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Thorn Captures Record Third Straight Snowball Pole

There were relatively few surprises on a mild Friday night in Pensacola


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Derek Thorn will lead a full field of Super Late Models to the green flag in the Snowball Derby for a record setting third year in a row.


It wasn’t always this easy for Thorn, who before his record run had not qualified better than 11th but usually somewhere around 20th, but always making it into the show every year he has entered.

"It's been a phenomenal week," Thorn said. "I just have to thank Mike Keen for turning the wrenches on this thing. FURY Race Cars always gives us a great package to start with. These guys work hard to make it possible.

"You never go into the Snowball Derby expecting anything because this race can humble you. Expect the unexpected."

Thorn was the 24th driver to take his two timed laps and wasn’t truly challenged for the provisional pole until Chandler Smith came within 0.054.

Due to the NASCAR Awards taking place in Nashville this week, Smith did not arrive in Pensacola until Friday morning and was operating on just three hours of sleep before starting a full day of practice and time trials.

Maybe that was the difference between first and second?

"Maybe sleep, probably, sleep," Smith said. "I’m on three hours of sleep. If I was a little more conscious, I would have driven it a little harder."

That was a joke, by the way.

"When I qualify here, for whatever reason, I just can’t get the front end to cooperate in Turns 1 and 2," Smith said. "I was going in with that mindset, and this car is great, but I was just a little snug. I didn’t want to overstep it. I just wanted a solid lap."

The entire field to have turned a competitive lap were separated by just over a half second with the top-30 separated by just 0.286.

As is tradition, the Snowball Derby starts the top-30 qualifiers, two provisionals based on track points and Southern Super Series points, and occasionally the most recent winner or a promoter’s provisional.

Wisconsin veteran Jeff Storm will make his debut on Sunday by just beating Jake Finch by 0.012. Finch, however, will also make the field via a track provisional. Jeff Choquette suffered a mechanical failure during time trials and earns the other provisional.

Behind Thorn and Smith were Corey Heim, Casey Roderick, Erik Jones, Matt Craig, Hunter Robbins, Bubba Pollard, Casey Johnson and Jake Garcia. It was an especially rewarding result for Pollard, who has struggled for portions of the past two years and finally has a race car he believes can put him back amongst the elite of short track racing on its brightest stage.

"This is easy to drive and that's the biggest thing," Pollard said. "When it has speed, that's most of the battle. It drives good and I'm excited for the rest of the weekend."

The weekend has gone for Jones the way they had hoped and it was just another positive step in that direction on Sunday.

"I thought we had a top-10 car and maybe a top-five car and it’s matched those expectation," Jones said. "This is my best Derby start. Happy about that. Happy about the speed. I’m happy with a fifth place because I didn’t think we’d start that high."

The last chance race will feature Jace Hansen on the pole over Brad May, Carson Hocevar, Michael House, Brandon Watson, Lee Tissot, Michael Atwell, Derek Kraus, Boris Jurkovic, John Deangelis, Rich Bickle, Paul Shafer Jr., Eddie Vanmeter, Perry Patino, Michael Hinde, Kyle Bryant, Cassius Clark, John Bolen and Ryan Crane.

The track record was expected by many to fall on Friday but warmed than anticipated temperatures and humid conditions kept the speeds lower than what would be needed to break the 16.120 seconds set by Ty Majeski in 2015.

Back to Thorn.

The six-time SRL SPEARS Southwest Tour champion says he never celebrates the biggest pole of the year like he should because it’s just one step towards a larger goal and one he hasn’t achieved yet. The race has been won from the front row 13 times.

"I get mad at myself after the fact because I never celebrate these enough because I'm so conserved," Thorn said. "I am really happy. It's just a big week and there's a lot that can happen and you just hope it all goes smoothly. I always say one step at a time, and this is the next step so now we move on to Saturday and Sunday."


  1. Derek Thorn 16.249
  2. Chandler Smith 16.303
  3. Corey Heim 16.348
  4. Casey Roderick 16.373
  5. Erik Jones 16.374
  6. Matt Craig 16.374
  7. Hunter Robbins 16.377
  8. Bubba Pollard 16.382
  9. Casey Johnson 16.397
  10. Jake Garcia 16.399
  11. Daniel Dye 16.409
  12. Ryan Preece 16.417
  13. Kodie Conner 16.427
  14. Mike Garvey 16.433
  15. Jett Noland 16.433
  16. Mason Diaz 16.435
  17. Cole Butcher 16.433
  18. Jeremy Doss 16.435
  19. Ty Majeski 16.461
  20. Sammy Smith 16.476
  21. Preston Peltier 16.487
  22. Kyle Plott 16.491
  23. Jesse Love 16.500
  24. Derek Griffith 16.501
  25. Kaden Honeycutt 16.504
  26. Luke Fenhaus 16.510
  27. Grant Enfinger 16.516
  28. Stephen Nasse 16.521
  29. Dan Fredrickson 16.523
  30. Jeff Storm 16.535
  31. Jake Finch 16.536
  32. Jace Hansen 16.541
  33. Brad May 16.560
  34. Carson Hocevar 16.563
  35. Michael House 16.568
  36. Brandon Watson 16.604
  37. Lee Tissot 16.605
  38. Michael Atwell 16.611
  39. Derek Kraus 16.621
  40. Boris Jurkovic 16.625
  41. John Deangelis 16.663
  42. Rich Bickle 16.669
  43. Paul Shafer Jr. 16.670
  44. Eddie Vanmeter 16.692
  45. Perry Patino 16.703
  46. Michael Hinde 16.705
  47. Kyle Bryant 16.709
  48. Cassius Clark 16.711
  49. John Bolen 16.788
  50. Ryan Crane 16.861
  51. Jeff Choquette 17.332