IRVINGTON, Ala. (May 7, 2014) – A blue collar man who punches a clock during the week at the local Chevron refinery, Josh Bragg could easily be labeled an “average Joe”. However, what many don’t know is that Bragg, a resident of Helena, Mississippi, works on and drives a racecar in his spare time- and is quite good at it.
The champion of the Pro Late Model (PLM) division at Mobile International Speedway (MIS) the last two years, much focus and attention was placed on the 31-year-old before the season started, and rightfully so. Finishing no worse than second in the division(-) points standings in the last three years, and having a replica of his No. 22 racecar mounted outside the track at MIS, you could say he has owned the place in recent years.
Keeping the aforementioned in mind, when Bragg finished 11th in the season-opening 95 KSJ 95 at MIS in late March, many questioned if he would be able to contend for his third consecutive title.
“We had a little trouble with the new tires,” said Bragg earlier this week. “Just a couple things we missed in practice since it was the first time we ran on them. We just weren’t prepared and we fell off at the end of the race and ended up a little lower than where we wanted to be on opening night, but we didn’t put a scratch on it.”
If a driver is to have issues or problems, theoretically the best time for them to happen is during the first race of the season, just like they did for Bragg or when the next race on the calendar is a doubleheader.
When the PLM drivers return to MIS on May 10th, they will have the opportunity to score double points, as there will be two races to win on Saturday night. To get the action started, Bragg and his fellow PLM competitors will duke it out for 20 laps to score the win and valuable championship points. Then, the finishing order from the first race will be inverted for the second event of the night- placing the highest finishing cars in the back to start the final 30-lap dash to the checkers. A familiar and well-loved play out of a short track promoter’s bag of tricks, an invert, such as the one coming Saturday night, allows for drivers to brainstorm unique strategies in attempt to get the best possible result- but for Bragg, the strategy is simple.
“Honestly, points racing,” he said. “You have to run as hard as you can in both races and try to save your equipment for the end tire-wise and car-wise. You can ride around in the back and save tires and start in the front for the second one, but if you’re running for points you can’t afford to do any of that. You just have to try to win both of them.”
With practically the entire season in front of him, Bragg has time to get the young season back on track. When the heart of summer rolls around in Southern Alabama, the racing action at MIS almost always matches the temperature. Just as the pavement at Alabama’s fastest half-mile does on a summer day, Bragg looks to get hot when it counts.
Buried deep in the point standings, the 31-year-old could have easily succumbed to the pressure and changed his strategy, but he believes he is even stronger than he was in past seasons.
“I’ve become a lot more comfortable in the car in the past year and am gaining a lot more experience nowadays. I am also learning what it takes to make a car last in the longer races, which is something I had trouble with in the past,” he commented. “We’ve always been kind of fast, but at the end of the longer races sometimes we fell off if we didn’t try to save tires a little bit. Now, especially with the doubleheaders and the inverts, I think fans like it a lot better, but it makes it tough on us because you have to run wide-open.”
“You can’t really leave anything on the table racing against some of the guys we are.”
Considering the tight racing at Mobile, and the demands of doubleheaders and inverts such as the one taking place this weekend, the pressure is Pollard always high for the drivers of the PLM division. Keeping that in mind, one would think it would be the “wild wild west” each time the division took to the track, with no holds barred. However, that is not the case.
“The competition is tough, but I wouldn’t say we have any rivals,” Bragg commented. “I look at all those guys as respectful gentlemen that are trying to achieve the same things that we are. I’m friends with a couple of them off track. Everybody on the track is a challenge. It’s just a field of warriors out there.”
“It’s going to be tight between all of us,” said Bragg, after being asked who his main competition will be. “Steven (Davis) and (Wayne Niedecken) Junior- they’re just like us. They will do anything it takes to win. We have respect for each other on the track. When one of us has a bad night and we fall off, we know our place. We don’t get into a lot of beating and banging because we’ve all been in it a long time and we all work on our own cars. That makes a big difference in our level of racing. You have a lot more respect rather than trying to knock people around.”
Yes, March’s 95 KSJ 95 certainly wasn’t the start to the season that Josh Bragg was looking for. However, with most of the season ahead of him and the rest of Mobile’s PLM drivers, there is still plenty of time to win, and lose, the championship- and this Saturday’s doubleheader offers that opportunity for the division’s field of warriors.
Racing action kicks off Saturday night, May 10th, at 7pm with the Pro Late Model doubleheader as well as racing for the Pro Truck, Sportsman and Bomber divisions.
About Mobile International Speedway: Mobile International Speedway is the longest continuously operating sports facility in Mobile County. It was built in 1964 and has presented weekly motorsports events every year since then. As an indication of increasing community acceptance and enthusiasm, both the Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Mobile Sports Authority became MIS partners beginning in 2013.
Family attendance and participation have been the keys to the track’s continued success. Kids 5 and under are always admitted free to the grandstands. Family nights and family-oriented shows have always been staples of the annual MIS schedules. Over 30,000 people will attend the 14 scheduled MIS events in 2014.