Pensacola, Fla. - Cars from both the Super Late Model and Pro Late Model divisions took laps Thursday at Pensacola Five Flags Speedway in preparation for Sunday's Snowball Derby and Saturday's Snowflake 100.
Grant Enfinger led practice for much of the later stages of Thursday's Derby practice, eventually clocking in at 16.796. This is important because Sunday's race will be contested from roughly 1 p.m. to twilight, which is about the same period of time the no. 82 car was turning its fastest laps.
For those out of the loop, the Snowflake 100 is the Derby's main preliminary event and one of the most prestigious Pro Late Model races in the country. Much like the Super Late Models that will be run on Sunday, the Pro is also a "latest model" stock car with weaker engines and a different shocks/tires package.
Many of Sunday's competitors have also prepared a Pro Late Model for Saturday's race including Chase Elliott, Cale Gale, Augie Grill, and Mike Garvey.
Elliott is the defending winner of the Snowflake 100.
While the Snowball Derby is Elliott's ultimate goal, winning back-to-back Snowflake 100s is no easy feat. Winning it for a second straight season would be incredibly special, not only for himself but for a randomly selected fan.
If Elliott can win again on Saturday he'll capture $1,000 for a yet-to-be-named fan courtesy of Allen Turner Hyundai.
The son of 1988 Cup Series Champion Bill Elliott, Chase recently inked a developmental deal with Hendrick Motorsports and will be working alongside former Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. crew chief Lance McGrew. The 16-year has incredible pedigree, backing, and perhaps most importantly - talent.
"It's hard to say exactly where we are right now," Elliott said. "We ran 16th in our Snowball Derby car out of 81 Super and Pro Late Models and that was without turning in a qualifying lap. We have a lot more laps to make before we have a better idea of where we are at."
Not every Snowball and Snowflake entry will make this weekend's races making the lessons learned on Thursday of severe importance. Friday will bring qualifying for both divisions with 74 entries racing for just 36 starting spots for Saturday's Snowflake 100.
The Snowball Derby has 57 entries racing for 37 starting spots.
The fastest thirty qualifying Pro Late Models will be locked into the Snowflake 100 field. The remaining cars will run in one of two Qualifying Races on Saturday afternoon, with the top two finishers in each race advancing to the feature.
As for the Snowball Derby, the top 30 qualifying Super Late Models among 57 drivers entered will make Sunday's field. Each driver gets two qualifying laps around the half-mile, high banked oval. Their fastest lap of the two is their qualifying time.
Those who don't qualify will try to finish in the top four of a 50-lap, last-chance race on Saturday afternoon. There are other provisional positions, based on points by the local Blizzard Series Championship standings. Johanna Long, Augie Grill and Grant Enfinger are already locked-in to this year's Snowball Derby.
Last year, a field of 37 cars started the 2010 Snowball Derby."
Qualifying order for each race was determined by a blind draw.
The main event for Saturday is the Allen Turner Snowflake 100 followed by the 44th Annual Snowball Derby on Sunday.
There were two accidents on Thursday, including one in the final 30 minutes when Mason Mingus hit the turn four retaining wall with his Super Late Model at precisely 3:30 p.m. The session was set to conclude at 4 p.m.
Mingus and crew opted to pull out their backup car for Friday's practice and qualifying sessions and practice resumed without incident.
The Snowball Derby is a 300-lap super late model stock car automobile race held annually at the half-mile Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. The race has been contested every year since 1968 and is always run on the first weekend in December. NASCAR Ranting and Raving has provided live coverage every year since 2009. Check back to the blog in the coming days as we will provide daily up-to-the-minute news and results from the Speedway.
Ranting and Raving Content Editor Matt Weaver is on-site in Pensacola and providing additional content on Twitter @MattWeaverSBN. Check it out!