Just one year after claiming the pole for the Snowball Derby, rising NASCAR star Harrison Burton is on the outside looking in.
Burton turned a lap of turned a lap of 16.682, putting him 38th in the final time trial run down. His lap was nearly half-a-second off Derek Thorn’s pole-winning time, and almost two-tenths behind Travis Braden in 30th, the final qualifying position.
He may not have expected a sub-30 run, but Burton knew it wouldn’t be a repeat of last year’s blistering lap. His machine just hasn’t been up to snuff since unloading.
“Honestly, we haven’t had the speed we want all weekend long,” said Burton. “I’m sure I messed up too, but we have just had no drive, no drive, no drive all week. We made some really small adjustments, trying to use something we know to make it better, and all of a sudden it is really, really tight.”
In qualifying for the 2018 Snowball Derby, Burton clocked in a lap of 16.273. This year’s slower time isn’t a product of bringing a new set-up to the track. Burton said it’s nearly identical, but drives extremely different.
“It’s just a strange race track, man,” said a dejected Burton. “We came here with pretty much the same thing as last year, and it’s much different. Sometimes when you don’t race a series or place for a while things evolve. We have some work to do.”
Just minutes after the qualifying session ended, Burton and crew chief Chris Wimmer were huddled under the light of the hauler gate, discussing what changes each wanted to make.
The duo will have one chance to tweak on their car in a practice session Saturday morning. Wimmer and Burton will need to decide if wholesale changes are necessary, or if smaller tweaks will turn their weekend around.
“The big thing is we get a little bit of practice tomorrow before the last chance race,” Burton said. “That will give us a chance to make a big swing at it if we want to. Right now, we have tried a million things on this race car this weekend and nothing has moved the needle that much. I feel like we will have a good practice tomorrow and have shot at getting it.”
Burton is no stranger to the Derby LCQ. His first two trips to the December classic saw him a part of the sometimes wild and rough 50-lap affair.
Burton’s play is to let others make mistakes, dodge trouble, and get up on the wheel.
“My first two Derbys I was in the last chance race,” said Burton. “I know how it is and how those races can be, and you gotta use that to your advantage. Some guys are going to be over-aggressive and make mistakes. Your job as a driver is to finish as good as you can finish, and it’s not good enough; it’s not good enough. I just got to dig as hard as I can.”
Joining Burton in the last chance race is a list of names that have captured big wins and championships all over the country.
Five-time Snowball Derby winner Rich Bickle, 2019 All-American 400 winner Mason Mingus, former NASCAR National Champion David Rogers and CRA standouts Jack Dossey and Carson Hocevar all failed to make the top 30.
Hocevar was a part of the LCQ last year, and drove his way into the main event.
“We started deep in the field last year, like seventh or eighth, and were able to transfer,” said Hocevar. “This year we start up front. There are no saving tires in a 50-lap race. We have to make sure we stay there, and not drop back. There are some good cars charging from behind us.”
Race fans can watch all of the action from the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby presented by BJ’s Wholesale Club on Speed51. Click here to purchase video tickets now.
-Story by Ryan McCollough, Speed51 Gulf Coast Correspondent – Twitter: @RyanLMcCollough
-Photo credit: Speed51