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Josh Berry Claims Pole for 55th Snowball Derby

The Late Model Stock ace and Xfinity contender added to the resume on Friday.


hero image for Josh Berry Claims Pole for 55th Snowball Derby

Xfinity Car
Late Model Stock
Super Late Model

It doesn’t matter right now as the race for the win will likely run through Josh Berry these days. That will certainly be the case on Sunday as the Rackley WAR No. 26 will lead the field to green after its veteran short track driver laid down a 16.333.


Even more notable is that the time stood up when challenged by Derek Thorn, seeking a fourth consecutive pole in the Snowball Derby, but falling 0.045 short.

Berry has lived a charmed existence the past two years, making a late transition to NASCAR Xfinity Series championship finalist, following a decade of dominance at the Late Model Stock level. Now, the case could be made that he has won a Super Late Model pole that is equivalent to a major wins across the discipline.

"I mean, yes and no," Berry said. "It's obviously really cool to sit on the pole here. We've exceeded our expectations a little bit. We've had a really good week. I felt good about what we've done, but I didn't think we had pole speed, but were continuously getting better.

"The pole is nice, but I'd much rather have the win, and the work is just getting started for us."

It denied a bit of history from Thorn, but he has no qualms with the effort or the lap.

"You know, all good things come to an end, right," Thorn said. "Congrats to Josh Berry and those guys, it’s a hell of a lap. A set of tires? You could blame it on a thousand things but like I told Mike (Keen, crew chief) when we win the pole, the car is dancing on the track. It’s racy.

"This car was solid, it was too solid, so gripped up that we lost some roll speed in 3 and 4 and I think that cost us the pole."

It’s considered the most dramatic qualifying session in motorsports for a reason, and the reality matched the hype, with several big names missing the show on time. That included 2012 NASCAR Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski, posting the 43rd quickest time out of 52 overall drivers, a testament to the caliber of competition at Five Flags Speedway this weekend.

"We’re learning a lot even if it didn’t go the way we wanted it to," Keselowski said. "It’s a good test and that’s the point right, to test and get better, and I’m certainly being tested. Hopefully we’ll get the Fr8 Auctions Ford into the show from the Last Chance Qualifier. I’m just blown away by this crowd on qualifying night. Pretty cool."


It’s not like Keselowski was alone in being tested as two-time race winner Augie Grill and two-time Southern Super Series champion Stephen Nasse failed to make the race on time too. Nasse, who is seeking a clean sweep of all three major races this year, will make the race alongside Grill on provisionals.

Grill gets into the race via his Five Flags Speedway track points and Nasse gets into the race by virtue of finishing third in the Southern Super Series standings. For Nasse, it continues a theme of having to rely on a provisional but contending for the win anyway, something he also hopes continues.

"I hope so," Nasse said. "This is not what we wanted but we had a couple of things go wrong with the car. Its unfortunate. I knew we had a solid provisional and it’s not ideal and I hope we don’t get caught up in a wreck. I have gotten pretty good at working my way through the field pretty good. We’ll see what happens in the race."

Then there’s Preston Peltier, the 2017 pole winner, that showed pole winning speed over the past two days and could only go 37th in time trials. It was as simple as a bad air pressure decision.

"We tried a new air pressure and for whatever reason, we’ve had speed but not in two laps and needed another lap or two more," Peltier said.

But he also said he expects to race well and even relishes the last chance race to get his car racing better in advance of Sunday should he make the main event.

The drama extends to those on the bubble who just barely made it into the show and made it in nevertheless. Sammy Smith and his No. 22 Donnie Wilson Motorsports crew were struggling big time to find mock up speed the past two days.

Smith didn’t expect to make the show but squeezed in with the 28th best time.

"Obviously, it’s still disappointing where we qualified because we don’t come here to qualify 28th," Smith said. "The guys worked hard all day to get it better and they did, and we were 28th so we’re in the show and we’ll work on it tomorrow."

Earning the final spot on speed was Jake Finch of Phoenix Racing and he earned a $500 bonus for the stress.

"We made it and that’s all that matters," Finch said. "I said I wanted all the nerves, so why go first when you can go 30th. Just joking but glad to be in the show for the Snowball Derby. There are a lot of good cars that didn’t make it. Just grateful to have the opportunity to race the show on Sunday. "

All of this to say that simply making the show is a major accomplishment and winning the pole is effectively winning a race.

But nevertheless, Berry will now have track position for the start and a chance to do something similar to what Thorn did last year in leading all but eight laps, and maybe win the biggest short track race of the year too.

"We have a good plan for what we need to do tomorrow," Berry said. "We need to get a little bit better in race trim. The guy starting next to me (Thorn) is going to be the guy to beat, I’m sure, after the past couple of years.

"But this is for sure a great starting spot for us. Clean air is an important part of it, but we just need to really have a good happy hour, make some good adjustments and see how it shakes out."


1. Josh Berry - 16.333
2. Derek Thorn - 16.378
3. Conner Jones - 16.388
4. Matt Craig - 16.396
5. Noah Gragson - 16.402
6. Carson Kvapil - 16.420
7. Giovanni Ruggiero - 16.429
8. Jacob Gomes - 16.457
9. Austin Nason - 16.458
10. Ryan Luza - 16.458
11. Jace Hansen - 16.465
12. Erik Jones - 16.470
13. William Byron - 16.472
14. Bubba Pollard - 16.473
15. Ty Majeski - 16.481
16. Cole Butcher - 16.494
17. Jake Garcia - 16.508
18. Luke Fenhaus - 16.513
19. Corey Heim - 16.529
20. Hunter Robbins - 16.535
21. Jeremy Doss - 16.536
22. Daniel Dye - 16.559
23. Dustin Smith - 16.569
24. Albert Francis - 16.580
25. Casey Roderick - 16.592
26. Blaine Rocha - 16.598
27. Tyler Tanner - 16.603
28. Sammy Smith - 16.606
29. Michael Hinde - 16.611
30. Jake Finch - 16.622
31. Derek Griffith - 16.639
32. Jesse Love - 16.646
33. Michael House - 16.648
34. John Bolen - 16.653
35. Stephen Nasse - 16.655*
36. Derek Kraus - 16.655
37. Preston Peltier - 16.656
38. Casey Johnson - 16.658
39. Augie Grill - 16.664*
40. Johnny Clark - 16.668
41. Zach Telford - 16.687
42. Billy Van Meter - 16.694
43. Brad Keselowski - 16.719
44. Brad May - 16.721
45. Michael Simko - 16.744
46. Boris Jurkovic - 16.763
47. Connor Mosack - 16.798
48. George Gorham, Jr. - 16.798
49. Haeden Plybon - 16.915
50. Harold Crooms - 16.954
51. Connor Okrzesik - No Time