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Five Flags Speedway

Byron on Top: NASCAR, KBM Driver Takes Pole for 49th Annual Snowball Derby

By Chuck Corder

The bright lights of the Five Flags Speedway technical inspection shed can make mincemeat of any driver’s spirit.

The tiny confines, sitting just inside the Turn No. 3 guard rail at Pensacola’s high banks, has been home to many heartbreaks in recent years.

Drivers, big and local divisions, have endured the nightmares of crossing the finish line first, only to have a disqualification be their demise after being initially declared the winner.

Drivers for the Kyle Busch Motorsports late model team know that pain all too well. Just ask Christopher Bell, a KBM driver, about the torture chamber he was put through last year — first in qualifying and then during the Derby when his apparent victory was tossed out.

Thankfully, William Byron avoided that misery.

The full-time NASCAR driver, Byron was given a clean bill of health and he successfully headed to his pits as the official polesitter for the 49th annual Snowball Derby on Sunday. Byron, a seven-time winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this year, stood head and shoulders above a group of 56 other cars in short-track racing’s most exciting two laps.

“It’s a good feeling. I was just hoping we could get through ‘tech’ and celebrate,� Byron said with a smile on his face. “This was just a great job done by this team and I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend.�

Bell, Byron’s teammate, is back this year and qualified sixth for Sunday’s 300-lap Super Late Model race that is regarded as short-track’s most prestigious event.

Byron, a Charlotte, N.C., area driver, posted a fast lap of 16.201 seconds, which was less than a tenth off the track record that was set by Ty Majeski at last year’s Snowball Derby.

The last driver to win the Derby from the pole came in 2005 when local hero Eddie Mercer ended his long quest and finally hoisted the Tom Dawson trophy.

Majeski backed up his performance in 2015 with another great run to finish second in qualifying. He will started on the outside of Byron on Row 1 for the Derby on Sunday.

“You always want a fast time,� Majeski said, “and I definitely wanted to back up what we were able to do last year. We just came a little short.

“We’ve had good runs all year long. We wanted to travel down south more this year. We struggled at first, but I think we’ve figured out some things. I hope it continues.�

Bubba Pollard is another driver hoping his weekend continues to blossom. Pollard, a heavy favorite to end his winless drought at the Derby, qualified fourth (16.257 seconds) and will start on the outside of Spencer Davis (16.247) in Row 2.

“We’re happy with it,� Pollard said near the tech shed. “I didn’t know where we’d be able to qualify with this car, and I’m really surprised by it.

“We struggled when we came to test, but it feels like we’ve fixed it.�

49th Annual Snowball Derby

Qualifying Results for the Top 30

Friday at Five Flags Speedway

Track Record—16.120 (Ty Majeski, Derby 2015)

9B William Byron, Charlotte, NC, 16.201

91 Ty Majeski, Seymour, WI, 16.241

29 Spencer Davis, Dawsonville, GA, 16.247

26 Bubba Pollard, Senoia, GA, 16.257

4 Kyle Plott, Marietta, GA, 16.282

51 Christopher Bell, Norman, OK, 16.308

5G Noah Gragson, Las Vegas, 16.318

7 Casey Roderick, Lawrenceville, GA, 16.319

07 Corey Lajoie, Cornelius, NC, 16.326

97 Cole Anderson, Northfield, MN, 16.327

3 Kaz Grala, Westbrough, MA, 16.363

15 Christian Eckes, Cornelius, NC, 16.366

9 Jeff Choquette, West Palm Beach, 16.394

14 Chris Davidson, Pearland, TX, 16.403

67 Clay Jones, Mooresville, NC, 16.404

16 Brandon McReynolds, Mooresville, NC, 16.417

12 Harrison Burton, Huntersville, NC, 16.425

43T Derek Thorn, Bakersfield, CA, 16.429

5 Jerry Artuso, Sault Ste Marie, ONT, 16.433

8 John Hunter Nemechek, Mooresville, NC, 16.442

98 Daniel Hemric, Mooresville, NC, 16.446

42 Chad Finley, Dewitt, MI, 16.448

2W Donnie Wilson, OKC, OK, 16.451

83 Scotty Ellis, Forsyth, GA, 16.457

77 Zane Smith, Huntington Beach, CA, 16.460

26S Chandler Smith, Jasper, GA, 16.468

99 Casey Smith, Austin, TX, 16.472

82 Grant Enfinger, Montrose, AL, 16.474

112 Augie Grill, Hayden, AL, 16.484

01 Derek Scott, Franklin, TX, 16.496

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