Point Leaders Deadlocked Entering Round Three of Blizzard Series at Five Flags Speedway
Ryan Crane and Ken McFarland Tied In Bid for Guaranteed Starting Spots in Snowball Derby
But for two lucky drivers, there is the potential for a little less sweating during qualifying for this year’s 40th Annual Snowball Derby.  The top two in the final Blizzard Series Super Late Model standings at Five Flags receive guaranteed starting spots in this year’s 300-lap event. 

With two events in the record books already, Panama City, Florida-native Ryan Crane and Birmingham, Alabama’s Ken McFarland are currently tied atop the Blizzard Series point standings.  When the Blizzard Series returns to Five Flags on Friday, July 20th, both drivers will not only be looking for victory in the 100-lap race, but both will be hoping to put themselves in position for one of those guaranteed spots in the 40th Annual Snowball Derby.

“That spot means a lot because you never know what can happen at the Derby,” said Crane, who is tied with McFarland with 275 points each.  “There’s so much competition, so being able to run good in these Blizzard races and finish the year well,

Ken McFarland enters round three of the Blizzard Series tied atop the points.  (51 Photos)
at least it gives you a guaranteed spot.  We had to rely on it two years ago because we had a motor go bad in qualifying, so it really pays off having that spot to fall back on.

“These Blizzard races have had some of the best fields of any race during the year.  The guys that run up front are good; a few of them have even won Snowball Derby.  There’s some tough competition to say the least, so running well in these races means you’ve beaten some really good cars.”

Crane would know of all the competition, of course, because the young driver finished third in last year’s Snowball Derby and won a Blizzard Series race at Five Flags last season. 

On the flip side, Ken McFarland has two starts in the Snowball Derby, with a best finish of seventh in 2004.  The veteran SLM racer has seen Five Flags Speedway throw him a few curveballs over the years.  That’s why he’s out in these Blizzard Series races; to make sure he has a car capable of contending in the Derby so he hopefully does not need to rely on that guaranteed spot.

Every December, when Super Late Model stars from around the country converge on Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida for the Snowball Derby, each driver and team knows that just getting into the race is going to be an daunting task.  With one of the single best fields of Super Late Models anywhere at the Snowball Derby, likely half of the drivers that attempt to qualify for the race will have to watch from the grandstands because of the top-notch competition just for starting spots in the historic race.

“We’ve struggled from time to time (at Five Flags),” said McFarland.  “That track is difficult to get a hold of.  We’ve had two good, solid finishes in the Blizzard Series so far, so we’re hoping to go back there feeling pretty confident.  We should have another solid run.  Winning is a bonus, but solid finishes are what we’re looking for.  I don’t want to say I’m point’s racing, but I am looking to get good finishes for the points.

“The guaranteed starting spot is more important to me than someone who runs well consistently there.  I’ve been there several times and struggled to get into the race.  The way I really feel about it is if you’re not fast enough to get into the race in the first place, you’re just spinning your wheels anyway.  You’re not going to find the magical solution overnight.  To have a respectable finish in the Derby is what we all want.  I’m not looking for the provisional as much as I’m looking to just run good and hone our skills and our car for the Snowball Derby.”

Ryan Crane went to victory lane in a Blizzard Series race in 2006.
Both McFarland and Crane head into round three of the Blizzard Series on June 20th on the heels of strong runs in the first two Blizzard events of the year that have put them in a first-place deadlock atop the points.

“The first race, we were there and we had a good night going, but at the end of the race, Scott Carlson and Eddie Mercer got together and we came up to finish third,” said McFarland.  “It was a good, solid night, but both races there have been good, solid finishes.”

“The first race we finished third with a real good racecar,” said Crane.  “We started way back in the field and couldn’t make it to the front fast enough.  That kind of plagued us there.  Overall it was a pretty good race for us.  The last time there, we finished eighth.  We had to keep coming in and out of the pits, so it was a pretty rough night.  We had a good car that could’ve been in contention, but it didn’t work out.  Now I’m looking forward to the next time we go there.

Both drivers, along with a full field of Super Late Model standouts from around the Southeast and beyond, will converge on Five Flags Speedway on Friday July 20th for the third of five Blizzard Series events at Five Flags Speedway.  In addition to the 100-lap SLM feature, fans will be treated to action from the Super Stocks, Sportsmen and Bombers.

Adult grandstand admission is just $15, while Military personnel and Seniors are 14.00.  Kids ages 6-11 are only $5, while ages five and under are admitted free.  Grandstand gates open at 5pm with qualifying events scheduled for 6:45pm.