Snowball Derby qualifying always has its share of surprises. While most surprises occur when certain drivers don’t qualify for the race, this year’s qualifying produced a handful surprise drivers that qualified in on time to make their first starts in the Snowball Derby.
One driver that turned heads in qualifying was Montgomery, Alabama’s Perry Patino. Coming into Snowball Derby week, Patino had not made a single Super Late Model start. After Friday night’s qualifying session, Patino found himself locked into the Snowball Derby, qualifying 16th in the Bobby and Roger Reuse No. 89.
“This is our first time trying to get into the Derby and my first week ever in a Super,” Patino told Speed51.com. “It’s really just a team effort. They called me super late for it and Bobby and Roger Reuse wanted me to drive it and I was like, ‘Let’s go try it. I think we make it.’ It’s one of the best feelings in the world; it feels like we’ve won some big race or something like that. It’s amazing, and such a good team effort. I can’t thank my guys for all they do and I’m so happy to be in the Snowball Derby.”
Florida’s Michael Atwell began to show speed on Friday during the final two practice sessions. After not being able to qualify one year ago and failing to make it out of the Last Chance Race in 2016, the Naples native put himself into the starting field with a 21st-place qualifying effort.
“It’s a relief to say the least,” Atwell said. “All the guys on this team work so hard, and to be able to do something like this is awesome. It’s nice to be able to show up and compete with the guys that have a bigger budget than we do. But I think we left a little bit left on the plate. I got really loose off of two there and kind of screwed my lap up, but in the end it doesn’t matter. We made the Derby.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise of qualifying came from Hubertus, Wisconsin’s John DeAngelis Jr. After struggling to find speed in previous trips to Pensacola, DeAngelis has had one of the fastest cars at Five Flags Speedway. He proved that he will be a contender on Sunday with his ninth-place qualifying result.
“We’ve been running up top in the practice sessions all weekend here,” DeAngelis said. “We tested on Monday and I knew we had some good speed but I didn’t know how we’d match up with everybody else. I would’ve been happy with a top ten run on qualifying night. A top five would’ve been really nice but I’ll take it. Last year to this year is night and day. We have new cars, new motors, everything. Last year, we missed the show in the last chance by one car but this year we’re locked into the top ten. It feels pretty good.”
Even DeAngelis surprised himself with the speed his team has had throughout the week. He tells Speed51.com he is ready to live up to the underdog role on Sunday.
“I don’t even know how to put it. I didn’t think we were going to run this good here,” he stated. “Yeah, we built a brand new Fury Racecar with Chris Wimmer and my Crew Chief Travis Dassow’s been around racing for a while and they help my program a lot. I’m just really happy to be locked in. We’re an underdog and we beat Ty Majeski and Bubba Pollard. They may race better than us, but whatever, we’re in the show. Hopefully we can come up with something good.”
Other impressive performances during Friday’s qualifying include: Logan Boyett (6th), Kaden Honeycutt (25th) and Derek Griffith (26th).
Race fans unable to make it to Pensacola, Florida for the 51st Annual Snowball Derby can watch all the action by purchasing live video tickets on Speed51.com. Individual video tickets for each remaining day can be purchased now by clicking here.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI)
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos