PENSACOLA, Fla. – West Coast transplant Preston Peltier may have been the eighth car of 53 to take time Friday night during qualifying for the 50th annual Snowball Derby, but he made sure his time was the one that mattered most.
Peltier turned a lap of 16.319 seconds (110.301 mph) around the Five Flags Speedway half-mile and then weathered a storm of 45 other challengers before he could breathe easy as the polesitter for Sunday’s 300-lap crown jewel event.
“This is pretty cool if you ask me,” said Peltier. “I didn’t expect to be here, honestly. I thought it would be Bubba (Pollard) that set fast time, but we did what we came here to do and it all worked out.”
“These guys gave me a great car. This new Sidewinder has been incredible; it’s the best piece I’ve ever strapped into. I’m looking forward to Sunday. We’ll see what happens.”
Peltier added that when he was on-track, he didn’t feel like his lap was going to be anywhere close to what the pole time needed to be.
“It didn’t feel fast at all,” he admitted. “Normally when that happens, you know you’ve got a good car,” he smiled.
Now, Peltier’s focus turns to 300 laps on Sunday, in which he said the primary goals are staying out of trouble and having a little luck in his back pocket.
“I try not to get caught up in the drama of things,” he said. “I just try to keep a level head. Tomorrow we’re going to get back at it, put our heads down and work on this thing to make sure we have a good piece for the race.”
Bubba Pollard, a perennial Derby favorite who has never won the prestigious event, timed in second-fastest (16.344/110.132) and will join Peltier on the front row for Sunday’s feature.
“We were just real free,” said Pollard. “We over-adjusted a bit for qualifying, but hey, it happens sometimes. We thought the race track was going to tighten up more than it did and it didn’t.”
“All in all though, we’re really happy with where we’re at. We’ve been fast all weekend, so we’ll just keep our momentum and move on towards Sunday.”
Augie Grill and Mason Mincus qualified third and fourth and will share row two, with California’s Jeremy Doss completing the top five after winning the first practice session of the weekend on Thursday.
Chase Purdy, Chris Davidson, Ty Majeski, Cole Butcher and Jeff Choquette made up the balance of the top 10.
Thirty drivers locked themselves in on speed during Friday night’s qualifying session.
Notables in the mid-pack included Spencer Davis (11th), who made the big dance after an engine change earlier in the day; and 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch (15th).
Canadian young gun Raphael Lessard (18th) and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers Noah Gragson (20th) and Harrison Burton (22nd) also find themselves with work to do on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the battle for the final transfer spot was as hotly contested as the battle for the pole.
Stephen Nasse, Donnie Wilson and defending event champion Christian Eckes all posted identical times of 16.660 seconds (108.043 mph), but it was Nasse who got the nod by virtue of going out first among the trio.
Both Wilson (Blizzard Series) and Eckes (defending winner) have provisionals to fall back on, however, and will still race on Sunday afternoon.
Full qualifying results can be viewed on the next page…