PENSACOLA, Fla. – The Snowball Derby may have been pushed back to Monday due to persistent rain showers, but that hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of the drivers competing at Five Flags Speedway.
It also likely won’t change the strategy or flow of the overall race, according to several of the contenders who spoke to SPEED SPORT in the hours leading up to the 300-lap super late model classic.
Despite the fact that the race will take the green flag two hours later Monday than its originally-planned start time of 2 p.m. Central on Sunday afternoon, Derby polesitter and Snowflake 100 winner Derek Thorn believes the conditions and tire strategy will largely hold serve to what he expected a day ago.
“For us, it doesn’t alter anything at all,” Thorn said. “Truth be told, I’m actually kind of satisfied that it’s starting a little bit later. I think our car was better when it was a little cooler out and the sun was down. So I’m hoping that translates to tonight’s race a little bit and we can do what we did on Saturday (in the pro late model feature).”
Sixteenth-starting Kaden Honeycutt noted that a green race track, with little to no rubber on it compared to what conditions would have been, will likely amplify tire wear on the opening run.
Over the long haul, though, he too expects a similar outcome to what his Alverson Motorsports team prepared for when they came to the track on Sunday.
“I don’t think it’ll change much. The only difference I think today will make is that it will be a little more harder on tires, since all the rubber got washed off last night,” Honeycutt explained. “It’s going to be harder on tires. I feel like tire saving is going to be really huge early on in the run, and saving your stuff will come into play even more. It shouldn’t really change your tire strategy, though. All the tires will still fall off about the same.
“Obviously when it’s hotter, stuff will get a little slicker, but the tires still wear out more … so I don’t think it’ll change much for anybody.”
One new variable that will be in play for teams and drivers to master is the fact that the majority of the race – likely the entire second half – will be run in full nightfall, with sunset scheduled for 4:48 p.m. CT.
According to 17-year-old Corey Heim, who starts outside the top 20 in the Snowball Derby and has to work his way forward, the task of advancement may be harder just because of the cooler conditions.
“I think it’ll even the field up a little bit, because the cooler weather normally gives everyone a little bit more grip,” Heim noted. “That evens the field out a little bit, just because it takes some weaknesses out of your race car. Finishing at night is something that I guess we prepared for just by getting a good balance on our race car on Saturday. But it’ll be interesting to see what we’ve got for them.”
Thorn, on the other hand, believes that when all is said and done, the cream will still rise to the top.
“Man, at this place, you never know who’s going to have what. I’ve been here four or five times, and I have yet to put my finger on any sort of conclusion that can lead you to success, but the best cars should still get there (to the front),” Thorn said. “It’s a culmination of hard work and making sure your stuff’s right and it can last 300 laps. The other part of it is just the race track. You don’t know what it’s going to do or what it’s going to present, as far as handling characteristics or what it’s going to provide you for grip. So you just kind of have to take whatever it gives you.
“The good news is that everybody’s in the same boat, so we all have to deal with the same odds and ends,” Thorn continued. “I think the weather’s going to suit certain cars more than others, but it still should see the faster guys up front, unless some guys figured some stuff out during the rain delay.”
The 52nd annual Snowball Derby will take the green flag at 4 p.m. CT at Five Flags Speedway.