Friday at the Snowball Derby is called the most intense day of qualifying in short track racing, and it lived up to its billing this season at Five Flags Speedway (FL).


Going down to the last car, Stephen Nasse sat on the bubble with defending race champion Christian Eckes taking the track. Nasse had every reason to believe he would be forced to settle for his Southern Super Series provisional starting spot. 


Instead, Eckes ran a 16.660-second lap time, matching the lap posted by Nasse and Donnie Wilson earlier in the session. By virtue of being the first of the three drivers to turn his qualifying lap, Nasse kept the 30th and final lock-in spot for Sunday’s 50th Annual Snowball Derby.


300x250 Snowball Derby PPV“It was definitely nerve-wracking. I was gritting my teeth,” Nasse told powered by JEGS. “I could have sworn we were going to be out of it. Christian will normally lay down a pretty quick lap. He’s had a good car all weekend, and we’ve been struggling on the speed side.


“We got really lucky there, but we’ve got a lot of work to do, and we can’t shy away from that,” Nasse added. “We’re going to get to work tomorrow and going into Sunday’s race.”


At the top of the field, it was Preston Peltier taking the pole for Sunday, with a blistering lap time of 16.319 seconds – a lap so fast, it surprised Peltier himself.


“I didn’t expect to be here. I thought it would be Bubba [Pollard],” Peltier admitted. “These guys just gave me a great car. This is the best piece I’ve ever strapped into. I’m really looking forward to Sunday, and we’ll see what happens.


“It didn’t feel fast at all.  When it’s like that, you know you have a good car.”


While Eckes is guaranteed a provisional starting position in Sunday’s race by virtue of winning last season’s race, he still faced bitter disappointment from not earning himself a better starting position in the race.


“It’s definitely disappointing,” Eckes said. “I made a mistake and it cost us. We have a good race car, I thought we were going to qualify about top-ten, top-fifteen. I think we have a strong enough race car to contend for the win on Sunday.”


Eckes believes his performance in race trim still gives him a chance to win Sunday despite the qualifying effort.


“We worked on race trim a lot today and yesterday,” Eckes said. “We have a really good race car in race trim, it’s really consistent. We’ll work on it a little bit more, contend on Sunday. It’s not the spot we wanted, but still fortunate enough to be here.”


Nasse finds himself on the other end of the spectrum. He finds himself once again placed near the rear of the field for the Snowball Derby, after transferring in from the Last Chance Qualifier in 2016. He also has been searching for stronger performance out of his car this weekend, but knows from last year’s experience that gains can be made.


“I was hoping going into this weekend that I wouldn’t put myself into the same position as I did last year,” Nasse said. “Here we are, and I find myself there again. All I can do is overcome it. We proved last year we can come back and contend for a win, and I thought we had the best car at the end of that Derby. If we can do the same thing we did then, we’ll be good again this weekend.”


Peltier is happy with the pole, but hardly sentimental with the ultimate goal awaiting Sunday. He remains focused on the big picture, hesitant to celebrate going down as the pole-sitter for the 50thSnowball Derby.


 “I don’t get all caught up in the drama of things,” Peltier said about the milestone. “I try to keep a level head. We’ve got to come here tomorrow and work on this thing, make sure we have a decent piece for Sunday.”

Race fans can find’s Trackside Now coverage by clicking here.

Live video tickets for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby can be purchased by clicking here.

-By Zach Evans, Southeast Correspondent – Twitter: @ztevans

-Photo credit: / MoJo Photos


Snowball Derby Qualifying Unofficial Results

Presented by Racecar Engineering:

1             48          Preston Peltier 16.319

2             26          Bubba Pollard   16.344

3             112        Augie Grill           16.419

4             5M        Mason Mingus 16.437

5             75          Jeremy Doss      16.441

6             81          Chase Purdy      16.460

7             14D       Chris Davidson 16.461

8             91          Ty Majeski         16.475

9             53B        Cole Butcher     16.480

10          55D       Spencer Davis   16.514

11          9C          Jeff Choquette 16.514

12          18          Casey Roderick 16.520

13          14C        Connor Okrzesik              16.521

14          36          Dan Fredrickson              16.521

15          51          Kyle Busch          16.530

16          4             Kyle Plott            16.530

17          26S        Chandler Smith 16.544

18          99L        Raphael Lessard               16.552

19          11B        Logan Boyett    16.553

20          18G       Noah Gragson  16.571

21          20          Brandon McReynolds    16.573

22          12          Harrison Burton 16.576

23          46          Cole Rouse        16.582

24          00          Anthony Cataldi 16.609

25          53J         Boris Jurkovic    16.621

26          07          Corey LaJoie      16.624

27          19          Kason Plott        16.649

28          01          Jake Crum          16.653

29          13          Cassius Clark      16.658

30          51N       Stephen Nasse 16.660

31          2W        Donnie Wilson  16.660

32          15          Christian Eckes 16.660

33          9K          Derek Kraus       16.664

34          55          Brandon Oakley 16.705

35          32D       Tyler Dippel       16.705

36          8F          Tate Fogleman 16.734

37          88          Garrett Jones    16.743

38          33          Dustin Smith     16.744

39          7             John DeAngelis Jr            16.749

40          11R        David Rogers     16.769

41          79          Kyle Bryant        16.778

42          89          Jeremy Pate      16.782

43          22          Donald Crocker 16.786

44          79A       Joe Aramendia 16.815

45          16          Steven Davis     16.843

46          45          Rich Bickle Jr     16.847

47          5             Jerry Artuso       16.855

48          58C        John Coffman   16.882

49          43          Dennis Schoenfield        16.897

50          4R          Ben Rowe           16.947

51          64          Garrett Evans    16.967

52          32          Stuart Dutton   17.137

53          58F        Jeff Firestine     18.159

Peltier Wins Pole, Nasse Survives Dramatic Derby Qualifying Night