Lifelong dreams for two teenage drivers turned into concern at different times throughout the 48th Annual Snowball Derby week, only to change for the better following qualifying and technical inspection.
A fast and well-prepared car for Harrison Burton turned to disaster with a badly damaged Super Late Model in the third turn wall during Thursday practice.
The team, led by crew chief Chris Wimmer, thrashed on the car all night thanks to the ability to work in Johanna Long’s shop a few miles down the road from Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola. With the assistance of last year’s Snowball Derby fast qualifier Hunter Robbins, the team replaced the front clip and rebuilt the car overnight.
The No. 12 did not make it on track until Friday afternoon, the final session before the dramatic time trials. With a makeshift job using the tools that they had in the limited time available, Burton qualified the car in the show solidly in 24th.
It was a sure relief one year after not making the race.
“To qualify in the show with a kind of patched together racecar it kind of shows a testament to how good our guys are,” Burton told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “They put their hearts into this racecar and it really shows.”
Burton continued to talk about the handling of the racecar and his initial thoughts upon clearing Ricky Brooks’ “Room of Doom”.
“The whole front snout is kind of homemade,” Burton said. “It’s rough around the edges, but she still gets around the racetrack and that’s all that matters. I just can’t believe it right now, to be honest.”
NASCAR K&N Pro Series West runner-up Noah Gragson and the Fat Head Racing team were bumped from the field when Chase Elliott turned in a top-five qualifying run very late in the session. However, after post-qualifying technical inspection disappointed demeanors turned into sheer excitement.
“Knowing that Christopher Bell and John Hunter’s out right now and that we’re in the show, words can’t even describe how happy I am right now,” Gragson commented. “Just need to survive the race on Sunday and be there at the end.”
The remainder of competitors that were not as fortunate to qualify for the Snowball Derby will have to finish in the top four in the 50-lap last chance qualifier on Saturday afternoon.
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. Single-day video tickets for both Saturday and Sunday night can be purchased now. Visit Speed51.com for more information.
For more information on the 48th Annual Snowball Derby weekend at Five Flags Speedway, visit www.snowballderby.com.
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-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com