Approximately 86 cars passed through the gates of Pensacola, Florida's Five Flags Speedway on Saturday for the IP Casino Snowball Derby Preview. The pits were full of cars for the final track-hosted practice day leading up to the 48th Annual Snowball Derby week, which officially begins on December 2.
Cars were on and off the track making runs all day long getting ready for a run at the bonus money later in the evening. When the sun went down, the intensity ramped up as teams did what they could to win the bonus money.
Second-generation driver Harrison Burton said before Late Model practice that he didn't know if he had a car good enough to win the $500 bonus money, and for a while it appeared that he was right.
Jerry Artuso paced Late Model practice for a good portion of the final session in his white and blue No. 5 machine. Artuso put down a lap of 16.582 seconds, which stood tall for most of the session.
With just five minutes remaining in the final 25-minute session, Burton ran a fast lap of 16.578 seconds, topping Artuso's time by just one one-hundreth of a second.
Artuso went back out on track in an attempt to beat Burton with just under three minutes remaining, but he was unable to leapfrog Burton on the speed chart.
"This is pretty cool," said Burton. "I think it's a little confidence booster for us all. We've kind of struggled in qualifying lately so to go out and beat these cars in this little shootout is pretty cool."
The Super Late Models and Pro Late Models all took time together on the race track, but the Pro Late Models still had their own bonus award to go after. When the 25-minute session was complete it was Canadian driver Martin Latulippe with the fastest time of 16.720 seconds.
The Modifieds had a thrilling session for their $200 bonus that saw Chase Oliver defeat Augie Grill by just under one tenth of a second. Grill made three runs at Oliver's time of 17.695 seconds, but just couldn't quite find the speed needed to unseat Oliver.
In the Super Stocks session it was Dustin Knowles defeating Randy Thompson, Bill Cooley and Blake Williams. Knowles fastest lap was a time of 18.531 seconds around the half-mile facility.
Steven Davis won the bonus money for the Truck division, defeating John Heil by more than half a second. Davis' best lap was a time of 18.301 seconds.
Brandon Fowler took home the $200 bonus for the Sportsman division with a lap of 20.752 seconds. His lap was just one one-hundreth of a second faster than veteran Steve Buttrick's lap. Buttrick crashed much earlier in the afternoon as a result of a broken right front brake rotor, but he was able to get his car fixed and continue practicing.
Nine Bombers took time in a two-lap time-trial session. Gino Denmark set fast time with a lap of 21.832 seconds. Derek Long had the second fastest lap at a time of 22.181 seconds.
Now that the IP Casino Snowball Derby Preview is in the books, there's just one big day left on the 2015 Five Flags Speedway calendar, and that's the 48th Annual Snowball Derby.
The 48th Annual Snowball Derby weekend kicks off with the Cat Country/WEAR-TV3 Green Flag Party on Wednesday, December 2. On-track activities start Thursday, December 3, for the opening practice rounds for the Snowball Derby Super Late Models and Snowflake 100 Pro Late Models. The Five Flags Butler U-Pull-It Bombers and Beef 'O'Brady's Sportsman divisions will also have feature events on Snowball Derby Thursday.
The top Snowball Derby starting spots will be set on Friday, December 4 during WXBM 102.7 Pole Night at Five Flags. The Five Flags Faith Chapel Super Stocks and Modifieds will also battle in their Snowball Derby features after Super Late Model qualifying.
The Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 takes center stage on Saturday, December 5 as the top Pro Late Model racers in the country qualify and battle for 100 laps at Five Flags. In addition, Saturday's action features the final 50-lap qualifying event for Snowball Derby drivers to make one last effort to qualify for the 300-lap Super Late Model race. The Better Built Tool Box Pro Trucks will also have a 50-lap feature on Snowball Derby Saturday.
Then on Sunday, December 6, the green flag will drop on the 48th Annual Snowball Derby at 2 p.m. CT at Pensacola, Florida's Five Flags Speedway.
Fans unable to make it to Pensacola, Florida for the Snowball Derby can watch all of the action through a live online TV style pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51 TV. A four-day video ticket can be purchased now for $59.99 allowing fans to watch all of the action from Five Flags Speedway. Single-day video tickets are also available. Visit Speed51.com for more information.
For more information on the 48th Annual Snowball Derby weekend at Five Flags Speedway, visit www.snowballderby.com. All media credential requests and inquiries for the Snowball Derby can be sent to Matt Kentfield at [email protected] and/or Pat Bryant at [email protected]
For more information on Speed51.com and the rest of the 51 Companies, contact Jana Wimmer (Director of Business) at 51 Sports via email through [email protected] and visit Speed51.com. Speed51.com is on Twitter at @speed51dotcom and on Facebook by searching Speed51.com.
-51 Sports/Snowball Derby Press Release. Photo credit: Speed51.com