Friday night’s qualifying session for the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL) is often called the most tense in short track racing. For several drivers who stood on the bubble despite several heavy-hitters in the closing minutes, that proved to be the case.
Harrison Burton claimed the pole for the 300-lap Super Late Model race on Sunday, with a time of 16.273 seconds. Meanwhile, drivers such as Derek Kraus, Corey Heim, and Spencer Davis watched anxiously before making the 30-car cutoff to avoid tomorrow’s Last Chance Qualifier.
Burton was overjoyed with the pole effort, considering it a vote of confidence, as he has been working to improve his qualifying efforts throughout the season.
“Oh, it’s awesome, man,” Burton told Speed51.com. “I’ve always been a work in progress in qualifying. I feel like that was one of my weak points. That’s so cool for me. It’s a big confidence booster because I’ve been working really hard on qualifying. To see results like this, and the stuff that’s going on in other series as well, it’s such a big confidence booster.
Burton then said something that was echoed by all 30 drivers who locked in on time Friday night.
“I’m just ready for the race now.”
Spencer Davis was especially happy for the race. After a day where he struggled to find speed, Davis sat 30th with drivers such as Carson Hocevar, Chris Davidson, and Stephen Nasse left to take time.
However, none of the remaining competitors bettered Davis’ 16.698 second lap, beating out 31st-place Paul Shafer, Jr. by 0.022 seconds.
“Right there when we hit the bubble spot, I figured we were out,” Davis said. “There were some good cars that were a heck of a lot better than us and should have made it in. I knew Stephen was the last car, I thought it was too good to be true. When we race against each other down in New Smyrna, we’re usually racing each other for the pole. We’ve raced each other down here all year. I’ve kept up with the weekly racing with the Blizzard Series. Stephen’s always fast.”
Nasse’s strength at Five Flags Speedway made it all the more surprising when he was unable to bump Davis. Still, Davis made the race and looked forward to Sunday.
“Man, I don’t know how he didn’t beat us, but it was close,” Davis said. “But with the year we’ve had and being 44th in practice, man, 30th feels like a win right now.
“Now we’ve got to plan for 300 laps.”
Corey Heim finished just ahead of Davis in 29th, experiencing the same anxiety. Heim’s team overcame mechanical issues during practice Friday to make the field.
“It means a lot. We’ve been working hard on it all week,” Heim said. “Then we had some troubles today, had to replace some parts on it. We had to rebuild basically the entire motor earlier today. We came back out, ran some courtesy laps. It felt a lot better, and I didn’t expect to run as good as we did.
“We made it by one spot, so I’m glad to be here, really,” Heim added. “I was so nervous, I didn’t think we were going to make it. There were some really good cars left, like Nasse, that I thought would beat us.
“I’m just really glad we’re in the show.”
Stephen Nasse still made the show, based on a provisional from Blizzard Series points. He felt great disappointment in the qualifying effort, but hoped to turn a negative into a positive.
“Definitely not the effort we wanted,” Nasse said. “It’s really frustrating and embarrassing at the same time. But, you know, the best run I’ve ever had in the Derby was in a situation just like this. Hopefully, everything can play out like that, but it’s tough.”
Nasse felt the draw didn’t work in his favor, as the track warmed up late in the qualifying session.
“The second half of the field really got screwed. I really wasn’t sure if I was in a good spot or a bad spot. No fast times got laid down in the back of the pack. It didn’t really get dewy out, which is what I was worried about, but it got a little warm. I got out there, and it didn’t feel right to me at all. It sucks, but we’ll get through it.”
Nonetheless, Nasse is moving forward, preparing for the Snowball Derby thanks to his provisional.
“I’m just going to suck it up. The car is the car I’ve got to race. We’re going to work hard on it tomorrow and be ready for the race.”
The race will take place Sunday, December 2. Race fans unable to attend the Snowball Derby can watch live on Speed51.com. Click here to order your video ticket now.
For more information regarding the event, visit Snowball Central presented by Schaeffer’s Specialized Lubricants.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor - Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
51st Annual Snowball Derby Qualifying Results
Five Flags Speedway (FL) - November 30, 2018
|9||7||John DeAngelis Jr||16.479|
|31||7S||Paul Shafer Jr||16.725|
|46||20||Jack Dossey III||17.018|