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Southern Super Series

Derek Thorn on pole for 52nd Snowball Derby

The NASCAR West and Southwest Tour champion has added more hardware to his resume

Bruce Nuttleman | STS

Time trials lived up to the hype with Derek Thorn capturing the pole for the 52nd Snowball Derby and numerous other expected contenders failing to make the race on time.

The most notable driver forced into Saturday evening’s last chance race is 2018 pole winner Harrison Burton. The Wimmer Motorsports No. 12 led a race high 111 laps from the pole last year and failed to make the show on time with the same baseline set-up that nearly won them the race.

And be it the evolution of technology or time away from Super Late Models, the soon-to-be full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series contender will have to race his way into the most prestigious pavement Super Late Model race in the world.

“This is such a strange deal for us,” Burton said. “We dominated this race last year and had a shot right up until the end. We came back here with the same set-up and we haven’t been close at all. We’ve been working really hard and we’re still not quitting.

“We have a last chance race and practice tomorrow. It sucks. It’s part of racing and this is what makes the Snowball Derby the Snowball Derby. That’s what makes what we did last year special. Winning the pole for this race is huge but it makes what happened this week suck even more.”

READ MORE: Complete Snowball Derby coverage

Thorn can attest how huge it is simply to earn the top starting spot for the biggest race of the year, even if it’s not the prize he traveled from California to the Florida Gulf Coast to obtain. That’s a prize held by many of the greats, including Eddie Mercer, Donnie Allison, Gary Balough and Mark Martin.

“It’s a big deal,” Thorn said. “Especially this year because this is one of the largest and deepest fields we’ve had in a while. To see the guys that are here and be in front of them, that’s pretty cool.”

Thorn is also a proponent of the removal of live pit stops in this year’s race.

He believes having the extra time to make adjustments instead of focusing on tires and winning the race off pit road will be beneficial to his team. With that said, he is humble enough to know he’s probably not going to lead wire-to-wire on Sunday for 300 laps.

“There are a lot of guys who didn’t put forward the lap time they wanted, and they’re going to be coming to the front,” Thorn said. “But now we can focus on getting our race run stuff as good as it can get during happy hour tomorrow and make the race adjustments as good as it can be.”

If Thorn wins from the pole, he will also be awarded a $10,000 bonus in addition to the $23,500 prize for winning the race.

Thorn just edged Wilson Motorsports driver Cole Butcher for the top spot. This will be second year in a row this combination will roll off from the front row.

“Congratulations to Derek, they deserve it,” Butcher said. “They’ve been working hard lately. We qualified second two years in a row, I can’t thank these Wilson Motorsports guys enough.”

Starting third is Corey Lajoie in the Fat Head Racing entry who never realistically expected to put that kind of lap together.

“I’m a self-admitted terrible qualifier,” LaJoie said. “For our car to be that fast, I think those guys should be worried about it.  I feel like our car in race trim was better than it was in qualifying trim, so we’ll see what we’ve got.”

The final driver to qualify into the show on speed was two-time CRA Super Series champion Travis Braden, who was involved in a late crash in final practice and had to help his team rebuild the right side of his car before posting a lap time just enough to qualify into the field.

“I was on the verge of tears because I was just that stressed,” Braden said. “So much work and effort goes into this. I thought we had a top-10 car all week and then it was destroyed right there in practice.
“I guess it was more dramatic and fitting to do it this way.”

Lucas Jones posted the 43rd quickest lap but will make the field via a provisional awarded to the highest finishing driver in the Five Flags Speedway championship standings to have no made the field on time. Stephen Nasse will also make the field due to a Southern Super Series provisional.

In addition to Burton, several other notables failed to qualify on time and will go to the last chance race, including Jordan Anderson, Johnny VanDoorn, Casey Smith, Mason Mingus, Dan Fredrickson and the winningest driver in race history, Rich Bickle, Jr.

The complete time trial results and times can be found below.

  1. Derek Thorn 16.277
  2. Cole Butcher 16.379
  3. Corey LaJoie 16.381
  4. Kyle Plott 16.387
  5. Bubba Pollard 16.398
  6. Josh Berry 16.401
  7. Matt Craig 16.412
  8. Jeff Choquette 16.419
  9. Casey Roderick 16.427
  10. Chandler Smith 16.454
  11. Jesse Dutilly 16.457
  12. Jeremy Pate 16.461
  13. Preston Peltier 16.476
  14. Giovanni Bromante 16.480
  15. Jake Garcia 16.497
  16. Kaden Honeycutt 16.497
  17. Hunter Robbins 16.510
  18. John DeAngelis Jr 16.528
  19. Jeremy Doss 16.533
  20. Derek Griffith 16.534
  21. Augie Grill 16.545
  22. David Gilliland 16.553
  23. Ty Majeski 16.556
  24. Michael Atwell 16.558
  25. Connor Okrzeisk 16.563
  26. Cole Moore 16.570
  27. Corey Heim 16.572
  28. Derek Kraus 16.579
  29. Dalton Zehr 16.582
  30. Travis Braden 16.590
  31. Carson Hocevar 16.619
  32. Casey Smith 16.624
  33. Michael House 16.640
  34. Johnny VanDoorn 16.642
  35. Trey Bayne 16.659
  36. Stephen Nasse 16.672
  37. Dan Fredrickson 16.679
  38. Harrison Burton 16.682
  39. Mason Mingus 16.689
  40. Rodrigo Rejon 16.699
  41. Jett Noland 16.701
  42. Kyle Bryant 16.710
  43. Lucas Jones 16.722
  44. David Rogers 16.725
  45. Brad May 16.725
  46. Austin Nason 16.748
  47. Jack Dossey III 16.751
  48. Rich Bickle 16.753
  49. Chris Davidson 16.772
  50. Boris Jurkovic 16.808
  51. Jordan Anderson 16.809
  52. Steven Davis 16.835
  53. Jerry Artuso 16.841
  54. Colten Nelson 16.856
  55. Tim Curry 16.934
  56. AJ Wernette 17.904

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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 is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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