Steve Buttrick waited. And waited. And waited some more.
The veteran wheelman stalked the rear deck of Mark Barnhill for 18 laps before finding the perfect spot to make his move. The move was quick and decisive, as he held on the rest of the race to take the Sportsman feature of the 49th Annual Snowball Derby.
Barnhill made a minor slip in turn four and allowed Buttrick to get to the inside for what turned out to be the race-winning move.
“I got under Mark one time, and got in to him a little bit,” Buttrick said. “I backed off and let him gather it back up. The next time I was able to get a little further underneath him and get by him.”
The win is Buttrick’s fifth victory on Derby weekend and seventh of the 2016 season in Pensacola. While he has been extremely successful in the past at Five Flags Speedway, Buttrick’s most-recent race at Five Flags wasn’t enjoyable.
In the season-ending championship, Buttrick’s car was totaled. The incident forced him to use his old dirt track tricks to get the machine back up and going in time to make it to the Derby.
“I never took it off the trailer,” said Buttrick. “I used the trailer and built an A-Frame and straightened it out and here it is. That’s from the old dirt track days. If you wrecked it, you had to fix it by the feature and get back out there.”
Barnhill came home second, and Jason Huffmaster finished third. Brannon Fowler and Jonathan Langham rounded out the top five.
On lap 19 of the Sportsman feature, Shawn Laws went for wild ride in turn three. Multiple machines got together off the end of the back stretch; that sent Johnny McNair’s machine sliding across the track towards the apron.
Laws made contact with McNair’s car and then Laws’ No. 77 car barrel rolled five times until coming to a rest on its wheels between turns three and four. Laws was unhurt.
Leytham Takes Home Bomber Feature
B.J. Leytham led flag-to-flag to capture Thursday’s Bomber 30-lap feature.
Leytham survived a myriad of cautions throughout the event, and could distance himself from field shorty after every restart.
“I saw (Robert) Loper,” Leytham said. “He was right there with me. I really got a good restart on that last restart. I really think that is what won it for us. They were just racing between themselves the rest of the race.”
Leytham’s win Thursday was his 10th trip to victory lane at Five Flags Speedway in 2016. While, he cherishes every win, his checkered flag on Snowball Derby weekend has extra sentimental value.
For the last few weeks, Leytham has been hard at work in the shop in hopes of bringing home multiple trophies from Pensacola.
“I really have to thank my family,” Leytham said smiling. “For three months, they haven’t seen me because we have been building a race truck. Man, to be able to come out here and do this is just fantastic.”
Leytham led a sweep of the podium by Mobile International Speedway regulars.
Tommy Blocker swiped second from Robert Loper with three laps to go to steal the runner-up spot.
Loper restarted on the outside of Leytham every time, and just couldn’t find the drive to wrestle the lead away.
“If you get stuck on the outside at this track, it is what it is,” Loper said. “You just can’t run on the outside here on these kinds of tires for half a race. We just did what we could.”
-By Ryan McCullough, Speed51.com Deep South Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com