Nerves will be high and stomachs will be turning on Friday, December 2 as drivers attempt to lock themselves into the 49th Annual Snowball Derby during NASH 102.7 Pole Night. Two laps around Five Flags Speedway (FL), an amount equal to one mile, will determine the fate of drivers hoping to qualify for the biggest pavement short track race of the year.
Intensity will be high and the tension could be cut with a knife as drivers begin making their way onto the Pensacola, Florida half-mile for their shot at qualifying for the Snowball Derby.
Nearly 70 drivers will attempt to qualify for the race, but less than half of them will actually do so through time trials. The top 30 qualifiers will be locked in on time, while the rest will be forced the face the daunting task of running a Last Chance Race.
Once they get to the Last Chance Race, they’re faced with the tough task of finishing within the top four of a race that could feature as many as 40 hungry drivers. Nobody wants to be in that race on Saturday night. But to those who do end up in the 50-lap Last Chance Race, good luck trying to get to sleep on Friday night.
“I’m putting my focus into almost all of it,” said Tyler Ankrum, who will be making his first attempt at qualifying for the Snowball Derby. “You have to qualify into the show because the races to make it in are really tough. I’ve been doing a lot of preparation of my own, preparing my mind before body, doing a lot on iRacing, talking with Clay (Rogers) and my crew chief Roger Johnson.”
Meanwhile, those 30 drivers who are lucky enough to qualify for Sunday’s 300-lap Super Late Model race will sleep like a baby.
“You sleep really well,” said Derek Thorn, a four-time Snowball Derby qualifier. “It’s a big deal to make that race. It’s definitely the toughest race to make in the country. Making it is definitely a relief for sure.”
Two drivers who will be locked into the Snowball Derby regardless of their qualifying efforts will be 2016 Southern Super Series champion Donnie Wilson and 2016 Blizzard Series champion Casey Roderick. While they may not have to worry about failing to make the race, they still would like to qualify into the race on time in order to improve their chances on race day.
“I think we have a really strong piece. I’m going for the pole for sure,” Roderick said. “I think I just need to get down there, get in a comfort zone in practice, do what we do and concentrate on nobody else and we’ll be just fine leading up to qualifying.”
The 49th Annual Snowball Derby weekend kicks off on Wednesday, November 30 with the Cat Country/WEAR TV3 Green Flag Pit Party and Qualifying Order Draw Down.
Thursday, December 1 will see the Super Late Models take to the track for the first official Snowball Derby practice. The night will be highlighted by a 30-lap race for the Butler U-Pull-It Bombers and a 50-lap event for the Dock on the Beach Sportsmen division.
The top Snowball Derby starting spots will be set on Friday, December 2 during NASH FM 102.7 Pole Night. The Faith Chapel Super Stocks and the Modifieds will each run 50-lap features.
The Pro Late Models take center stage on Saturday, December 3 for the Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100. The 50-lap Last Chance Qualifier for the Snowball Derby and a 50-lap feature for the Beef O’Brady’s Pro Truck division will also run on Saturday night.
Then on Sunday, December 4 the green flag will fly over the the 49th Annual Snowball Derby. The 300-lap race will begin at 2 p.m. CT.
For more information on the 49th 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 Pat Bryant at [email protected]
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-51 Sports/Snowball Derby Press Release. Photo credit: Speed51.com