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Bryce Dulabhan, a 17-year-old senior at Fairhope High School, won the pro late model title in the 2013 Gulf Coast Championship Series. (Courtesy of Mobile International Speedway)
The local racing season didn't end as Bryce Dulabhan would have liked. But he did end it with something he liked - the pro late model title in the Gulf Coast Championship Series.
The Gulf Coast Championship Series combines the results at and Five Flags Speedway to crown a unified champ. Dulabhan, a 17-year-old senior at Fairhope High School, finished second in the final standings at each track, but his 1,745 points at the two tracks gave him a 258-point margin over runner-up Wayne Niedecken Jr. of Pensacola in the Gulf Coast standings.
"Our goal was to win that, and we did," Dulabhan said. "I've raced at other levels and won championships at those levels. But as the levels keep getting higher and higher and the more prestige that goes with them, the more people see that I'm winning and I earn a higher rank, I guess, in the racing community."
On the final night of pro late model racing at Mobile International, Dulabhan entered the double feature 44 points behind Josh Bragg of Mobile. Bragg won the 20-lap opener and took his second straight track championship in the division even though he wrecked in the 30-lap nightcap. Dulabhan didn't get the chance to make up any points on Bragg because he went out in the same crash.
"The last race in Mobile, we got in a wreck and we totaled our only race car at the time," Dulabhan said. "It kind of ruined our championship chances over in Mobile and put us in a big hole.
"It was the first time we'd crashed a car. It's still sitting on the jackstands, just totaled. It's hard to come by the money, and we're having to save up to get another one."
Dulabhan still had a race remaining on the Gulf Coast Championship Series schedule when he wrecked in Mobile - the Allen Turner Tune Up 100 at Five Flags, which would decide the Pensacola track's pro late model championship.Bryce Dulabhan holds his pole award after setting a pro late model track record at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., on Sept. 28, 2013. (Courtesy of Five Flags Speedway)
With his No. 28 wrecked, Dulabhan used a car belonging to two-time Gulf Coast super late model champion Bubba Pollard. Dulabhan turned the fastest pro late model lap in Five Flags' history in qualifying. But in the race, he and Chase Elliott made contact racing up front, and Dulabhan's car had problems the rest of the race. He finished ninth - one spot behind 14-year-old Brandon Jones of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Jones won the track championship by one point.
"The highlight of the season would probably be breaking the track record at Five Flags Speedway," Dulabhan said, "knowing all the prestigious racers that have raced there and knowing that I'm the person that's turned the fastest lap around the track. That meant a lot for our team. We let a few races slip away there, especially that last one, that could have been ours."
But because Dulabhan made the commitment to race full-time at both tracks and ran well at both, he won the overall championship. Racing at Pensacola was new for Dulabhan.
"Last year, I ran one modified race in Pensacola," he said. "I'd had very little experience at Pensacola. I have two years of experience at Mobile. We were already planning to go over to Pensacola, and we saw that (the Gulf Coast championship) would be a perk that would make it even better going over there.
"Five Flags is kind of more of a driver's track. Your car can be off, and you can still make the most of it unlike Mobile, which just has much more motor. The car is what comes into play there."
Although he won't turn 18 until January, this was Dulabhan's 12th season of racing.
"I've been doing it since I was little," he said. "It's really more than getting something out of it. It's really a way of life. I wouldn't know what to do if I didn't have racing. It's all I've ever done. Hanging out with people every weekend, making friends, racing and just trying to win and run good. It's everything I dreamed of when I was a little kid."
Dulabhan's team is strictly a family operation.
"Me, my dad, my mom," he said. "My Uncle Bronson and my Aunt Bonita are a huge help. I could not race without them. And James Taylor. It's really just us."
Dulabhan plans to run in the Allen Turner Snowflake 100, the Snowball Derby's pro late model companion at Five Flags Speedway next month, and he hopes to spread his racing wings a little wider in 2014.
"Next year, we're going to try to travel around a little more, depending on the money," he said. "If we can find a few sponsors, we'll travel out a little more."
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