MERCER LEADS GRAND AMERICAN SNOWBALL SWEEP by Jeremy Troiano
Qualifying Is In The Books, The Top 20 Are Locked In
Augie Grill went out 12th in qualifying for the 38th Annual Snowball Derby on Saturday night. When he finished his two laps, Grill sat on top of the speed charts. And he did that until “Fast” Eddie Mercer came out for his qualifying run, just six cars from the end.
But when Mercer topped Grill by nearly two-tenths to grab the pole for Sunday’s Snowball Derby, Grill was still smiling.
The pole was also special for another reason.
“That gives us the record for the most poles in Snowball Derby history,” said Mercer of his fourth-career Snowball Derby pole position. “I’d be very proud of that record if we had a win to go along with it. We will just keep trying to get it. You just have to keep doing little things at a time to get it and that is what we are doing. Having a good, fast racecar is gong to help.”
The car Mercer is running is a brand new GARC car that he’s never run, even after winning the Blizzard Series (Super Late Model) championship at Five Flags Speedway earlier this year.
“It is a good car. I’ve been friends with Frankie and Augie Grill for 20 years, but I’ve never run one of their cars. Augie came down here in the summer and kicked my butt all over the place. I told Augie ‘man, I need to try one of those cars.’ Our newest car was three years old and our oldest car was about seven years old, so we were due for a new car. We sold one car, got the money together for this one and got it going.
Augie Grill and his Grand American Race Cars dominated qualifying for the Snowball Derby on Friday night. (51 Photos)
That is because Mercer and Grill, along with Johnny Brazier and Mike Fritts, helped Grand American Race Cars dominate the top-five in qualifying. GARC, which is owned by Augie and his father Frankie, had four cars in the top-five in qualifying for Sunday’s race.
“We’ve got four of the top five cars in qualifying, and I’m very proud of that,” said Grill, who won a Blizzard Series race at Five Flags Speedway earlier this year. “It is an awesome feeling. I’m as proud of having those four cars up there as I am of qualifying second. I wouldn’t be any happier if I was on the pole.”
And Mercer was happy to grab the pole as well. And he was extra thankful for having a GARC car under him.
“We came and tested this car. We probably had about 70 laps on the car before we came here for the Snowball. I only ran nine laps in practice here all weekend long. But I had those 70 on it before hand. I felt pretty confident. My whole game plan was not to adjust it too much and mess myself up.”
Even though Mercer has four-career poles, he is still missing that elusive Snowball Derby victory.
“It would be big to win this race. It is something I can hang my hat on. I am not going to be racing that much longer. I would like to be able to help my brother and I’m helping some other young kids. I am not going to do this forever, so I’d like to get me a Snowball before it is over.”
Grill’s early qualifying run made for a long qualifying session of sitting and waiting.
“Our car was pretty good, but it was slick out there,” said Grill. “I was hoping to run a little bit faster, but oh well. I can definitely deal with second and I’m very proud of it.
Eddie Mercer (right) is interviewed by Speed51.com's Jeremy Troiano after winning the pole on Friday night.
“I wasn’t too nervous waiting. I was more nervous about getting through tech. That is what is really nerve racking.”
The biggest surprise of qualifying might have been that of Brazier, another GARC entry. Brazier went out late and ended the day third on the charts.
“It kind of surprised me,” said Brazier, of his qualifying run. “We had run a good time today in practice, but it was surprising. I just needed the driver not to mess it up.
It was surprising for a guy that struggled all day long. It was also surprising considering Query’s teammate, Jeremy Pate, led practice during the day, but qualified a disappointing 41st.
“It is satisfying,” said Query, of being the only non-GARC car in the top-five. “I knew coming down here we’d have a good setup, knowing of what we’ve done with Ryan Crane. Then, I ended up on the other side of the world. Driving style says a lot. And this motor is so darn powerful. That isn’t necessarily what you need here.
“Frankie and Augie are dead into this and they’ve got a lot of cars down here. They are dead into this. They are gong to race well, but then again, I think we’ll race fine too.
“The biggest problem I’ve had all weekend long is too much motor in the car,” said Query. “There is just too much power there. We’ve done everything we can do to try and get it to where I can drive it.”
Justin Drawdy, Gary St. Amant, Donald Long, Chuck Barnes and Jay Middleton rounded out the top-top qualifiers.
Johnny Brazier (#71) qualified a surprising third.
“I have to thank Frankie and Augie Grill. This is their set up. And if you look at the top five, they have four cars up there. It was the car and the setup. The setup was really good.
“It feels great to be in a field this tough. I’ve been here before and not made the race, so it is nice to be third. It is going to make life a lot less stressful and easier going into tomorrow. I was a nervous wreck going into qualifying anyway. This is a tough field.”
The only non-GARC car in the top-five was that of Freddie Query. Query, who is driving a Hamke car for C&C Motorsports, qualified fourth.