Ryan Crane Wins the Battle, Josh Hamner Wins the War at Five Flags Speedway 51Sports / Series PR
Crane Makes Five Different Winners in Five Starts, as Hamner Holds on for the Championship
It was a night that showcased four drivers who seem to be more than ready for the upcoming Snowball Derby. It came down to who had the best run after the two-tire pit stop with less than 30 laps to go. It looked as if Eddie Mercer was on his way to victory after shattering the track record in qualifying. Ryan Crane had different ideas, as he made the pass for the win on Mercer with only nine laps to go. Crane then held off a hard-charging Mitch Cobb to score the win in the Blizzard Series Carpenter’s Campers 100, at the same time Josh Hamner locked up the Blizzard Series’ Title.
"This really counts," said Crane. "We have won races all across the country this season, but I really wanted to win here in my home state and at Five Flags Speedway. This is a great outlook going into the Derby."
Crane has made leaps and bounds in the last few weeks after teaming up with short track veteran Mike Garvey. Serving as a driver coach, Garvey has helped Crane fine-tune his skills in the racecar. Crane won last year’s Snowflake 100 the night before the Snowball Derby. Crane, with the help of Garvey, has to be a favorite heading into this year’s running of the historic Super Late Model event.
Ryan Crane took home his first Blizzard win of the season. He won the Snowflake 100 last year the night before the Snowball Derby. (51 Photos)
"Mike Garvey has been great for us," added Crane. "He was a heck of a driver, and now he’s a heck of a coach. It has been a blast working with him. Hopefully we can win the Derby together; it’s the only thing I have not won here at Five Flags Speedway."
Crane rode in the tire tracks of Mercer, who now holds the track record with a 16.804. Other drivers have gone faster at Five Flags Speedway with the aid of tire softener. Mercer took the lead from Mitch Cobb on lap 78 and held it until Crane made the pass in the closing laps.
"It was a hot rod tonight," said Mercer. "I am not sure what happened on that last pit stop. We got out really good, but the car was never the same like the early part. Ryan Crane had a real good car tonight; he was pushing me all night long. You know we have been off this year and after all the testing and this solid third-place finish, I think we are ready for the Derby."
Cobb, who lost the lead on lap 78, slipped to third but rebounded to grab the runner-up spot.
"We were right there. I didn’t think we had anything for the 10 car (Crane) at the end," said Cobb. "We had some issues with lapped cars, but overall it was a very good race for us here in Pensacola."
Mercer and Crane were both very strong, but in the early laps of the race Korey Ruble was the class of the field. It would have been a heartwarming win for Ruble, who had a propane explosion at his shop a few months back in Dothan, Alabama. The team lost everything but the car and hauler, the struggle has made them a big underdog. His performance was stellar before the car faded in the second half of the race.
(top) Eddie Mercer broke the track record in qualifying and was fast all night long. (bottom) Josh Hamner finished fifth and locked up the Blizzard Series Championship.
"The car just went away when we put the two right-side tires on," said Ruble. "The left-rear was down to the cord, but we are not really sure what happened. We will have to look things over when we get back to the shop. It’s disappointing after leading so many laps. The car was great in the first forty laps."
Scott Carlson finished fourth behind Crane, Cobb and Mercer. He, along with fifth-place finisher Josh Hamner, was battling for the series’ title. Hamner ended up the champion, as both drivers will get guaranteed starting spots in the 41st annual Snowball Derby on December 7th.
"I am super happy we won the championship," said Hamner. "I am disappointed with the way we raced tonight. Last night in practice we were a rocket ship; tonight we were just blahh. We’ll have work on it, but we’ll have it ready for the Derby."
The 41st Annual Snowball Derby event will kick off on Wednesday, December 3rd, with the 5th Annual WEAR TV-3/ Cat Country Green Flag Party. On Thursday, practice opens on the track as well as racing action featuring the Bomber and Sportsman Divisions. Friday the action heats up as the Super Late Models take to the track for the dramatic qualifying session as well as features for the Open Wheel Modifieds and the Super Stocks. The action continues on Saturday with time trials for the Allen Turner Snowflake 100 as well as their feature, along with a new 50-lap Snowball Derby qualifier event. The Snowball Derby then takes center stage on Sunday, December 7th, with the green flag dropping at 2:00pm.
For more information on the Blizzard Series and the 41st Annual Snowball Derby event, contact Matt Kentfield at (704) 788-2134 x 5 and visit www.fiveflagsspeedway.com and www.snowballderby.com