SNOWBALL DERBY: FRIDAY NOTES   by Jeremy Troiano, Mike Twist, Matthew Dillner & Steven Neely
Qualifying Leftovers, Former ASA Champ, Crew Chief Drivers & More
BIG NAMES TO SLOW TO LOCK IN
With 67 cars trying to lock into the top-30 positions for Sunday’s Snowball Derby, there was bound to be some big names that failed to make the show and that will have to try and race their way into things in Saturday’s qualifying races.

Some of the biggest names that failed to make the show included former Snowball Derby winners Gary St. Amant, Butch Miller and Steve Wallace.  Other big named drivers that failed to make the show included Ken McFarland, last year’s Snowflake 100 winner Hunter Robbins, former ASA Champion Joey Clanton, Travis Kittleson, Joey Senter, CRA Super Series Champion Scott Hantz, Gary Helton, Casey Smith, Charlie Menard and FASCAR Super Series Champion Jeff Scofield.

Joey Senter and Scott Carlson will use provisionals earned in the Blizzard Series during the 2006 season to make their way into the starting field.   Wallace will use a past champion’s provisional to make starting field for the second-straight year.

FAST, FAST FIELD

The field for the 2006 39th Annual Snowball Derby was fast.   How fast was it?
Charlie Menard was one of the biggest names not to lock into the top-30 following Snowball qualifying.  (51 photos)
The top-30 drivers that were locked into the field were separate by just 0.342 seconds.  That compares to last year’s nearly half-second separation.

Even more impressive was how much faster this year’s field was than last year’s.  Last year’s (2005) fifth fastest qualifier was Mike Fritts, who ran a lap of 17.265 seconds.  This year, that time wouldn’t have locked Fritts into the field.

RICE IN, ROGERS OUT AFTER TIME TRIALS

Possibly more important than qualifying on the front row was qualifying on the 15th row.  There were 67 cars that took part in time trials and only the top 30 were locked into the field.  After the dust settled in time trials, Jeremy Rice had notched the all-important 30th position – and he couldn’t have been more thrilled about that fact.
“You just don’t know how happy I am,” said Rice.  “I knew that I was either going to be 30th or on the front row [of the last chance race].  I was just sitting there in suspense for about 30 minutes.  There was nothing much to do except worry because I know that last chance race is going to be tough.” 

On the other side of the coin was mid-Florida veteran David Rogers, who qualified 31st and will have to use the last chance race to earn a starting position for this year’s Snowball Derby.

“It’s just my luck at Pensacola…I never had any here and to miss it by one spot is tough,” said Rogers.  “If they take 20 cars, I’m usually 21st.   They say to look on the
bright side – that I’m on the pole for the last chance race, but that’s just like having a bullseye painted on your car.  That’s not a consolation to me.  It’s not going to be a good place to be, but that is where I am.”

Ironically, Rogers lap would have easily put him into last year’s starting field.  But the competitors have raised the bar since 2005.

“Eddie [Mercer] has a qualifying sheet from last year’s Derby and back then a [17.] 26 would have been fifth,” said Rogers.  “Everyone got better.  I got a little bit better, but not better enough.”

WALLACE USES CHAMPIONS PROVISIONAL TO MAKE THE SHOW
Steven Wallace looked “bad fast” all day in the slick black Richie Wauters-owned machine. But when the sun went down and 66 other cars took time, Wallace’s #66 couldn’t find speed. Wallace clocked in 38th quickest but was locked into the field by using a Champions provisional from his 2004 Snowball Derby win.

“It’s been like that for two years where we would be real fast during practice and not show it in time trials,” said a surprisingly optimistic Wallace.  “I am really glad I ran so good in ’04 and won that race. Now we have been locked in for two years. We went out there and ran a (17).35 and it felt like we ran a zero. We made the race and I guess that is all that matters. My teammate JR Norris is starting in the back with us. I started dang dead last last year and finished second so I am not worried a bit.”
For the second-straight year, Steve Wallace will use a champion's provisional.
A FOYT AT THE DERBY

Legendary racecar driver AJ Foyt Jr. has raced just about everything you can ever think of.   He’s raced IndyCars and is an Indianapolis 500 winner.  He’s raced NASCAR Nextel Cup cars and is a Daytona 500 winner.  He’s a USAC Sprint Car Champion.
Jeremy Rice was the last car to make it into the top-30 after qualifying.
One thing he never did though was compete in the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway.  Now, his grandson will be the first in the family to try it.

AJ Foyt IV is running the Snowflake 100 during the Snowball Derby weekend.

“It goes back to a guy I grew up with in Texas,” said Foyt.  “His son (Carl Smith) is injured and I’m filling in for them.  This is their first time here and this is my first time here.  I’m really looking forward to the race when that comes around.

“This is my first time in one of these cars.  This is a real fun track to race on.  It’s a very tough place.  I think we are
AJ Foyt IV is doing something that not even his famous grandfather did.
going to have a good time.  The car has been pretty good.  With a little bit more tweaking, I think the car can be pretty good.”

Foyt was the sixth-quickest of the Snowflake cars in the morning practice session.

MISSING DRIVERS

While the Snowball Derby annually draws some of the biggest and best drivers from the country for the $20,000 top-prize; sometimes, it also leaves fans and fellow competitors scratching their head with those who aren’t in attendance. 
Two of the biggest names not in attendance at Five Flags Speedway are those of the two All American 400 winners, Boris Jurkovic and Eddie Hoffman.   Jurkovic raced at the Mason-Dixon Meltdown last weekend and was involved in an early accident.   Hoffman’s trailer was involved in an accident on the way home from the 400, destroying  both of his trailers.

Another team that is not here at the Snowball Derby is the Whorff Motorsports operation out of Maine.  2006 Oxford 250 winner Jeremie Whorff had planned to run the Derby after last week’s Mason-Dixon Meltdown at South Boston.  But bad luck took its toll.  When Jeremie and his father Bill, Jr. tore up three racecars between them at SoBo, they did not continue with the trip to Florida.
While veterans like Gary St. Amant are racing this weekend, guys like Wayne Anderson (left) are not.
Also absent at the Snowball Derby are Midwestern youngster Landon Cassill.  Mike Fritts is also not in attendance after running and winning many races in the Florida area this year.  Justin Drawdy is not racing this year, although he is walking around the pit area.  Freddie Query is crew chiefing for Brian Scott.  Wayne Anderson is crewing for Ryan Sieg.   Chuck Barnes Jr. hurt his engine at the All American 400 and wasn’t able to get it fixed.  Ricky Turner and Hal Goodson are both no-shows.

BUSY WEEK BRINGS ANOTHER CRAWFORD TO THE DERBY

Adam Crawford is at the Snowball Derby with his #14 car, but it was anything but easy to get here.

Last week, Crawford suffered heavy damage to the car during the heat races of the Mason-Dixon Meltdown at South Boston.  With only one car in his shop, Crawford enlisted the help of his father Rick’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team to get the car in ship-shape condition on short notice.
“We worked day-in and day-out trying to get this car put back together,” said Crawford.  “We put new front fenders on it, a left side door and the right front suspension.  I’ve got to thank everyone at the Circle Bar race shop.  Ray Stokus, Bob Moore, my Mom and Dad…everybody.  They’ve supported me a long time and they worked hard this week to get everything back together for me to come to the Snowball Derby.  It’s always been a dream of mine to race the Derby and to come down here has made my year.”

Adam’s father Rick is a veteran of several Snowball Derbies himself and has been a big help to his son in many ways at the track.  Rick won the race in 1989.
Adam Crawford's #14
“He’s given me a lot of pointers and he’s been turning the wrenches making the car even better.  It’s working – the car just keeps getting better as we go.”

Crawford’s goal for the weekend is mainly just to qualify for the race.  There will be about as many cars that go home early as are in the starting field and qualifying is no easy task.

“It’s definitely a nerve-racking weekend,” said Crawford.  “All that you want to do is just make the show.  Just to be here for the week and to be part of the Snowball Derby is worth it.”

FORMER ASA CHAMP KNOCKS THE RUST OFF

Same colors, same suit, same Joey.  2003 ASA National Champion Joey Clanton is back and turning heads in practice and qualifying. Onlookers marveled at seeing the right-side of the Zaxby’s #09 so much.  Clanton has had his hands full all weekend and unfortunately, it showed in qualifying with a 57th place speed.

“I don’t think it was the right decision to come run the Derby again,” admitted Clanton.  “We entered back in August and thought we would have enough time to have the car together. There is a lot of competition down here and we are trying to do it with a sealed motor. These spec motors are the future of Super Late Model racing. This thing has so much horsepower for this racetrack so we fought all day to get the thing hooked up.”
Clanton, who is trying to shake the rust off before he returns to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series next year, said it felt good to get back behind the wheel.

“You are a little nervous. You anticipate what it is going to be like when you get back in it. I’ve been behind the wheel of a few cars this year and the last race I competed in was a dirt car. To get back in a car it took a few laps and it clicks back to you. I haven’t been in a Late Model car though in about six years. It might take until 100 laps into the race to where I am running consistent.”

For race fans that may have seen Clanton’s epic down-to-the-wire battle with Gary St. Amant for the ASA
Joey Clanton
Championship in 2005 at Winchester Speedway, today’s practice brought back some memories.

“I saw him (Gary) go out in front of me,” said Clanton of getting back on track with Gary.  “When he come around I was just trying to get some laps in. So when Gary got by me I figured I would just get behind him and follow him. Gary’s won this thing a couple of times and comes here every year.

“I got behind him and wanted to rub him a little bit to bring back the old times.”

“I saw Joey back there and thought to myself I better let him go because I remember Winchester (battle for the ASA title),” laughed St. Amant. “He was drivin’ the wheels off it. It was the same ol’ Joey and obviously he hasn’t lost his touch.”

CALL ME CREW CHIEF, NOT DRIVER

There are plenty of racecar drivers that want to race in the Snowball Derby.  Unfortunately, sometimes there are no funds, no racecars or something else keeping them from taking the checkers.
This weekend, there are two drivers that are not racing, but instead, serving as crew chiefs.  Former Super Late Model veteran and ARCA RE/MAX Series driver Ryan Mathews is crew chiefing for Snowflake 100 driver Brent Downey, while “Mr. Florida” Wayne Anderson is serving as crew chief for Snowflake competitor Ryan Sieg.

“It’s been a lot of fun and different for sure,” said Mathews.  “These crate motor cars are a lot different for me.  It’s weird to watch the car out there on the track and not be behind the wheel.  Sometimes, you know what the car is doing, but when you are not behind the seat, sometimes, it’s hard to know for sure what the car is doing.  It’s been pretty cool so far.”
Ryan Mathews is not driving this weekend, but he's at the Derby.
MADER LENDS ENFINGER A HAND

Grant Enfinger had a bit of help during the practice sessions Friday from an unlikely source - another Snowball Derby competitor.

“We got Dave Mader to help us out a month ago,” said Enfinger. “We’ve been struggling with this car as of late, so we’re trying to get things back in order.  We’ve got a lot of confidence because he’s been everywhere and done everything we’ve tried to do, so he can answer any questions we have.”

Things seemed to go well for Enfinger, with the car steadily improving over the course of the day’s practices.  Unfortunately for Enfinger, his high hopes disintegrated when he only qualified 46th out of 67 cars.

Mentor Dave Mader was disappointed for Enfinger.

“I’m really sad for Grant,” said Mader.  “A 17.26 is the cutoff; a 17.51 was the cutoff last year.” 

Under last year’s speeds, Enfinger would’ve been locked in the field.  This year, however, Enfinger will have to race his way into the Snowball Derby by finishing in the top three in his respective last chance race.

HOLE HAS PROBLEMS
David Hole hasn’t seemed to have the luck he’s ever really wanted.  Things just got worse on Friday afternoon, when Hole got involved in what was thus far the biggest accident of the weekend behind the wheel of his #0 Snowball Derby car.

Hole spun during the third practice session and hit the wall with the front end.  The tow truck brought the car in and immediately  began repairs.

“All I know is that I went into turn three and went to pass a guy on the outside and his car washed up and got me in the left rear and put me in the fence.  I don’t even know who it was,” said Hole.  “Thankfully, there isn’t much damage.  Its all cosmetic.
David Hole found himself working from behind all day after a practice accident.
Cushman has been in Clark’s pit all week turning wrenches on the #54.

“He needed help and I was the only one dumb enough to come,” joked Cushman.  “I promised Johnny a long time ago that I would come down to this race.”

It’s not Cushman’s first trip to Five Flags Speedway.  While Johnny Clark and Cassius Clark are representing the state this year, Larry Gelinas did the same thing a few years back driving one of Cushman’s car at the time.

“Larry and I came down with my brother-in-law Joey and my sister Tracy,” recalled Cushman.  “It was just us and we ran the Snowflake [100] and the Snowball Derby.  It
Jay Cushman and Johnny Clark look over the #54.
was a lot of work.  They were soaking tires then, so you had to soak tires as much as you worked on racecars.  We had to fly down on Monday, buy 30 tires and then soak them for three days.”

OLD SCHOOL KITTLESON LOVES BACK TO BACK RACES

Racing is a sport that can take a lot out of you. It requires a commitment of time, money and energy.  Just three days after running the Mason-Dixon Meltdown at South Boston Speedway (VA), Travis Kittleson and his team were hard at work again in Pensacola. The team and Travis may be a little worn-out, but they are all racers and are enjoying the adventure.

“I love it! It’s cool to do the South Boston/Snowball swing,” said Kittleson with a smile.  “If we had to do it four weeks in a row it would be hard to do and hard to keep the guys away from their family that long let alone pay them and feed ‘em.

“It reminds me of how when growing up I used to run Orlando SpeedWorld on Friday night and New Smyrna on Saturday night and sometimes go over to St. Augustine on the following day. It’s just a blast staying up late busting your butt working hard for something and earning it. It’s fun staying up with the guys and overcoming adversity together. It’s an accomplishment.”

However, Kittleson’s qualifying effort, 42nd in time trials, was not enough to make the Snowball field. So the 27-year old and his team have more work to do as they attempt to make the 39th Annual Snowball Derby through the non-qualifers race on Saturday.



“I haven’t finished a race in my last nine races.  I’ve wrecked in every one.  I guess maybe I got all of my bad luck out of the way before the race and I can finish one now.  Thankfully, its just cosmetic damage and a bunch of bent bars.  We can get them fixed.”

CUSHMAN LENDS A HAND TO A RIVAL

For most of the PASS North season, the teams of Johnny Clark and Scott Chubbuck were battling each other for a championship.  Clark eventually won the title and now, he’s ended up down at the Snowball Derby – with the help of Chubbuck’s car owner Jay Cushman.