Former Snowball Derby polesitter Jeremy Pate had an eventful season opener at Five Flags Speedway last Friday night. A qualifying miscue left him starting 14th in the Outlaw Stock feature. After 35 laps, the Pensacola native found himself finishing second after driving through the field.
“They had a virtual driver’s meeting and I didn’t attend it and wasn’t informed that we didn’t get a warmup lap for qualifying like we do in the Super. I was still scrubbing my tires when I took the white flag and realized how bad of a mistake I had made,” Pate said. “It put us in a hold, we had to start 14th. It made it a lot of fun and we were able to get up to the front safely.”
Pate joined “The Bullring” on Tuesday to talk racing’s return to Five Flags Speedway this past Friday night. He had tested at the half-mile just before COVID-19 shut down racing, not expecting two-plus months to go by before he got the chance to race again.
With the state of short track racing in other states unclear, he is thankful to be living in a state that allows racing to go on.
“It was great, especially with the unknown you’re hearing up north in some of the other states that have been hit pretty hard, just rumors and talks that they might not even run this year is crazy, it’s unfathomable.
“We’re creatures of habit, we get a month and a half after the Derby to get everything fixed up then we’re ready to go racing, we’re ready to do it for a whole season,” he added. “That’s how we were a week before the originally-scheduled Opp race. We tested at Five Flags, one of the last cars that got to run at the place. I never imagined it would be two or three months before we got to go back on it.”
Five Flags Speedway has been one of few tracks in America to allow fans in the grandstands, albeit a limited amount. The presence of fans helped make it a more normal feel for Pate and his fellow drivers as they hit the track Friday night.
“I truly believe that we’re competitive and that we do this for competition, but we do it as a show for the fans. It helps energize you inside, you can still see the crowd and sometimes you can hear it. To run without it would be different, it would be a weird experience.”
The Five Flags Speedway opener came at the right time for Pate and his Super Late Model team Larry Blount Motorsports. As they begin their second season together in the Southern Super Series, the Five Flags event allowed them to get their ducks in a row before going to the Rattler next weekend at South Alabama Speedway.
“We were glad this opened up before the Southern Super Series kicked off because we’ve got upgraded equipment over the winter. Getting it all to the track and making sure you had everything, there were a few small things you kind of overlook that we didn’t have. We made a list to prepare for this week and hopefully we get all that stuff worked out before we start the big season.”
With a resurgence season behind them, they look to break out in 2020 with their first wins together.
“We’re going to continue to build on what we started last year. We finished fourth in the Southern Super Series as our first year together and building up our equipment. We plan on running the whole Southern Super Series for the points championship, then there’s a couple bigger races towards the end of the year that we plan on running as well.”
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Fans who missed out on Pate’s interview can watch a replay of “The Bullring” by clicking here.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo