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Derek Thorn on Snowball Derby pole



Derek Thorn on Snowball Derby pole

By Chuck Corder (Pensacola, FL) -- As always, qualifying for the 53rd annual Snowball Derby was a sweat.

The most anxious 90 minutes of Derby week isn’t always the 300-lap race, but qualifying night at Five Flags Speedway when more than 50 drivers vie for the 30-plus spots.

PHOTO CREDIT: Speed51 Photo

It once again lived up to the hype with Californian driver Derek Thorn clocking a time of 16.258 seconds to snatch pole honors for the second consecutive Derby. Pensacola’s Eddie Mercer was the last driver to accomplish that feat in 1996-97.

Just as big of a story was who didn’t make the race on time and will have to attempt to make the field during the last-chance races on Saturday at Pensacola’s high banks.

While past NASCAR Cup Series champion and two-time Derby champ Kyle Busch made the show, reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott and NASCAR Xfinity driver Noah Gragson both failed to do so. Both drivers are past winners with Elliott a two-time Derby winner (2011, 2015) and Gragson hoisting the Tom Dawson Trophy for his first an only time two years ago.

Late Model legends Bubba Pollard and Augie Grill were outside the bubble, but only Grill – a former two-time Derby king – will race in Saturday’s last-chance races. Pollard will use his provisional option as the reigning Deep South Cranes Blizzard Series champion as the winner of more than 100 career Late Model races will look for that elusive first Derby triumph.

The night grew tenser when there was a scoring issue with young hotshoe Sammy Smith, a Kyle Busch Motorsports driver. When Smith originally came out, race officials incorrectly recorded just one lap on time before showing him the checkered.

Race director Nicholas Rogers gave Smith the option for a complete restart because of the error. The KBM team – with Busch pacing around the car offering crew members a helping hand – took nearly 30 minutes getting the No. 51 back as close to its original form, going as far as putting on fresh qualifying sticker tires.

But, Smith’s chance at redemption proved futile. He failed to knock Jesse Dutilly off the bubble, and Smith will also compete in Saturday afternoon’s last-chance races.

Here are the 30 drivers who made the Snowball on time:

1 43T Derek Thorn 16.258
2 2 Kaden Honeycutt 16.277
3 91 Ty Majeski 16.346
4 53B Cole Butcher 16.354
5 51N Stephen Nasse 16.377
6 43D Daniel Dye 16.380
7 75 Jeremy Doss 16.392
8 54C Matt Craig 16.393
9 51B Kyle Busch 16.395
10 11 Logan Boyett 16.397
11 4P Kyle Plott 16.407
12 54P Preston Peltier 16.410
13 25 Casey Roderick 16.415
14 9K Derek Kraus 16.416
15 18 Hunter Robbins 16.423
16 78 Corey Heim 16.428
17 32 Grant Enfinger 16.432
18 7D John DeAngelis 16.434
19 7S Paul Shafer, Jr. 16.443
20 39 Kyle Sieg 16.453
21 14D Chris Davidson 16.454
22 3 Ross Kenseth 16.459
23 53J Boris Jurkovic 16.460
24 16 Cayden Lapcevich 16.461
25 36 Dan Fredrickson 16.461
26 35 Jake Garcia 16.472
27 24 Mason Diaz 16.473
28 51A Michael Atwell 16.473
29 14B Travis Braden 16.499
30 30 Jesse Dutilly 16.509

Submitted By: Kirk Elliott

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