Five Flags Speedway

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Snowball Derby weekend underway
274
11/29/2018

11/29/2018

RacinBoys


Snowball Derby weekend underway

By Chuck Corder (Pensacola, FL) -- Jeremy Pate never pictured this moment two years ago.

Who could’ve though?

When a freak, on-the-job accident nearly severed his right arm in 2016, Pate’s fate in racing looked bleak, to say the least.

“I got in a real low spot,” said the 41-year-old Pensacola driver, who in his mid-20s sat on the pole at the 2002 edition of the Snowball Derby. “Getting off the pain medications, that was hard. I didn’t know what the future held for me. But at the end of the day, this is what I love to do.”

PHOTO: Sunday race day at Snowball Derby is overflowed beyond capacity at Five Flags Speedway--CREDIT: Five Flags Speedway

Pate’s passion for racing carried him from a valley of misery to his sport’s highest peak Thursday night at Five Flags Speedway and the 51st edition of the Snowball Derby, short-track racing’s most prestigious week.

Pate won the 50-lap Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks feature on Day 2 of the Derby, besting a stout and fast field of 31 cars.

“We had a hotrod,” he said. “We ran a whole 50 laps during practice just to set the pace and know what it felt like to run that many laps on a day like today.”

The wise strategy paid off. He took the lead on Lap 26 with a bold and stunning pass of then-leader Derrick Griffin, whose No. 51 was bad fast after setting a blazing new track record of 17.232 seconds (more on that later) in qualifying.

But, Pate had a rocket ship, too. He climbed quickly from his 13th starting spot and assumed P1 just past the halfway point of the race.

“We had a real good racecar,” Pate said. “We were never the fastest, but the car was on a rail. Tonight, we struggled during the middle of the race. But, when we got into clean air, I knew we were gonna take off.”

He survived the final two of seven total cautions with quality restarts and was one of the few cars to dodge trouble all night.

Well, that is, until his celebratory burnout.

“All I had to do was not wreck it,” Pate said, “and, thankfully, I waited until the end to put it in the wall.”

While Alabama boys Joe Bethea Jr. and Donald Crocked finished second and third, respectively, the major storyline was Griffin’s untimely fall after a meteoric rise earlier in the night.

After a pair of drivers dismantled the previous track record of 17.590 seconds, Griffin delivered a mic drop when his lightning fast lap was a full three-tenths faster than everyone else.

That theme continued early into the 50 lapper until mechanical issues swung the door wide-open for Pate.

As he drove his car to Victory Lane with a busted-up nose thanks to his post-race jubilation, Pate was already pumping his fists.

His emotions, clearly evident in his eyes, told the story of how far he has come in two years.

“This is so awesome,” Pate proclaimed. “I’m just a dumb redneck from right down the way on a dirt road here in Pensacola. This is as good as it gets.”

The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen

Shanna Ard had won track championships at Five Flags Speedway, but never the big one.

December after December for almost two decades now, Ard has set his sights on coming home with a Sportsmen Snowball Derby title.

Each time, Ard’s come up painstakingly short and has watched someone else hoist that trophy

That all disappeared Thursday night at the famed half-mile asphalt oval. Ard won The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen 50-lap Derby with 2017 champion Mark Barnhill finishing runner-up and Jason Huffmaster rounding out the podium.

Going back to Caleb Burkett’s win in the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks Derby on Wednesday night, Pensacola drivers have now won the first three races of the year’s greatest short-track racing week.

“I’m kinda speechless really,” Ard said. “It’s unbelievable that after 18 years of trying this, I finally won. We’ve finished in every position of this race for so long, but tonight we’re No. 1.”

Finally a champion at the Derby. And it was a championship decision to pass then-leader B.J. Leytham in the final 10 laps despite a wad of lapped traffic.

As Leytham and Ard rambunctiously navigated the rest of the 22-car field, choosing the right groove seemed paramount.

When Leytham chose inside and could not avoid running into the back of Jim Pokrant, Leytham lost speed and drifted up the track. Sensing opportunity knocking, Ard dove low under Pokrant and quickly put some distance between his No. 29 and the No. 8 of Leytham.

Ard showed patience and experience by saving the rubber on his tires for the end of the race.

“It was our race to lose, and we lost,” said Leytham, who unofficially finished second before being disqualified in post-race technical inspection. “I’d rather be sitting right there where Shanna is.”
Derby Day 2: Pate Perseveres to Outlaw Stocks Title; Ard Keeps Local Streak Alive with Sportsmen Crown

By Chuck Corder

Jeremy Pate never pictured this moment two years ago.

Who could’ve though?

When a freak, on-the-job accident nearly severed his right arm in 2016, Pate’s fate in racing looked bleak, to say the least.

“I got in a real low spot,” said the 41-year-old Pensacola driver, who in his mid-20s sat on the pole at the 2002 edition of the Snowball Derby. “Getting off the pain medications, that was hard. I didn’t know what the future held for me. But at the end of the day, this is what I love to do.”

Pate’s passion for racing carried him from a valley of misery to his sport’s highest peak Thursday night at Five Flags Speedway and the 51st edition of the Snowball Derby, short-track racing’s most prestigious week.

Pate won the 50-lap Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks feature on Day 2 of the Derby, besting a stout and fast field of 31 cars.

“We had a hotrod,” he said. “We ran a whole 50 laps during practice just to set the pace and know what it felt like to run that many laps on a day like today.”

The wise strategy paid off. He took the lead on Lap 26 with a bold and stunning pass of then-leader Derrick Griffin, whose No. 51 was bad fast after setting a blazing new track record of 17.232 seconds (more on that later) in qualifying.

But, Pate had a rocket ship, too. He climbed quickly from his 13th starting spot and assumed P1 just past the halfway point of the race.

“We had a real good racecar,” Pate said. “We were never the fastest, but the car was on a rail. Tonight, we struggled during the middle of the race. But, when we got into clean air, I knew we were gonna take off.”

He survived the final two of seven total cautions with quality restarts and was one of the few cars to dodge trouble all night.

Well, that is, until his celebratory burnout.

“All I had to do was not wreck it,” Pate said, “and, thankfully, I waited until the end to put it in the wall.”

While Alabama boys Joe Bethea Jr. and Donald Crocked finished second and third, respectively, the major storyline was Griffin’s untimely fall after a meteoric rise earlier in the night.

After a pair of drivers dismantled the previous track record of 17.590 seconds, Griffin delivered a mic drop when his lightning fast lap was a full three-tenths faster than everyone else.

That theme continued early into the 50 lapper until mechanical issues swung the door wide-open for Pate.

As he drove his car to Victory Lane with a busted-up nose thanks to his post-race jubilation, Pate was already pumping his fists.

His emotions, clearly evident in his eyes, told the story of how far he has come in two years.

“This is so awesome,” Pate proclaimed. “I’m just a dumb redneck from right down the way on a dirt road here in Pensacola. This is as good as it gets.”

The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen

Shanna Ard had won track championships at Five Flags Speedway, but never the big one.

December after December for almost two decades now, Ard has set his sights on coming home with a Sportsmen Snowball Derby title.

Each time, Ard’s come up painstakingly short and has watched someone else hoist that trophy

That all disappeared Thursday night at the famed half-mile asphalt oval. Ard won The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen 50-lap Derby with 2017 champion Mark Barnhill finishing runner-up and Jason Huffmaster rounding out the podium.

Going back to Caleb Burkett’s win in the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks Derby on Wednesday night, Pensacola drivers have now won the first three races of the year’s greatest short-track racing week.

“I’m kinda speechless really,” Ard said. “It’s unbelievable that after 18 years of trying this, I finally won. We’ve finished in every position of this race for so long, but tonight we’re No. 1.”

Finally a champion at the Derby. And it was a championship decision to pass then-leader B.J. Leytham in the final 10 laps despite a wad of lapped traffic.

As Leytham and Ard rambunctiously navigated the rest of the 22-car field, choosing the right groove seemed paramount.

When Leytham chose inside and could not avoid running into the back of Jim Pokrant, Leytham lost speed and drifted up the track. Sensing opportunity knocking, Ard dove low under Pokrant and quickly put some distance between his No. 29 and the No. 8 of Leytham.

Ard showed patience and experience by saving the rubber on his tires for the end of the race.

“It was our race to lose, and we lost,” said Leytham, who unofficially finished second before being disqualified in post-race technical inspection. “I’d rather be sitting right there where Shanna is.”


Submitted By: Kirk Elliott

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