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Snowball Derby

Derek Thorn claims fourth Derby pole in wild session

Jason Reasin

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For the fourth time in five years, Derek Thorn will lead the field to green in the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway.

It’s the same car he won with last year in the final race before Campbell Motorsports shuttered but the Shafer Motorsports crew alongside Derek Thorn Racing have all the pieces to maintain that legacy. Besides the No. 7 plastered on the door panel, this is ‘old hat’ for Thorn.

“I’m sure everyone else is getting tired of it but we aren’t,” Thorn told Short Track Scene. “Campbell Motorsports, we had a great run, with Mike Keen, Byron and them.

“To come back this year with the same car and to have Mike Keen next door (with Jacob Gomes) helping us. To have Chris Purdy and this entire Shafer Motorsports team, it’s a lot of work so huge thanks to them.”

Thorn ties Eddie Mercer for the most Snowball Derby poles and accomplished his latest P1 with a 16.501 lap time during a daytime session just ahead of Ty Majeski. The session began at 3:50 in the afternoon due to impending rain that could last into Sunday morning.

More on that in a minute.

Peltier disqualified

Preston Peltier had posted the third fastest time but had his times disallowed due to an unapproved deck lid on his Generator Source No. 48. Specifically, Peltier built his own deck lid out of his shop in Colorado but did not get it certified with the Approved Body Committee. There was no sticker on the deck lid, and each body panel has to have an ABC approved sticker on it, and Peltier believes someone ratted him out.

“We’re going to start at the tail end of the Last Chance Race and it’s okay, we have a fast race car,” Peltier said.

Then he turned around to add another thing.

“There’s too many people who are worried about little shit like that and not enough about working on their stuff to make it better.”

Drama before the first car

In the minutes before qualifying was supposed to begin at 3:30, first qualifier Ty Majeski climbed out of his car and said he wasn’t going to turn a lap until the track crew better swept off the racing line and got a car to turn laps on it.

He got a large group of drivers and crew chiefs, like Noah Gragson, Mark Rette, Derek Griffith, Derek Kraus, Chris Gabehart and Bond Suss to make the argument with him.

Ultimately, Dylan Fetcho took his Pro Late Model out to clean the track. Via text message, Fetcho says track owner Tim Bryant made the request and he didn’t mind.

Majeski was adamant that someone needed to.

“First of all, I was pushing to have the Pro Lates practice after the Modifieds so we could qualify on top of the F45 rubber because I don’t know what compound they’re on but I’m sure it’s not the same as ours,” Majeski said. “So I was pushing for that. That didn’t happen, which I was okay with, but I get it. There is a lot crammed into a small amount of time because of weather.

“But then, right before we went out, they took a blower and blew the third groove down and oil dry had just been put down so all that was in the groove. They were going to send us out like that.

“I got out of his car, I told everyone else to get out of their cars, everyone else was with me. We just wanted a fair shot. We didn’t want an advantage. We wanted a clean race. Hats off to the officials for listening to us and making a really good decision there.”

Gragson echoed all of that after laying down the third best time following the Peltier disqualification.

“Really thankful to all the officials here at Five Flags Speedway for working hard to get the track going,” Gragson said. “At the end of the Modified practice session there was some oil laid down. They did a great job getting the track ready.”

Griffith was the second driver out, qualified 13th, and said it still wasn’t totally cleaned up.

“We would have run a mid to low .60 if we didn’t have all that junk on our tires,” Griffith said.

Griffith said he supported Majeski and Gragson.

“It was just a mess,” he said. “The track was a total mess. You would walk to the banking and you could visually see the marbles that cause people to crash. They blew all of it down on the racing groove. I hope that was just a mistake.

“It got everyone really frustrated and at the same time, they were letting people drive their cars and golf carts over Turn 2 too.”

Provisionals and Last Chance

Billy VanMeter takes the Blizzard Series provisional, as he had finished the season tied for 10th. Jett Noland, who finished seventh in ASA Southern Super Series points, was the first eligible driver for the series provisional.

They will receive starting spots 35 and 36.

Drivers in the Last Chance Qualifier include Sammy Smith, Derek Kraus, Carson Kvapil, Augie Grill, Carson Hocevar and Jake Garcia, but only four of the 17 starters will be able to earn a spot in the main event. The last chance race is scheduled for Saturday night but would be run Sunday before the Snowball Derby if weather doesn’t permit.

Smith says he feels good about his chances.

“I feel good about it,” Smith said after missing practice due to the NASCAR Awards in Nashville. “We tested a couple of weeks ago and felt good about it too.”

He says his car will race good and he might even benefit from the extra track time.

“For me, if we’re going to qualify that bad, we might as well run the Last Chance Race and learn something. We just need to stay out of trouble. Stay out front and see if we can learn something in the process.”

56th Snowball Derby Qualifying
Five Flags Speedway
December 1 2023

  1. Derek Thorn 16.501
  2. Ty Majeski 16.561
  3. Noah Gragson 16.620
  4. Bubba Pollard 16.623
  5. Luke Fenhaus 16.639
  6. Michael Hinde 16.646
  7. Johnny Sauter 16.648
  8. Stephen Nasse 16.652
  9. Connor Okrzesik 16.678
  10. Treyten Lapcevich 16.679
  11. Jackson Boone 16.691
  12. Derek Griffith 16.705
  13. William Byron 16.716
  14. Matthew Craig 16.724
  15. Jacob Gomes 16.732
  16. Jeremy Doss 16.736
  17. Hunter Robbins 16.737
  18. Haeden Plybon 16.738
  19. Caden Kvapil 16.744
  20. Travis Braden 16.747
  21. Erik Jones 16.772
  22. Conner Jones 16.772
  23. Jake Finch 16.774
  24. Michael House 16.778
  25. Jace Hansen 16.780
  26. William Sawalich 16.791
  27. Ryan Preece 16.792
  28. Cole Butcher 16.803
  29. Kole Raz 16.803
  30. Gio Ruggiero 16.830
  31. Jett Noland 16.832
  32. Sammy Smith 16.839
  33. Derek Kraus 16.865
  34. Carson Kvapil 16.885
  35. Conner Sutton 16.892
  36. Ryan Moore 16.900
  37. Johnny Aramendia 16.913
  38. Augie Grill 16.923
  39. Timothy Watson 16.928
  40. Carson Hocevar 16.954
  41. Dustin Smith 16.967
  42. John Bolen 16.974
  43. Jake Garcia 16.983
  44. Chase Burda 16.991
  45. Billy VanMeter 17.053
  46. Stuart Dutton 17.085
  47. Albert Francis 17.091
  48. Travis Rodewald 17.316
  49. Preston Peltier DQ

Snowball Derby Last Chance Race Lineup

  1. Sammy Smith
  2. Derek Kraus
  3. Carson Kvapil
  4. Conner Sutton
  5. Ryan Moore
  6. Johnny Aramendia
  7. Augie Grill
  8. Timothy Watson
  9. Carson Hocevar
  10. Dustin Smith
  11. John Bolen
  12. Jake Garcia
  13. Chase Burda
  14. Stuart Dutton
  15. Albert Francis
  16. Travis Rodewald
  17. Preston Peltier

Short Track Scene’s Snowball Derby Derby coverage is presented by Phoenix Water Solutions.

Phoenix Water Solutions joins Short Track Scene as Snowball Derby presenting partner

Phoenix Water Solutions - Your Trusted Source for Clean & Pure Water Solutions

Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He also has extensive experience covering NASCAR, IndyCar and Dirt Sprint Cars.

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