Immediately when drivers think that things are going their way, Five Flags Speedway (FL) can always turn things in the reverse direction.
That is exactly what happened to 2014 SRL Southwest Tour champion Derek Thorn, owner Byron Campbell, and team. The group travelled from California with a competitive Super Late Model, driven last year by Mason Massey, to Pensacola, Florida for a test on Sunday and Monday that left them optimistic. From the time they went out for their first practice run on Thursday morning it all initially went downhill.
“We fired off and picked up a really bad vibration and at first I didn’t make a lap,” Thorn told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We pulled the drive shaft out, we checked it out, looked at things, and went back out. We didn’t even get up to speed and it shot the front yoke and the front U-joint broke off, and when it did that it tore up the interior, broke the transmission, broke the bell housing. We got it all fixed and these guys thrashed.”
The team made it back out following the lunch break, in which they worked straight through. Unfortunately, something still was not right.
“Went back out there; same vibration,” said Thorn. “Found it in the front side of the rear end. Went back out there and it was fixed. After that it was game on.”
From there, Thorn went on to post the fastest time in the final half hour in the six hour timeframe, and ended up sixth overall. Although the momentum is now on their side going into Friday practice and qualifying he knows from past events, such as a wild tumble in 2011’s Snowball Derby, that things can take a turn at any moment.
“I’ve been here enough times to know that everything can change 180 degrees,” mentioned Thorn. “I feel I have the best chance than I have ever had. I cannot thank these guys enough at Campbell Motorsports for giving me the chance and the opportunity. Hopefully the weather stays pretty true to what it is today. I feel like we belong where we are at.”
Additional Super Late Model drivers had to overcome various issues as well. T.J. Reaid had to perform an engine swap while Dennis Schoenfeld and crew thrashed after a wreck. Mason Mingus switched to a backup car after hard impact into the wall following a run in with a piece of lead. Rattler 250 and World Crown 300 winner Casey Roderick has been forced to pack up for the weekend after suffering a mechanical failure that caused an engine issue.
Overall, the fastest three teams were all from Georgia with Anderson Bowen leading Daniel Hemric and Chase Elliott. Ross Kenseth and Donnie Wilson rounded out the top five.
In Snowflake 100 practice, fastest driver Willie Allen was very excited about his Pro Late Model’s performance.
“This may be the best car we’ve ever had here times 10,” said Allen. “We’re really really happy with the balance, but this is a crazy track. I’m just really thankful that we have a good shot.”
On Friday, December 5, it is NASH 102.7 Pole Night, as the top 30 in Snowball Derby qualifying will be locked into Sunday’s 300-lap feature. More practice for the Snowball Derby and Snowflake 100 cars will take place, as well as a full card of Super Stock and Modified action.
Then on Saturday, December 6, it’s the Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 time trials, qualifying races and the 100-lap feature, plus final practice for the Snowball Derby cars, a 50-lap Pro Trucks feature and a 50-lap last-chance qualifying race to lock the final cars into the Snowball Derby.
Finally, the 47th Annual Snowball Derby will then go green on Sunday, December 7 at 2 p.m. ET at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL.
The full 47th Annual Snowball Derby weekend schedule is available at www.snowballderby.com.
Tickets and reserved camping spots are still available, but going fast. To order tickets or to reserve a camping spot, call the Five Flags Speedway box office at (850) 944-8400.
For more information about Five Flags Speedway and the 47th Annual Snowball Derby weekend, please visit www.5flagsspeedway.com, www.snowballderby.com or contact the track by calling (850) 944-8400.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Correspondent – Twitter: @Aaron_Creed
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
|Overall Snowball Derby Super Late Model Practice Times|
|11||8||John Hunter Nemechek||16.652|
|19||2||D J Vanderley||16.712|
|33||7||Paul Shafer Jr.||16.786|
|48||99||J J Haley||16.900|
|Overall Snowflake 100 Pro Late Model Practice Times|
|10||8||John Hunter Nemechek||16.974|
|15||5||Dominique Van Wieringen||17.010|
|25||33||Dustin Mitchell Smith||17.074|
|32||97||Joey Polewarczyk, Jr.||17.146|
|34||99||J J Haley||17.159|
|37||30||Bobby Knox, Jr.||17.179|
|49||O1||Derek Scott Jr.||17.313|
|60||25||J T Schild||17.495|