Five Flags Speedway

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Five Flags Speedway

After Back-to-Back 4ths, NASCAR Star Cassill Fails to Qualify for 45th Annual Snowball Derby

By Chuck Corder

Landon Cassill wasted little time in putting the 45th annual Snowball Derby in his rearview.

Minutes after the Sprint Cup Series blossoming star missed out on one of the four transfer spots in Saturday afternoon’s last-chance race, Cassill had unzipped his firesuit and was in street clothes at Five Flags Speedway.

The 23-year-old Iowan showed such class and earned a legion of fans in Pensacola when local girl Johanna Long nudged him late in her historic 2010 run to the championship.

Cassill knew that year that his was the inferior car to Long’s. He echoed those sentiments after finishing two positions behind Jeff Fultz, who earned the final Derby transfer.

“It didn’t go our way,� said Cassill, who finished fourth both to Long and last year when Chase Elliott won. “We came here to win the race, and we didn’t even make the field. It’s very disappointing.�

Paul Kelley won the 50-lap race with Brian Campbell, Austin Theriault and Fultz giving today’s Derby field its final four Super Late Models.

When the opening green flag dropped, Cassill was on the tail-end of the transfer spots, starting in that coveted position, on the outside of Row 2.

But over the race’s duration, he never could advance and began surrendering spots at the 30-lap mark. Fultz passed him first, then Dennis Prunty, a well-respected late model driver in the Midwest.

Try as he might, Cassill never could chase down Prunty, much less Fultz and had to swallow the harsh reality sixth.

“I’d never dream we’d miss the race,� he said. “It just shows you we never had it. In the final practices, we thought we had something to work with, maybe even could win the last-chance race.�

Even a fresh tire couldn’t help Cassill get over the hump. After the final afternoon practice Saturday, his crew replaced the right rear tire.

Instead of being beneficial to Cassill, it actually served as a hindrance.

As bitter of a pill as this seemingly was for one of NASCAR’s young guns, Cassill didn’t let it sour his love for Pensacola’s famed half-mile oval or short-track racing’s most prestigious prize.

“It makes me love it even more and appreciate (Five Flags),� he said. “It has been one of the best (tracks) for me in my racing career. It just goes to show you, you’re never bigger than the track and the field you’re racing against. Never.�

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