SNOWBALL DERBY: WHO'S IN & WHO'S OUT   by Jeremy Troiano, Mike Twist, Matthew Dillner & Steven Neely
Robbins, Foster, Curry In....  Menard, McFarland, Crawford Out
FOSTER TOPS STOUT LAST CHANCE RACE #1

Young Ryan Foster learned a lot this year running with the ARCA RE/MAX Series against veterans like Frank Kimmel, Bobby Gerhart and others.
That made things a lot easier when lining up in the first of the two Snowball Derby “Last Chance races” on Saturday night against some of the best short track racers in the country, including guys like David Rogers, Ken McFarland, Scott Hantz, Gary St. Amant, Casey Smith, Joey Clanton and Jeff Scofield.

“I was worried before the race, because there were so many good guys in the race.   I was like ‘I don’t know.’  By the end though, the car just felt awesome.”

Foster led all 20 laps of the first last chance race to lock himself into the starting lineup of the 39th Snowball Derby. 
Ryan Foster (51 photos)
“It’s awesome to be up front (in the last chance race), because I know how those guys behind are going to be racing for those spots.  So it’s nice to be up there because you are out of that.  You are safe.

“I feel pretty good about tomorrow.  I think things will be alright.”

ROBBINS GOES WIRE-TO-WIRE IN SECOND LAST CHANCE

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, young Hunter Robbins was living a dream by winning the Snowflake 100, putting himself on the Late Model map.  This year, Robbins found himself having to run a last chance race just to make the field for the 39th Annual Snowball Derby.
Robbins made the most of it though, leading all 20-laps of his last chance race to lock himself in the Derby field.

“We were supposed to start third and Butch (Miller) pulled out, so we had to start second,” said Robbins.  “I would rather start third than second before we’d be up on the outside.  But my spotter was just telling me I needed to get a good jump.

“Grant (Enfinger) got up beside me one time and I felt like they were just trying to give me the race.  The cautions came out then and I got the lead back.  We had good
draws and everything.  Seems like luck has been on my side.  Maybe that luck will continue tomorrow.”

CURRY LAST DRIVER IN

Someone has to be “that guy.”  This year, it was CRA Super Series driver Tim Curry.
Curry was the final driver to make it into the 39th Annual Snowball Derby after finishing third in the second last chance race.

“The biggest thing was how nerve-racking (the race) was,” said Curry, who won a CRA race earlier this year at Berlin Raceway.  “I’ve been here once in my life in 2000 and knowing that we posted the fastest lap of the week yesterday in practice and then knowing I was second-quick today made it even more nerve racking.   We just screwed up in qualifying and I found a bad shock. 

“I went out there today and showed them we are better than that.   We’ve got a good car.  I don’t care where I start.  We’ve got a good group of guys.  We’ll be alright.”

SMITH DISAPPOINTED WITH NEW CAR

Texas driver Casey Smith learned one thing about the Snowball Derby weekend – don’t bring a new car to the Snowball Derby.
Tim Curry
“You can’t come to a race like this with a new car.  We kind of figured that out,” said Smith, who finished third in the Derby just a couple of years ago.  “When you have someone like Joe (Shear Jr), you think you can overcome it.  But I guess we all just have bad weekends.  All weekend, we were working with a new setup that has some potent ional, but we are still tweaking on it. 

“We went back to a setup I was using this summer today and, just like during the summer, it was good, but it needed a few laps to get going.   I’ve gotta figure out how to get the car better on the short runs here for when I am in positions like this.”

Now, Smith is just left wondering what could have been as he sits in the stands to watch the 39th Annual Snowball Derby instead of racing in it.

“I believe that if we were in the race (on Sunday), we’d run in the top-10 for sure.  I just feel bad for my parents and everyone who spends money on this stuff.”

CRAWFORD COMES UP ONE SPOT SHORT
Hunter Robbins won the second last chance race.
One position was all that it would have taken for Adam Crawford’s attempt at making the field for the Snowball Derby to have a completely different ending.

Crawford finished a strong fourth against some tough competition in his last chance race.  The problem was that only the top three advanced into the feature for the Derby.

“It was a tough race,” said Crawford of the Last Chance event.  “There was a good group of guys that I just raced against.  Starting in the back and making my way up there was definitely a learning experience.  Those 20 laps felt like 300.  I wish that we could have had 10 or 15 more laps because we just came up a little bit short.”
Adam Crawford

Loading up early was a tough pill for Crawford, whose father Rick won the Derby in 1989, to swallow.

“I came here to make the race,” said Crawford.  “I didn’t come here expecting to win, but I did come here expecting to make the race.”

SUSPENSION WOES KNOCK OUT KITTLESON

“Last year was pretty disappointing.  This year is unacceptable.”
Those were the words of Travis Kittleson moments after he failed to qualify for the Snowball Derby for the second year in a row.

Kittleson failed to advance into this year’s Snowball Derby through the last chance race.  Just being in the last chance was surprise enough since Kittleson’s Fans1st.com/Bob Steele Chevrolet has been a rocket all season long.  He started out 2006 winning the Florida Speedweeks Super Late Model championship at New Smyrna Speedway.  Then, he ran up front in several PASS South events.  He even placed in the top 15 for his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut.

“Everywhere that we’ve been this year, we’ve been contending for wins.  We led every PASS [South] race that we’ve been to.  At Speedweeks, we went pretty good.  We should have been fast here too.  This isn’t a home track, but it is a Florida track.  We had always run well here before.  We would roll in here and people would look at us as a car that would be fast.  I’ve qualified on the
front row here before and now I’ve missed two in a row.  It’s just crazy.”

A suspension failure might have been the culprit for Kittleson’s woes.

“I think that there was a ball joint or something binding up,” said Kittleson.  “There wasn’t anything that I could do in 20 laps.”

SCOFIELD PACKS UP REALLY EARLY

After the last chance races on Saturday night, there were only 39 Snowball Derby teams that were happy since they made the race.  However, Jeff Scofield’s #07 team was not among them.  In fact, he decided to pack up even before his respective last chance race.
“We just didn’t have anything for them, we tried and tried for two days and just couldn’t get forward bite,” said a dejected Scofield.  “We did the best we could do, so I mean there wasn’t a chance.  What was it, a .22 or .26 that was the cutoff point?  So I mean, to go out there and run with the guys and make it in there and start in the rear, it’s just, I missed it.  We’ll be back with a different motor package.  The car turned well but it just spun the wheels down the straightaway.”

Scofield was reflective while sitting in his motorcoach as the team finished cleaning up the pit area. 
Jeff Scofield
“We ended the season great at home and I came up here to run with them but we’ll be back,” said Scofield.  “Why end the season with a torn up racecar?  Sometimes you just have to know when to quit.  We came to the biggest race of the year and didn’t make it, and we’re not the only ones.  Steven Wallace wouldn’t  even be there but for a provisional, and Charlie Menard, Gary St. Amant, it happens to the best of us.”

CHARLIE MENARD MISSES THE SHOW

Another of the disappointed drivers Saturday night was Wisconsin native Charlie Menard.  He made the long haul down to Pensacola’s Five Flags Speedway with high hopes that were quickly dashed during Friday’s qualifying session.
“We got a brand new crew chief and a brand new car,” said Menard.  “In retrospect, I don’t know if we should have come down but being in all new stuff, we were going to use this as a test weekend.  It didn’t go as we hoped it would’ve, but man there’s the best late model racers in the country here.  It’s just fun being down here with them all.”

The close speeds during qualifying meant that Menard’s team was among those who were going to have to step up their efforts in order to finish in the top three of their last chance race.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to, finishing last with an ill-handling car.
Charlie Menard
“I’ve been down here the last couple of years and it hasn’t been quite that tough to make the show,” said Menard.  “We obviously didn’t deserve to get in the race this weekend, but what an awesome field.  It’s that close in qualifying.  It was just bad tight and I pulled some spring rubbers out trying to free the car up, and it didn’t.  It’s just that tight.  To win this race is every late model racer’s dream, so we’ll be back.”

THIRD “SPOT” NOT A CHARM FOR DAVIS AND HELTON

The third position, being the transfer spot to make it into the Snowball Derby, was the spot where all the action was. In the second non-qualifiers race, a third-spot battle proved costly for Steven Davis and Gary Helton. The two drivers made contact coming off of turn-four ending their chances to make the big show.  Davis was heated after the race but had to quickly hop into his Snowflake ride, where he told Speed51.com about the incident.

“He just got into me a little bit,” said Davis.  “I thought it was a little rougher than it should have been. Maybe he didn’t mean to? He said the guy behind him was pushing him and he couldn’t get off of me. All I know is he got in the back of me and never got off of me. I had the car saved. It was a bad night for us and bad weekend for the Super (Late Model) car.”
Helton wasn’t happy about having to load his car and be a spectator on Sunday, but said that the contact with Davis was just a racing deal.

“He got a little sideways there in front of me and I got into him,” said Helton.  “I let off the gas and then someone hit me in the back and booted me into it and took him around. It nearly got me too. I hate it for him too because we both had good cars.  They told us in the drivers meeting that if you got in the back of anyone or spin that you are going to be put to the back. They have a job to do too. I just hate it for all of us because that is not how you want to end the deal.
Steven Davis (#1) goes for a spin during his qualifying race.
“We’ve sat on the pole twice and been in the last chance race and got in,” added Helton with a smile. “This year we were in it again and didn’t make it in. It’s just racing. Sometimes you are on your game and sometimes you are not. We will be back.

Davis, still emotional and sitting in his Snowflake car, had a harder time breaking a smile about not making the race.

“It’s very hard. It’s hard missing the Snowball Derby.”

HOLE FILLS THE FINAL SPOT THAT McFARLAND WANTED

David Hole and Alabama shoe Ken McFarland were drawn together, and not in a good way, during the first non-qualifiers race. The two drivers made contact early and then on a green-white-checker restart they ended up together again with Hole taking the final transfer spot.

“It was hairy for me because it was a green-white-checker [finish] and I was sitting on the bubble,” said a visibly relieved Hole just minutes after the race.  “I knew the guy behind me wanted it. I got a good restart. On the last corner David [Rogers] got down low and threw up a bunch of dust. I slowed down and protected the bottom like I was supposed to. Ken was on the bottom.  We have raced together for a long time and have never had a problem with him. I think he thought I brake-checked him or something. After the race he came and hit me in the door. That’s racin’ and I am glad that we are in the show.
“I was just trying too hard. I gave it all I had,” said McFarland.  “I was doing everything I could. The first lap got us when David put us in the wall. He was on the outside and just drove me down into the inside wall.  I’m sure it bent some stuff on the front end. On the last lap, I was just mashing the gas too hard and there were cars everywhere. I had nothing to lose.”

MacFarland wasn’t very much of a David Hole fan after the race was over.

“We’ve always tried to race each other civil. I don’t appreciate that kind of stuff.  Whether it is right or wrong or whose side you are on I don’t appreciate it. It took me
David Hole (#0) and Ken McFarland (#14)
out of contention for getting in the Snowball.”

A Saturday practice crash had Hole’s weekend outlook seeming bleak.  After making the show, Hole let out a gasp of air and could smile about overcoming those obstacles.

“I was holding my breath,” added Hole. “I am in! I’ve had a miserable week and weekend. Maybe my luck has turned around now that we have made the race. We’ve worked so hard on this car from Tuesday morning leaving the house at 2:45AM. We practiced all day and then was real fast on Thursday. We had the big wreck on Saturday. It’s been a roller coaster ride for sure. We’ve been happy, sad, happy, sad and then happy again.”



LAST CHANCE RACE RESULTS

SNOWBALL QUALIFYING RACE #1
1. Ryan Foster
2. David Rogers
3. David Hole
4. Casey Smith
5. Ken McFarland
6. Scott Hantz
7. Chris Davidson
8. Dusty Tutten
9. Roger Reuse
10. Joey Clanton
11. Keith Cahela
Matt Merrell  (DNS)
Gary St. Amant  (DNS)
Jeff Scofield  (DNS)
Bubba Pollard  (DNS)
Bill Little  (DNS)

SNOWBALL QUALIFYING RACE #2
1. Hunter Robbins
2. Grant Enfinger
3. Tim Curry
4. Adam Crawford
5. Dale Little
6. Steven Davis
7. Gary Helton
8. John Webb
9. Eddie Craig
10. Charlie Menard
11. Travis Kittleson
12. Ron McDonald
13. Heath Hindman
Butch Miller  (DNS)
Allen Karnes  (DNS)
T Wade Welch  (DNS)
Jeremy Pate  (DNS)