PENSACOLA, Fla. – Stephen Nasse went from jubilation to disbelief to heartbreak in a matter of moments for the second year in a row on Saturday night at Five Flags Speedway.
Nasse, who was flagged the winner of the 22nd Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100, had the apparent victory taken away moments after his winner’s circle interview when race director Nicholas Rogers handed down a rough driving penalty for a last-lap incident.
Entering turn three coming to the checkered flag, Nasse got to the rear bumper of then-leader Bubba Pollard and delivered a shot to the back of Pollard’s No. 26 that moved Pollard up the race track and out of the low groove.
Pollard’s car then came back down the track, made brief contact with Nasse’s No. 51, and then spun as Nasse raced home to the finish line almost against the inside wall.
While Pollard went from the lead to 19th, Nasse was relegated to the tail of the lead lap in 22nd after the rough driving penalty was applied.
Once an Outlaw division feature that took more than an hour of on-track time to complete finally concluded, Rogers was able to come down to the tech area to talk with Nasse in a closed-door meeting that also included track general manager Tim Bryant and chief technical director Ricky Brooks.
Roughly 20 minutes passed before Brooks emerged with the Snowflake 100 trophy and officially presented it to Jake Johnson, who was declared the winner following Nasse’s penalty.
Another 20 minutes went by before Bryant emerged. He was followed shortly thereafter by Nasse, who quickly left on a golf cart, returned to the Jett Motorsports hauler and then left the track in a waiting pickup truck without speaking to reporters.
Rogers, however, did offer comments to the media regarding the finish.
In an interview with Short Track Scene and SPEED SPORT, Rogers clarified the reasoning behind his decision to strip Nasse of the win because of the contact in the final corner.
“Due to the contact from the Nasse machine to the Pollard machine, it was deemed that there was rough driving involved that caused Pollard to spin out,” Rogers said. “We looked at multiple replays and slowed the video down, watched the wheel movement (and) attitude of Bubba Pollard’s race car to see if he ever regained any kind of control.
“In my opinion, watching the video, he did not. It was a continuous act that caused Bubba to spin off the nose of Nasse,” Rogers continued. “For that reason, he was penalized to the rear of the lead lap, declaring the (No.) 15 car the winner.”
Rogers told both Short Track Scene and SPEED SPORT that the conversation inside the tech shed revolved around Nasse and Jett Motorsports’ disagreement with the call that stripped Nasse of the Snowflake 100 trophy.
“If I were a racer in his shoes … the kid ran his guts out, ran a great race,” Rogers said. “If the contact hadn’t happened on the last lap, or if the contact hadn’t been as hard to where both of them came to the checkered, you would have had a different result here.
“They both ran a great race, one of the best short track races I had seen in a long time, between several of them. Unfortunately, there was contact at the end which resulted in a car spinning and for that reason, there was … not a DQ but sending (Nasse) to the rear of the lead lap cars at the finish.”
Asked if Nasse’s reputation – one of a hard-nosed, often-aggressive and gritty competitor – played a part in his decision to issue a rough driving penalty Saturday night, Rogers said that wasn’t the case.
“I’ve had very little issue with Stephen on the race track,” Rogers said. “He’s a heck of a driver. Whether it’s tonight or tomorrow, we have the best short track drivers in the country in it. You have some guys that run rougher than others.
“Stephen ran with us all year and was our Southern Super Series champion, and I told him that I couldn’t remember a time that I penalized him for any kind of rough driving incident. There might be one out there, but it wasn’t memorable enough that I could cite it tonight and recall it as I was speaking to them.
“His reputation does not play a factor in my decisions, nor does any driver.”
Both Nasse and Pollard will be in Sunday’s Snowball Derby starting field, each seeking their first win in the super late model classic.
Nasse will roll off fifth, while Pollard will start 36th after taking a Blizzard Series provisional due to struggled in qualifying on Friday night.