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Snowball Derby

Weather complicates Snowball Derby practice day decisions

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No one really knew what conditions to prepare for during Snowball Derby practice on Thursday so there were all sorts of agendas.

A dreadful weekend forecast has not improved and it looks increasingly likely that both Friday and Saturday will be complete washouts. That accounts for final practice, time trials, happy hour and the last chance races for both Super Late Model and Pro Late Model divisions.

If Friday is a washout, the track is toying around with the idea of making the Snowball Derby an impound race, meaning they would qualify in race trim and the cars cannot be touched between time trials and the green flag.

That might even mean no last chance race entirely. So, if you are a race team and you have that information, what do you do with it?

“Everyone was on different agendas with the weather coming in,” said Ryan Preece of Kevin Harvick Inc. “We pretty much focused on race runs. We don’t know if it’s going to be impound qualifying or if we need a full-blown Q run. We chose to focus on the impound side.

“Our car is really good. All of our 30 lap runs were good. Our balance was solid. I was happy. I guess it’s onto the Snowball Derby from here.”

Erik Jones, driving his own car, articulated succinctly.

“People probably made their beds today, right, needing to pick and choose and we leaned towards the impound side of things,” Jones said. “I think we’re okay with the speed we have. The speed we have, some cars mocked up for a true qualifying run, and we were still fast against them.

“We’ll see. I wouldn’t mind a one day show if it comes down to it. Knock it all out. It’ll be an interesting weekend no matter what.”

One thing that hasn’t changed in all of this is Derek Thorn continuing to be the class of the field in the car that won the race last year. It doesn’t matter that Chris Purdy is now the crew chief or that it runs under the Shafer Motorsports banner.

It’s fast.

He was fastest in the first session and Derek Thorn Racing client Jacob Gomes was fastest in the second with an identically prepared car and the crew chief that won the race last year in Mike Keen.

“We all have good speed,” Thorn said. “Mike Keen, myself, Chris Purdy and Jacob Gomes. It’s really cool to be able to bounce things off each other. Our package fits well for all our cars. We have good raw speed as well.

“We tried some things, we didn’t learn some other things but at the end of the day, we’re in a good place.”

While dealing with impound versus traditional, day race or night race, Thorn said another challenge has been a greater variance in tires too.

“It’s apparent behind the wheel and it’s apparent on race monitor too,” Thorn said. “At the end of the day, the race will come down to luck in that you’ll go down to the tire barn, pull your number and those are your tires for the weekend.”

Jones agreed with that.

“There are some,” he paused. “Irregularities between what we tested on Monday and then the tires they brough in for race week. It’s been harder to repeat what we’re doing on different tires. These tires are cycling out quick and we’re not getting a lot of useful information out of them.

“It’s tough and combined with the weather rolling in, it’s going to make these decisions awfully interesting.”

Bubba Pollard said there was a lot to learn but it’s a challenging dynamic for sure.

“It’s going to be different,” Pollard said. “You can take a lot from today because the race track is going to rubber up come race time. That’s what we focused on, how the track changed as it took rubber, from where it started.

“We didn’t change a lot of our baseline. It’s been too good. Yeah, we’re not top of the boards, we’re up there and we’re still in race trim. You’re going to need to be in race trim, I think. We’re all playing the game. What are you going to do? We’re going to qualify but is it going to be an impound race? The race track isn’t going to be the same as it was when we all practice today.”

And really, for the most part, everyone wants to qualify on race trim.

Jamie Yelton, owner and crew chief of Fathead Racing says it should be the same way for the Derby as it is every ASA, Southern Super Series and Blizzard Series race. Qualifying trim now involves special oils and moving weight around.

One crew chief told Short Track Scene, ‘you won’t believe all the things we do to our cars’ to make it faster in q-trim.

Derek Kraus has just struggled to find raw speed when he comes down to Pensacola so he would welcome ditching anything related to the qualifying setup.

“That helps a lot because you have all these teams over here next to us, Wilson and Campi, big teams who have complicated setups and fluids,” Kraus said. “Impound is way better for us. It would be better speed wise.”

Pollard certainly would like to do what he’s done all year.

“That’s what we’re accustomed to all year,” Pollard said. “We have to do so many things to build speed and get heat and the weather is cooler than the summer. There are a lot of factors that go into this. I’m not saying I have the answers. I may be wrong. I hope I’m not.

“It’s just, I don’t know what to do. I’m going to leave the race track and leave the race car alone.”

Combined Derby Practice Times

Pos No Driver Time
1 7t Derek Thorn 16.482
2 16 Jacob Gomes 16.520
3 18r Hunter Robbins 16.544
4 22r Gio Ruggiero 16.548
5 32t Treyten Lapcevich 16.563
6 7b Jackson Boone 16.594
7 14h Carson Hocevar 16.615
8 28b Cole Butcher 16.631
9 91 Ty Majeski 16.638
10 54c Matthew Craig 16.665
11 48 Preston Peltier 16.669
12 50 Jett Noland 16.671
13 24 Stephen Nasse* 16.676
14 2s William Sawalich 16.679
15 26p Bubba Pollard 16.685
16 21 Travis Braden 16.697
17 35g Jake Garcia 16.700
18 44j Conner Jones 16.703
19 26f Luke Fenhaus 16.710
20 4 Erik Jones 16.729
21 12 Derek Griffith 16.730
22 44d Jeremy Doss 16.733
23 28w Timothy Watson 16.733
24 62 Ryan Preece 16.738
25 51f Jake Finch 16.746
26 30 Noah Gragson 16.769
27 74 Ryan Moore 16.779
28 23b Billy VanMeter 16.781
29 35k Carson Kvapil 16.787
30 55 Haeden Plybon 16.798
31 2b John Bolen 16.798
32 69 Michael Hinde 16.802
33 32k Caden Kvapil 16.809
34 112 Augie Grill 16.818
35 14o Connor Okrzesik 16.822
36 08 Jace Hansen 16.824
37 1 Michael House 16.841
38 51n Stephen Nasse 16.845
39 5 Johnny Sauter 16.873
40 63 Kole Raz 16.894
41 22s William Sawalich* 16.919
42 9 Derek Kraus 16.925
43 33s Dustin Smith 16.942
44 54s Conner Sutton 16.986
45 58 Johnny Aramendia 17.004
46 23e Ed VanMeter 17.006
47 18b Chase Burda 17.092
48 33f Albert Francis 17.158
49 32d Stuart Dutton 17.214
50 27 Travis Rodewald 17.428

Short Track Scene’s Snowball Derby practice day coverage is presented by MPM Marketing.

McCallister Precision Marketing (MPM) focuses on assisting up-and-coming race car drivers with career advancement and promotion. McCallister Precision Marketing helps drivers build confidence in front of and behind the camera, giving them the tools they need to advance to the next level. The company also provides companies with a strategic plan for their sales, marketing and promotional needs. We believe in building positive relationships with our clients so that we may provide them with the most professional, yet personal guidance they need, in order to achieve their racing goals. Our clients include race car drivers, race team owners, companies and racing series’. We also work closely with charities and charity events.

Combined Snowflake Practice Times

Pos No Driver Time
1 18r Hunter Robbins 16.840
2 11c Dylan Cappello 16.917
3 15h Mike Hopkins 16.928
4 7b Jackson Boone 16.982
5 00r Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. 16.989
6 15b Luke Baldwin 17.003
7 70 Gavin Graham 17.005
8 54b Jarrett Butcher 17.010
9 54c Matthew Craig 17.021
10 89 Dylan Fetcho 17.042
11 22s Kyle Steckly 17.066
12 67 Colin Allman 17.080
13 69 Michael Hinde 17.082
14 18s Terry Senneker 17.096
15 39 Max Cookson 17.098
16 43g Augie Grill 17.112
17 91 Jim Wall 17.117
18 33d Dustin Smith 17.117
19 24 Brent Crews 17.121
20 08 Nicholas Naugle 17.137
21 25b Gavan Boschele 17.144
22 17 Hudson Bulger 17.150
23 43n Nick Loden 17.154
24 27 Jeb Burton 17.178
25 51 Stephen Nasse 17.184
26 407 Jason Vail 17.193
27 3s L.B. Skaggs 17.200
28 18b Chase Burda 17.203
29 54g Clayton Green 17.216
30 48 Ed Vecchiarelli 17.221
31 5m Jeremy Miller 17.224
32 54t Grant Thompson 17.227
33 15s Brett Suggs 17.234
34 47 Dustin Bryson 17.242
35 33b Bryson Shaffer 17.260
36 77L Logan Jones 17.262
37 9c Anthony Cataldi 17.265
38 1k Kasey Kleyn 17.265
39 22o Brandon Oakley 17.287
40 11w Jolynn Wilkinson 17.295
41 9h Kaden Honeycutt 17.313
42 26 Dawson Sutton 17.323
43 2 John Bolen 17.330
44 77j Jensen Jorgensen 17.337
45 11s Randy Sargent 17.341
46 32 Nick Jenkins 17.360
47 1f Ryan Fleming 17.454
48 4 Elliott Massey 17.480
49 00c Ryan Colby 17.495
50 0 Glenn Styres 17.530
51 88 Boston Oliver 17.539
52 3m Chris Munson 17.545
53 22c Dylan Courtney 17.767
54 12 Christopher Hogan 17.985
55 116 Jay Nelson 18.041
56 11r Brian Reeves 18.137

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

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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