Derek Thorn ended Thursday Snowball Derby practice where he has spent much of the past two years on race weekend at Five Flags Speedway.
Still seeking his first victory in the biggest Super Late Model race of the year, the five-time SRL Southwest Tour champion and two-time NASCAR K&N West champion posted the overall fastest time in both the Super Late Model and Pro Late Model after six combined hours of practice.
Thorn posted a 16.522 in the morning session and ended the afternoon with a 16.443 when the track was at its absolute warmest. Thorn was no worse than fifth in any of the four sessions with drivers making three to six to nine lap runs per session.
"Fastest in practice on Thursday always makes you feel good, but every day is a new day but I'm proud of these guys," Thorn said. "Mike Keen has done a great job. Everyone has. We've been here for four days. We come here for four days a year so to be at this level says a lot about their work.
"You know, this deal is 90 percent car and 10 percent driver, and it's just my job to not screw anything up."
Thorn expects to focus on his pole run during Friday practice having felt pretty confident in race trim.
"We have a better long run car than a short run car," Thorn said. "But ever so often, you get a little bit of both. This car is starting to flirt with being good on both, so we’ll spend tomorrow making sure we qualify in on speed and then focus on the Pro Late Model on Saturday."
Three notable teams dealt with engine problems throughout the day:
Jeff Choquette in the Jett Motorsports with Larry Blount No. 21 lost almost the entire afternoon to a powerplant swap. Stephen Nasse and team replaced an engine after practice as well. Paul Shafer Jr. broke a rocker arm halfway through the day and wasn’t particularly fast before then either.
"Broken rockers don’t make for a fun time at the Snowball Derby," Shafer said. "We have Robbie White taking it apart and making sure there are no missing pieces. If we can find all the pieces and get it back together. Beyond that, the car is otherwise, well it was bad. But we haven’t thrown as many tires at it as some teams too."
Shafer made his third Snowball Derby appearance last year but after losing an engine in practice so they have an underdog reputation here.
"We do but we don’t want to be the guys that come here every year and lose an engine in practice," Shafer said. "That’s no fun."
Of the usual contenders, defending winner Ty Majeski said his brand-new chassis has driven pretty much like his previous ones here. Bubba Pollard showed speed on the time charts. Erik Jones says he has the pace and balance needed to contend for his third Tom Dawson Trophy on Sunday, too.
"I know what I want here so I don’t spend a lot of time looking at the stop watch," Jones said. "It’s been a long time but the two races we did this summer helped. I’m pretty happy with it. The speed was there on our mock run and you can’t ask for more than that."