SNOWBALL DERBY: FRIDAY NOTES by Jeremy Troiano & Matt Kentfield
Wallace, Norris Mad… Long Wrecks Big… Goodson Wants It
WAUTERS TEAM STRUGGLES, VERY UNHAPPY WITH TECH
Two of the fastest cars in practice all day long were those of Richie Wauters’ #5, driven by JR Norris, and #66, driven by defending Snowball Derby champion Steve Wallace.
But after qualifying was all said and done, Norris’ car was 43rd, while Wallace was just 47th quick.
“I think it is pretty chicken,” said Wallace’s teammate Norris. “I am going to be blunt about it and say it. I think it is pretty chicken the way he went about it. He made a comment that we had three days to come through. I tried three different times to go through tech after the first, initial check. The first two times there were cars over there that weren't even in our division and they told us they were too busy; that they had ‘this and that’ and you can't come through right now. We had to back up and go back to our trailer. We came back right after practice and he said no. He flat out told us ‘no, you can't come through.’ So it is his fault that we are wide. We were a little wide the first time we came through and we worked on it to fix it and we wanted to go see if we fixed it or not.
Both the #5 and the #66 failed to make the top-0 in qualifying. (51 Photots)
Wallace, Norris and team owner Wauters all pointed their fingers toward Five Flags Speedway Tech Director Ricky Brooks.
“Five Flags has to do something because they have this new tech inspector named Ricky; he's just teching these bodies so hardcore,” said Wallace. “They got us for tread width. We went through tech and instead of giving us like 45 seconds to fix things, they docked us one lap in qualifying. They did the same thing to my teammate, JR Norris. These guys in qualifying were going two- to three-tenths faster in the second laps. So I guess we have to race our way into this race. You spend a lot of damn money to come down here and race and you get treated like s**t by the officials.”
“NASCAR lets you check anything you want to when you want to before qualifying. They let you pull over and fix it and go to the back of the line and go through again. I don't know where he comes up with these rules of you lose a lap if you aren't right the first time though. Everybody misses the first time through. Cup guys miss the first time through. I think he's got his chest poked out too far.”
Team owner Richie Wauters was even more upset than his drivers.
“We got f**ked in the line; that's what I think,” said Wauters. “If something is wrong with your car and you fix it and are inline before you qualify, they shouldn't penalize you one lap. Both cars are an eighth of an inch off on tread-width and they penalize you. I think it is crap. We are Late Model racing. This is not Winston Cup. You are here all week long and you spend money and practice for two days and then they worry just because you have to go through tech twice.”
“And those hairs were real short I will tell you,” said Carlson. “We just didn't have the speed we needed for qualifying. I guess we worked on our race stuff and maybe should have worked a little more on our qualifying. I knew I had a provisional but didn't want to use it. I guess we made it in and got the last spot available with time.”
Not using his Blizzard Series provision, which he earned for finishing second in the Blizzard championship, allowed them to go to Josh Hamner and Ryan Crane instead.
“I would have taken the provisional and certainly wouldn't run that race,” added Carlson. “It's going to be a heck of a race for the fans and I am going to be one of them. It is no junker race I will tell you that.”
LONG QUALIFIES 8TH, WRECKS HARD
Things were looking good for Donald Long after his first lap of qualifying for Sunday’s Snowball Derby. In his first lap, Long clocked in with a time that would eventually give him an eighth-place qualifying effort.
Five Flags Speedway Tech Director Ricky Brooks.
“They both had infractions when they went through here on Wednesday night,” said Brooks. “They didn't show back up until today. When they came back through pre-qualifying tech, they still had infractions. I preached all week in the drivers meetings that if you don't pass the first time, you lose a lap. The second time you don't pass, you go to the last chance race. He passed the second time. They got the same treatment everyone else did.
“He tried to go through when I was lining up to qualify. He had three days to go through and he waits till I am ready to qualify and I am running local cars through tech. It is right in the schedule. My hands are tied. I have 80 racecars for the local show and he wants to come through during that.”
BY THE HAIR OF HIS CHINY, CHIN, CHIN
Scott Carlson made it into Sunday’s Snowball Derby by the hair of his chiny chin chin.
a car. I hate it for these guys though.”
With the car a total wreck, Long went to friend and Snowball Derby pole sitter Eddie Mercer, looking for a little help. When the talking was done, Long purchased a car from Mercer and will drive it in Sunday’s event, but will have to start at the rear of the field.
DERBY A FAMILY AFFAIR FOR CARLSONS
Scott Carlson is considered a local racing legend in the Pensacola area. His success at Five Flags Speedway and beyond has made him among the fan favorites at his home track. It’s no wonder that his son, Brandon, is well on his way to being the next Pensacolan to hit the big time.
Both father and son have their cars in the pit area at Five Flags this weekend and they hope to make it a family affair in victory lane in both the 300-lap Snowball Derby and the 100-lap Snowflake race.
Dad has his #38 Super Late Model entered in the Derby, while son, the Five Flags Pro Late Model Champion, has his black #51 ready for the 100-lap Snowflake event. Both drivers are enjoying their experience, working together to get one another to the front of their respective races.
However, as Long came to take the checkers, his #11 got a little loose. As Long tried to correct the car, he slammed into the outside wall, destroying his #11 and forcing him to make a big decision for Sunday’s race.
“I felt like we left a lot on the table after the first lap,” said Long. “It didn't feel like we ran a 17.33. The best we had run was a 17.80 in practice.
“So the second lap, I wanted to get everything that way when I came in, I could say I gave it everything I had. The car jumped sideways and I corrected it and hit the gas and it hit the wall. We are in the race, we just have to get
Donald Long destroyed his car in qualifying.
“Working with him, having fun, and trying to win races is what it’s all about,” said Scott. “Helping him this year and seeing him win the championship here is pretty special. It’s great being able to help him and him being able to help me too.”
FIVE FLAGS IS TIRE CENTRAL
With 88 Late Models and even more support series entries in the Five Flags pit area taking almost 700 feature laps around the Five Flags half-mile, rubber is guaranteed to be used up. The Five Flags track is notorious for simply chewing up tires, making tire management one of the most important factors for success in the 300 lap Snowball Derby Super Late Model event.
Brandon (left) and Scott Carlson
“It’s pretty cool working with my dad at the track,” said Brandon. “I got to race with him here one time before. He won the race and I think I finished fourth.
“It’s great to be able to talk with him and work on some ideas to get our cars going faster. I’ve learned a lot with him. He’s been racing for about 30 years, so he definitely knows something about these cars. He’s been a big help to me.”
The weekend is all about fun for the elder Carlson, as well. While winning is the gameplan, helping out Brandon is a top priority for Scott this weekend.
ONE RACE IS ENOUGH FOR HANTZ
When two identical #72 cars, one for the Snowball Derby and one for the Snowflake 100, were unloaded from Scott Hantz’s hauler it was safe to assume that Hantz would be the pilot for both cars.
Hoosier Tire South has come prepared. Thousands of new shoes have been piled high in the infield for this weekend’s events. Everyone needs tires and there’s only so much time, but luckily the Hoosier representatives have kept up with the demand.
”We’re going to mount and dismount about 3,000 tires here, just this weekend,” said Glen Chaney of Hoosier Tire South. “This is probably the biggest race we get to do during the year and we have so much to do all weekend with these tires. Luckily everybody’s been pretty good to work with. Everyone’s been patient and they’ve cooperated pretty good with us.”
It's all about tires at Five Flags Speedway.
“My car owner got to talking to Brian Nester and he really wanted to get into the car so he’s in it this weekend. That way we’re not shorthanded and we can really focus on getting this Snowball car ready and going good for the race.”
SPEEDSTERS KITTLESON, PATE HEADED TOWARD LAST CHANCE
All day long, the top of the speed charts were filled with the names Jeremy Pate, Travis Kittleson, JR Norris and others.
At the end of the day, those names were all 31st or worse in qualifying, meaning they will have to drive in the Last Chance race on Saturday in order to make the field.
“I guess it was just the luck of the draw,” said Kittleson. “(Kevin) Cywinski, (Jeremy) Pate and I were up on the top of the charts most of the day. Pate had the same problem with the track that I did. You just couldn't get in the gas coming off. I couldn't touch the gas and we lost a lot of time from what we were in practice.
“We've got a long way to go (in the last chance race). We are starting 16th and have just 25 laps to get to the top-five. I'm staring to go through some scenarios in my head about the race. They are going to be tearing some stuff up. There won't be any give and take.
The two #72s will race in different races with different drivers.
Instead, Brian Nester is behind the wheel of the Snowflake entry while Hantz will continue to wheel the #72 Super Late Model in the 300-lap Derby. Hantz has given up the seat in the Snowflake race in order to focus on improving on his 32nd place finish last year.
“I just really wanted to put all my efforts and my focus on the Snowball this year,” said Hantz. “I’m really not disappointed about not running the Snowflake this year. The Snowball Derby is the big race and it’s the one that I most want to win.
“I'm just trying to figure out how I'm not going to wreck tomorrow or who that I am going to wreck to get in,” joked Kittleson. “Or who isn't going to be my friend at the end of the race.”
Pate was also optimistic about his chances to get into the Derby on Sunday.
“We ran a 17.28 today,” said Pate. “We were second fastest. We drew a two (for qualifying order) and we weren't sure if it was going to help us or hurt us. It hurt us.
“Look, Eddie Mercer went late and he backed his time up from today. After about 15 cars, it seemed like the track picked up a couple of 10ths and there it was. Not to be crude, but there have only been about two cars that could even come close to us. We are just going to have to do it tomorrow. It sucks.”
Other big name drivers that failed to make the top-30 and that will have to run the last chance race include: Ken McFarland, Junior Niedecken, Ryan Mathews, Matt Hawkins, Jack Landis, Chris Davidson and Scott Hantz.
“If you put on a piece of paper the field from the last chance race and the field from the Derby and didn't mention which was which, more people would pick the last chance race as the starting field for the Derby,” said Pate. “There are big, heavy hitters in there and we have only 25 laps to pass a lot of real good cars. I have never been in a last chance race. I think I am going to have to hook up with a buddy where I don't have to look in my mirror and he doesn't. It's going to be big.”
MARK DAY GOING TO CUP???
Walking through the pit area at Five Flags Speedway, you’ll see all kinds of special paint schemes with the most vivid colors and edgy graphics. No matter what a paint scheme looks like, a race fan’s eye will still give a look to the cars that remind them of their favorite NASCAR stars.
Travis Kittleson will have to go through the last chance race.
out,” said Day. “Maybe if they didn’t particularly know the local guys running at the track, maybe the fans would like to see look-a-like Cup cars out there. I’m not sure it works, but we kind of like it anyways.”
GOODSON DUE FOR SNOWBALL TITLE
There was a time in his career that Hal Goodson would race anywhere and everywhere he could get his hands on a steering wheel. Goodson’s career is beginning to slow down now, but his ambition for winning his biggest race of the season hasn’t.
Mark Day and his interesting slogan.
That’s exactly what makes Mark Day’s #81 Super Late Model one of the fan favorites this weekend. His car is painted nearly identically to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s NEXTEL Cup Series machine. Even Day’s sponsor created a slogan to better match the Cup style scheme of the car.
“The people who own this car own a business, Scogin Enterprise Race Parts,” said Day. “In order to look more like the Cup car, they came up with the Buyweiser name and created a new matching slogan, ‘don’t buy dumber, buyweiser.’”
When the opportunity to paint his Late Model like a NEXTEL Cup car came about, it was a no-brainer to stick with Junior’s colors to hopefully capitalize on the visibility of one of NASCAR’s biggest stars.
“At the beginning of the year, the track officials at my home track of Nashville wanted the guys to paint their cars like NASCAR Cup guys to hopefully arouse some excitement for the fans to come
Goodson limits his on-track time to just the Snowball Derby these days, if not for just a few select races here and there. The Snowball is the one race that he wants to win before he hangs up the driving shoes and he believes this year, his 13th try, may be the one.
“I definitely want to win it this year,” said Goodson. “I ain’t getting any younger and the more times I try, the more I want to win. I haven’t been in a race car since this race last year, but if I can only run one race a year there’s no race I’d rather it be.
Despite not having been behind the wheel of a race car since last year’s Snowball Derby, Goodson is as
confident as ever that he can bring home a Snowball championship to complete a stellar short track career.
“This Snowball thing is just like riding a bicycle, it’s just going to take a lap or two to get the feel of it again but it’s just the same coming here as it ever was. We’ve got a good car, so hopefully this time we can get it done.”
NO BONES ABOUT IT... THE DERBY IS THE PLACE TO BE
Long-time motorsports journalist and author Bones Bourcier was walking around the Snowball pits on Friday. It was Bones' first visit to a Snowball Derby, a race he has always wanted to add to his list of races to hit.
"I just remember reading about this race and guys like Dick Trickle, Rusty and Mark Martin, Gary Ballough, and going all the way back to the Allisons and Freddie Fryar," said Bourcier "There are probably 10 or 15 Short Track races that you have to go to including the Knoxville Nationals, Bellville Nationals for Midgets and the Spring Sizzler for Modifieds. The Snowball Derby is one of those races and one I have always wanted to go to.
"I love any race where there are guys everywhere. Here you have guys from Wisconsin parked next to guys from Georgia who are next to guys from Florida. That is what I like about these races in the fall with that open-comp
feel. There are guys from everywhere so you never know. It's like throwning dice in a cup and shaking them up and rolling them out."
Bourcier has penned columns in racing trade publications for years and most recently has authored popular Short Track racing books such as "Bugsy" and "Richie".
Five Flags Speedway Tech Director Ricky Brooks commented on the situation as well.