Pro Late Models hit the pavement at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida for three practice sessions on Thursday morning and afternoon. When the final checkered flag fell, the driver with the longest trip to the Panhandle was sitting atop the overall leaderboard.
California’s Derek Thorn led the way on Thursday with a fast lap of 16.858 seconds. His time bested the fast lap set by Michigan’s Carson Hocevar by just four one-hundredths of a second. Alabama’s Connor Okzresik was third overall with a lap of 16.976 seconds.
“I don’t think too many other guys stickered up is the problem. You just don’t know where everyone is at,” Thorn explained. “I felt like we looked really good today. But it’s hard to tell where everybody is at, whether they’re on stickers, how many laps they’ve been out there and all that good stuff.”
Even though Thorn is a former Pro Late Model winner at Five Flags Speedway in the Allen Turner Pro Late Model Series, Thorn doesn’t get to race at Five Flags too frequently considering where he lives. However, Thorn did come to Five Flags back in September in preparation for the Snowflake 100 and finished third behind Bubba Pollard and Jeff Choquette.
“I feel like we had a pretty good car in September,” Thorn said. “I think it’s a little bit different and a little bit better than we were there. We’re just trying to roll with the punches. It’s good to know that we have the speed, but at the same time in the back of your mind speed isn’t going to win you the race. You have to be consistent. We’re just hoping the consistency is there as well as the speed.”
Hocevar turned in a lap of 16.895 seconds overall and said on Thursday evening that he feels pretty good about his chances for a Snowflake 100 win on Saturday night.
“We’re just fine-tuning stuff. I don’t even think we’re going to unload it tomorrow,” Hocevar said.
Hocevar isn’t the only one that said he may not make a lap in the Pro Late Model on Friday. Other double-duty drivers like Thorn and Mason Diaz said they’re most likely going to limit their track time on Friday as they prepare for Snowball Derby qualifying on Friday night.
“If we get the Super dialed in, then yes,” Diaz said when asked if he’ll practice his Pro Late Model on Friday. “But tomorrow is a big day for the Super, so me jumping back and forth between the Pro and the Super probably isn’t the smartest thing. If we go out there in the first practice and go to the top of the board in the Super then we might go out. We have the Pro pretty decent right now for Saturday so we’re not going to focus too much on it. I’m sure pretty much everyone down the line is saying the same thing. We’re here to make the Super race and the Pro race. But with the Pro I know we can make it in the show.”
Two-time JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Pro Late Model champion from Indiana, Jack Dossey III, is another driver pulling double-duty this weekend, but this is his first time ever to Five Flags Speedway. One would think that he’d want as many laps on track as possible, but Dossey said that isn’t their plan for Friday.
“Probably first thing we’ll go out in the Pro Late and then we’ll probably put it on jack stands for the rest of the day and focus on the Derby car,” said Dossey.
Mason Keller is one driver who is solely focused on Saturday’s Snowflake 100. He ended the day 11th overall.
“We’re pretty solid, overall. It had a good natural feeling and a good vibe coming from the car,” Keller said. “All these guys bolt on sticker after sticker. You really don’t know where you’re at until that last session when everyone puts on stickers at the same time. We waited all day and got a good feeling on old tires. We put on stickers and went out there and it really came to life. Hopefully the car stays that way and we’ll continue on.”
For many drivers, the day went mostly well, but for a few drivers it was an awful first day on track.
One of those drivers who had an awful day was Georgia’s Christopher Tullis. Tullis blew an engine going into turn one, spun out in his own fluid and crashed hard in turn two. Tullis is planning on continuing his weekend in a car provided by Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville regular Dylan Fetcho.
Another driver who had trouble on Thursday was Florida’s Ryan Worsham who backed into the frontstretch wall in the first session of the day.
The Pro Late Models will be back on track for practice on Friday ahead of Saturday’s race day action.
For more in-depth coverage, head to our Trackside Now coverage here.
Race fans can watch all of the Pro Late Model action all week long by purchasing a live video ticket on Speed51.com. Click here to purchase the pay-per-view broadcast.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Associate Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Allen Turner Snowflake 100 Overall Practice Results
|17||20D||Jack Dossey III||17.225|
|34||30K||Bobby Knox Jr||17.417|