A handful of the best Super Late Model racers in America took advantage of track time at Five Flags Speedway (FL) Monday afternoon in preparation for the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby presented by BJ’s Wholesale Club. At the end of the day, the drivers in attendance were pleased with the progress they made at the Pensacola oval.
Ty Majeski, one of the favorites entering this week’s event, was among the drivers who participated in the test session to gain valuable track time prior to the busy week.
“I think the biggest thing for us is just getting our travels and running through different packages,” Majeski said. “The track is going to change a lot, obviously. The track is really green with no rubber laid down, so it’s going to change Thursday, Friday and as the weekend progresses. Today for us was just kind of establishing a baseline, somewhere to work from, working through some bigger and longer changes that we wouldn’t be able to do Thursday or Friday during the hectic practice. That’s what we’re taking advantage of today, and I think we have ourselves in a pretty good direction.”
After beginning the session around 9 a.m. on Monday morning, Majeski was happy with the progress made as his team approached the early afternoon hours.
“Anytime you can get on the track, that’s an advantage. That’s the bottom line,” he stated. “We’re excited to be here, excited for this weekend. I think we have a good car, it’s been reacting really good to adjustments and I feel like we’ve made it better since we’ve unloaded. I’m excited for this weekend.”
All the way from California, Derek Thorn used Monday’s practice to get familiar with a track and tire that he normally only competes at once a year. The four-time SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour champion is hoping the hard work put in early in the week will translate into success later in the week.
“It works for us to get the bugs worked out of our cars. We only come back here once a year with this tire at this track,” Thorn said. “Trying to get a kick start to the week and finding out what does work and doesn’t work never hurts. It’s been good so far I think. Today to yesterday is different with the weather and today from Thursday will be different with the weather. Just take it for what it is, try to learn what you can while you can and check things off your list. Hopefully come Thursday it all translates and shows good speed.”
Another driver shaking off a little bit of rust during the test session was Joe Gibbs Racing driver Harrison Burton, who will compete in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2020. After running a full season on the NASCAR Truck Series circuit this year, he used Monday to once again get familiar with Super Late Models.
“Any track time is good, especially for me. I’ve been running around doing all kinds of other things and sometimes you get back in a Super Late Model and it feels like a completely new animal,” Burton said. “It’s always good to get that first run out of the way and get kind of back into that rythmn. Once you get there, you’re able to build on your race car and get better and better and better. Throughout the day we’ve made huge gains. We started off not really good and now we’re getting very, very competitive I think. We’re headed towards the right direction.”
While on-track action at Five Flags Speedway won’t begin until Thursday, the fun will begin Tuesday night with the Snowball Derby Kickoff Party at Beef O’Brady’s on Nine Mile Rd. in Pensacola. Many of the stars competing throughout the week will be in attendance to have some fun and mingle with fans before the big race.
Festivities at the race track will begin Wednesday with Rig Parking and Tech Day at Five Flags Speedway. That will lead into a live episode of Speed51’s “The Bullring” talk show at 5 p.m. CT in the BJ’s Big Tent behind the frontstretch. At 6 p.m. CT, the all-important qualifying draw will take place for Pro and Super Late Models on the frontstretch of the half-mile oval.
Thursday, December 5 brings the first on-track action of the week, starting with the Super Late Model teams in preparation for the Snowball Derby and the Snowflake 100 for Pro Late Models. It also brings a trio of features in the evening for three of Five Flags Speedway’s favorite divisions. The WCI Parts Pro Trucks and Dock of Pensacola Beach Sportsmen will each go for 50 laps of racing. The day concludes with the Lloyd's Glass Pure Stocks going at it for 35 laps of excitement.
Friday, December 6 features the most dramatic qualifying session in Late Model racing, as Snowball Derby drivers will attempt to secure their spot in Sunday’s feature. The day then concludes with the crowning of a champion, as the open-wheeled warriors in the Modifieds of Mayhem Tour cap off their 2019 season with a 75-lap finale.
Things crank up even more on Saturday, December 7 with 150 laps of feature racing, plus two dramatic last chance qualifiers. The Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks will make their on-track debut, with practice and qualifying to start the day. After qualifying for both the Outlaws and the Pro Late Models, Snowball Derby drivers will get their final chance to make Sunday’s field in the 50-lap LCQ. The Pro Late Models follow with their own 50-lap last chance race, leading into the Outlaw B-Main if necessary. Finally, the evening closes with the Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100, followed by the 50-lap Outlaw feature.
Lastly, the week closes on Sunday, December 8 with the biggest race of all, the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby. Pre-race festivities begin at noon, with driver introductions at 1:30 p.m. The green flag will drop on the 300-lap Snowball Derby at 2:00 p.m., closing out an incredible week of racing.
Those who can't make it to Five Flags Speedway will be able to watch a live pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51. Four-day video tickets covering the full week of on-track action are available now for the discounted price of $79.99. Visit www.speed51.com/snowballderby today to get your video package today.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51