see how it goes. We can take a lot away from it with Andrew (Rahaman) and everyone at Chevrolet giving me the information I need to apply it.”

The fact that Pollard, who is making his first NASCAR appearance after two decades of short track success, is even in a simulator is a culture shock. In his world, Pollard and his peers show up to the track the day before a race and spend an entire afternoon practicing to acquire data.

“It was a big learning curve for me, just, how do you apply this to real life racing,” Pollard said. “We were able to get a lot of data this morning that taught me a lot with the braking.

“The cars I’m accustomed to are a lot lighter race cars. The tires are a good bit different and I had to us a lot more brakes than I was accustomed to in the past. Hopefully we can take that apply it to Saturday. The tire fall off is a good bit different from new tires to old tires so I was able to feel that in the sim too.”

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One thing no amount of simulator time would truly prepare Pollard for is live pit stops, the first he has done in about a decade, a practice Late Model racing has moved away from and one he hasn’t done regularly since his ARCA days nearly 20 years ago.

“I’m curious, as far as the race goes, about pit stops and how that’s going to go,” Pollard said. “As far as the race, from what I’ve been told, it’s going to race like what I’m accustomed to. I don’t know.

“The biggest hurdle is finding that initial speed as far as qualifying trim because we don’t have anything to mock up on. We’ll start practice on a set of tires and run it out.

“As far as race runs, I think I’ll be fine. Restarts, I think I may struggle racing against guys I don’t know or how much I can push the car and how far the tire will go. Pitting will be a little tricky. I’m in between some good cars so that’s going to be tricky but for the most part, it’s just doing what I do.”

He says there are some nerves associated with Saturday because he ‘doesn’t want to let anyone down.’ This appearance only happened because Rheem founder JR Jones wanted to give back to a racer who has meant so much to Super Late Model racing and candidly deserved such an opportunity.

Pollard didn’t have to bring any money to this deal. Just his talent. There is pressure that comes with that. At the same time, Pollard is also secure with his place in racing, his accomplishments and isn’t relying on this weekend to make or break his reputation or stature. It’s just a bonus.

“The hype is there but I don’t really feel like I want or need to prove anything,” he said. “At the end of the day, I don’t have a shot past this. Do I want to do it? Yeah, I’d love to do it, but if I don’t then I’m okay with it.

“I’m at the point of my life where I enjoy what I do but if the opportunity, right opportunity comes, I’d take it for sure. I want to perform for myself, for fans, but there’s a lot of pressure on myself. As far as what other people think about me, I ain’t worried about it. I just want to do the best job possible.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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