Four of the biggest names in Super Late Model racing are on the outside looking in for the 51st Annual Snowball Derby.
Augie Grill, David Rogers, Steve Wallace and Chris Davidson all missed the top 30 in Friday’s qualifying session. All four drivers, plus 11 others, will now have to brave the last chance race to earn a starting spot in Sunday’s event at Five Flags Speedway.
Grill, a two-time Snowball Derby winner, hasn’t been pleased with his car the entire weekend. He said the handling of the car has made for a “extremely frustrating” trip to Pensacola. Immediately after completing his qualifying attempt, Grill checked the up-to-the-second timing and scoring. When Grill saw the time, his shoulders slumped and he shook his head in disgust.
Grill has thrown all the knowledge he has at the car, and it just won’t cooperate.
The lap might have been more than a half-second off the pole, but it wound up being exactly one-tenth of a second out of the final transfer spot. Grill knows he and his crew can tweak on the machine and get it a little better. However, he is unsure if it is worth the trouble and effort.
“We can either spend all night working on it, try to get it better and hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow, or just load it up and be done with it,” Grill stated. “We have a decision to make here in the next little while.”
If he does decide to race Saturday, Grill will be joined in the LCQ by another former Derby winner, Steve Wallace.
Like Grill, Wallace has struggled mightily with his car since unloading at Five Flags Speedway on Wednesday. Wallace fought the handling and mechanical issues on the car Thursday during practice, and he found himself out of the top 30 by six-ten-thousandths of a second Friday evening.
“We broke a rear end in practice, and broke a brake caliper, too,” said Wallace. “It has been a really tough weekend for us. I’m just extremely disappointed in myself about how everything is going. It’s is not how I wanted it to turn out.”
David Rogers is attempting to set a new record for career starts in short track racing’s crown jewel. If he is able to make the show on Sunday, Rogers will start his 33rd Snowball Derby, eclipsing Red Farmer’s old record of 32.
But Rogers is a tried-and-true racer, and doesn’t care about the record. He wants to be faster and give himself a chance to track down his elusive Pensacola win.
“I would have a little more confidence in the car if we would have been able to turn a better lap in practice,” Rogers said. “We have to work to get a little faster. You have to earn it here. If we can’t’ run in the top four tomorrow, we don’t deserve to be in the Derby.”
Saturday’s 50-lap last chance race has garnered a reputation for being one of the wilder, rougher races of any Derby weekend. Every driver that starts the event knows exactly what he has to do in order to make Sunday’s event.
The go-for-broke nature of the event often leads to bent fenders, hot tempers and happy race fans.
Texas’s Chris Davidson has been making the trip to the Gulf Coast to race for nearly two decades, and found himself 36th when the dust settled in qualifying. Davidson’s plan to make the Snowball Derby is clear, concise and quintessentially Chris.
“Keep the fenders on it, stay away from the idiots, try not be one of the idiots and make it to the end.”
Paul Shafer, Jr. and Wallace will lead the 15-car last chance race to green Saturday afternoon.
Fans can see all the action, along with Snowflake 100 qualifying and race, with Speed51.com's pay-per-view broadcast. Click here to purchase a live video ticket today.
-Story by: Ryan McCollough, Speed51.com Gulf Coast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com