Several of the nation’s best Pro Late Model racers converge for the Allen Turner Snowflake 100 in a field that could rival some major Super Late Model events. What the more cost-effective division brings is also a chance for some of the Southeast’s finest weekly racers the attempt to beat peers and heroes of theirs.
Bayley Currey won a track championship at Central Texas Speedway in 2015 and is looking to make his third Snowflake 100 start. The team is trying to get their car in shape to top their previous two performances.
“We had a little bit of trouble bottoming out,” Currey told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We changed the lower control arms for a little extra clearance. We’re getting there though and I think we’ve figured it out now.”
The 19-year-old driver knows that the competition will be stiffer than what he sees during the regular season and is aware that track position plays a great deal of importance in a race such as this.
“You’ve got Chase Elliott, Bubba Pollard, and all these big southeast heavy hitters and it’s definitely way harder to run good out here,” Currey said. “We never really qualified as good as I would like to. We started in the back (in 2013), were making our way through the field, and got caught up in a little deal.
“Then last year we got up to sixth from 18th and my throttle hung so I could never get it all the way on the gas through the corners and was pushing the whole time. In the end, ended up 12th but I feel like we have a pretty good piece right now and might have a chance on Saturday.”
Georgia’s Riley Thornton is fresh off a breakthrough victory in the Governor’s Cup Pro Late Model 100 lap race at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) a month ago. In addition, defending Snowflake winner Bubba Pollrad came over to give the youngster some advice on Thursday afternoon.
“It definitely gives me a lot of confidence coming in,” Thornton noted. “I’ve definitely improved as a driver in qualifying so that will help us a lot. Last year we tore the nose off so just keeping my eyes open and staying out of everybody else’s trouble for a top 10 would be optimal.”
Dwayne Buggay is another racer that hails from Georgia and has been spending time racing out of state with success in the Viper Series at South Alabama Speedway. Unlike some of the younger drivers, Buggay has 10 Snowflake starts and knows what it takes to get the job done.
The driver that finished in the top five three times, most recently a fifth in 2013, has confidence in his car and is focused on qualifying.
“Everybody is just really taped up and the air pressure is high which puts us all over the race track,” Buggay said during Thursday practice. “You just try to get the best two laps you can get. The car is going to be good, so I’m just more interested in seeing what we could turn.”
The qualifying session and 100-lap feature event for the Snowflake tests a driver’s emotions.
“The level of excitement, competition, anxiety; everything is just all to the max,” Buggay continued. “I’m looking forward to it. You just got to have some luck on your side because this place can tear you up really quick. It’s not all the time the best car wins so hopefully we can be fortunate this time and make it work.”
Five Flags Speedway competitors that participate every month at the half-mile facility are optimistic about keeping the December trophy local. Pro Late Model track champion Ryan Luza was fastest in Thursday’s practice and his closest competitor in the final standings, Dustin Smith, hopes to be a factor on Saturday night as well.
“We’re still getting the car dialed in,” Smith said. “The car feels really great and I think we have a decent car for the Snowflake. We could be a little better (in practice), but most of the time you want to make it up in qualifying.”
Smith, who also finished second in the standings at his hometown track in Mobile, Alabama, looks forward to building upon his first Snowflake start that only lasted 16 laps.
“This year I want to stay focused on getting the car dialed in, staying out of trouble, and keeping my nose clean,” Smith stated. “It would be amazing (to win) to be honest. Everybody dreams about winning the Snowball Derby and the Snowflake.”
The Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 takes center stage on Saturday, December 5 as the top Pro Late Model racers in the country qualify and battle for 100 laps at Five Flags. In addition, Saturday’s action features the final 50-lap qualifying event for Snowball Derby drivers to make one last effort to qualify for the 300-lap Super Late Model race. The Better Built Tool Box Pro Trucks will also have a 50-lap feature on Snowball Derby Saturday.
Then on Sunday, December 6, the green flag will drop on the 48th Annual Snowball Derby at 2 p.m. CT at Pensacola, Florida’s Five Flags Speedway.
Fans unable to make it to Pensacola, Florida for the Snowball Derby can watch all of the action through a live online TV style pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51 TV. A four-day video ticket can be purchased now for $59.99 allowing fans to watch all of the action from Five Flags Speedway. Single-day video tickets are also available. Visit Speed51.com for more information.
For more information on the 48th Annual Snowball Derby weekend at Five Flags Speedway, visit www.snowballderby.com.
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-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Heath Lawson/Speed51.com