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Five Flags Speedway

Third Time the Charm? Ragan Takes Pole for 45th Annual Snowball Derby

By Chuck Corder

David Ragan seems to be straightening out his learning curve at Five Flags Speedway.

In two previous trips to Pensacola for the annual Snowball Derby, the NASCAR veteran didn’t crack the top 15 and watched another driver celebrate in Victory Lane.

Ragan took a giant leap closer to short-track racing’s most prestigious prize by grabbing the pole for the 45th running of the 300-lap Super Late Model race at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The Georgia native, who now lives in Concord, N.C., turned a fast time of 16.485 seconds to better 59 other drivers during Friday night’s qualifying.

“It’s just gratifying to come down and run with the best of the best,� said Ragan, whose run was two-tenths off the track record (16.290) set by Bubba Pollard during last year’s qualifying.

“It gets harder on Sunday.�

He knows that all-too well. Ragan finished 27th in his first appearance at the 2010 Derby when hometown driver Johanna Long hoisted the Tom Dawson trophy on a memorable Sunday.

Last year, he finished a distant18th while watching Chase Elliott outduel D.J. VanderLey for the checkered flag.

“The first two (trips), I learned a lot and I have a good feeling we’re getting better and better,� Ragan said. “We had some good preparation before we got down here.�

Ragan and 29 others punched their tickets into the Derby while another 27 were left to compete in Saturday’s last-chance races, which begin approximately at 4 p.m.

Steven Wallace, the son of NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace, was outside the top 30, but will likely avoid any anxious moments Saturday and use his provisional as a past champion (2004) to slip into Sunday.

Mike Garvey and Logan Boyett, a pair of local drivers, earned two other provisional spots by posting top-10 finishes in the Blizzard Series points standings during the regular season.

Long, who recently completed an impressive rookie season in the Nationwide Series, seemed content with her qualifying run (21st).

“We’re in the race, and that was the main thing,� she said. “There’s a lotta good guys here, so we feel fortunate to be in the race. My guys gave me a good piece to qualify in.

“We’ve got a little work to do, but we should be good.�

Elliott the defending champion hopes to be in prime position to repeat after posting a top-five lap.

The 17-year-old son of “Million Dollar� Bill Elliott is looking to become the first driver to win back-to-back Snowballs since Augie Grill did it in 2007-08.

Speaking of Grill, who qualified 13th on Friday, the fan favorite is eyeing more history tonight with a second consecutive Snowflake 100 title for the Pro Late Models tonight.

Bubba Pollard, another familiar face at Five Flags, had a fast lap of 16.592 seconds that was good enough for seventh.

But Pollard, who won the Blizzard Series track championship this season, knows the hard part begins Sunday.

“I’m glad it’s over with,� he said of qualifying. “The biggest thing is to put yourself in the top 10 and try to stay outta trouble. That was a good start to a long weekend.�


45t Annual Snowball Derby

Pole Qualifying Results
Super Late Models
Friday at Five Flags Speedway

(Top 30 are in; *earned past champion provisional; ^earned 2012 Blizzard Series provisional)

1 77 David Ragan 16.485
2 8 John Hunter Nemechek 16.524
3 41R T.J. Reaid 16.535
4 51 Kyle Busch 16.578
5 9 Chase Elliott 16.579
6 4 Jeremy Pate 16.587
7 26 Bubba Pollard 16.592
8 98 Daniel Hemric 16.623
9 4J Erik Jones 16.630
10 51N Stephen Nasse 16.631
11 0 Brad Rogers 16.644
12 22 Hunter Robbins 16.651
13 49 Augie Grill 16.657
14 29C Jeff Choquette 16.662
15 45 Dwayne Buggay 16.673
16 77 Chuck Barnes Jr 16.677
17 71 Kyle Benjamin 16.685
18 96 Ben Kennedy 16.695
19 84 Clay Alexander 16.703
20 10D Steve Dorer 16.721
21 10 Johanna Long 16.723
22 99S Casey Smith 16.745
23 5 Nelson Piquet Jr 16.748
24 2W Donnie Wilson 16.755
25 25 Ross Kenseth 16.765
26 2 D.J. Vanderley 16.770
27 11 David Rogers 16.793
28 41 Chris Davidson 16.797
29 21J Kyle Jones 16.802
30 36 Grant Enfinger 16.808
31 20 Brian Campbell 16.810
32 1 ^Mike Garvey 16.811
33 10K Paul Kelley 16.830
34 29T Austin Theriault 16.835
35 83 Landon Cassill 16.844
36 47 Allen Karnes 16.845
37 1MC Stephan McCurley 16.850
38 42 Dennis Prunty 16.851
39 56F A.J. Frank 16.857
40 29B Anderson Bowen 16.858
41 10B Danny Bagwell 16.860
42 11 ^Logan Boyett 16.862
43 23G Dalton Grindle 16.877
44 66 *Steven Wallace 16.921
45 67 Jeff Fultz 16.932
46 31 Kyle Grissom 16.937
47 73 Cole Powell 16.938
48 43 Dennis Schoenfeld 16.938
49 99 Wayne Niedecken Jr. 16.956
50 29 Spencer Davis 16.957
51 21 Scott Carlson 16.981
52 1M Tim Martin 17.055
53 39 Kenzie Ruston 17.058
54 88 Roger Reuse 17.064
55 O2 Matt Smith 17.100
56 7 Erik Darnell 17.103
57 9W Brandon Watson 17.170
58 811 Mason Mingus 17.218
59 17 Chuck Tuck 17.242
60 92 Ron McDonald 17.773
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