PENSACOLA, Fla. – He may have been the first car to take time during Snowball Derby qualifying on Friday, but Chandler Smith’s night quickly devolved after that.
Smith, attempting to make his fifth straight Snowball Derby start, was disqualified for a cell phone violation after completing his run and coming into the post-qualifying impound area.
The exact details of what took place upon Smith’s arrival in impound were debated Friday night, but the common threads were that Smith was given access to a cell phone to check a digital timing and scoring application.
Either while Smith was looking at the phone or while the phone was in his possession, Snowball Derby chief technical director Ricky Brooks approached Smith, told him that he was in violation of the rule book and disallowed Smith’s qualifying time on the spot.
After the conclusion of post-qualifying technical inspection, Brooks recounted the situation and gave an explanation of his reasoning for the disqualification to both Short Track Scene and SPEED SPORT.
“What happened was, all that took place, he was standing there talking to his crew, and he slid his phone down his fire suit,” Brooks said. “I pulled (the phone) out of his fire suit.”
Brooks has repeated the rule to teams for two days at Five Flags Speedway and again reminded them Saturday morning during the drivers meeting that a cell phone being near their race car or in any impound area is prohibited.
“The rule says (the phone) can’t be in the car, or in impound, or anything,” Brooks said.
The rule pertaining to cell phones and other Bluetooth devices in the Snowball Derby rule book reads as follows:
“Drivers must stay with their car until qualifying is over in case he or she gets bumped to the last chance race. Only one crew member may check [tire] pressures, stagger (no jacks are allowed) and remove tape only. No cell phones, smart watches or Bluetooth devices are allowed in cars at any time or [in] the impound or you will be disqualified.”
The wording of the rule is meant as a preventative measure for potential traction control.
“I just don’t want it anywhere near the car,” Brooks said. “Smart phones, smart watches, Bluetooth devices, any kind of smart thing can control traction control and I don’t want it anywhere near the race car.”
Smith would have ended up in the last chance qualifier even if his time hadn’t been disallowed. His lap of 16.551 seconds was only 37th quickest in a qualifying session where the top 30 were locked into the Snowball Derby starting field.
But because of the disqualification, he’ll start last Saturday afternoon instead of seventh.
“We’ve got a good race car and I believe we’ll be fine,” Smith said. “Just wish we didn’t have to come quite as far forward as we do.”
The 50-lap last chance qualifier for the 53rd Snowball Derby will roll off at approximately 3:30 p.m. CT Saturday.
In addition to Smith, it will feature NASCAR stars Chase Elliott and Noah Gragson, super late model young guns Kodie Conner and Connor Okrzesik, and two-time Derby champion Augie Grill, among others.