Derek Thorn – Two Time Snowball Derby Polesitter Amid Dramatic Qualifying Night

Derek Thorn is now a two-time Snowball Derby Polesitter, seen here while waiting during qualifying during the 2018 Derby. (Daniel Vining/PixelatedSPEED)

PENSACOLA, Florida (December 4, 2020) — The intensity is naturally high. It’s heightened by an immeasurable factor when it comes to qualifying for the most prestigious race in short track racing. On this night of qualifying, for the 53rd Snowball Derby, the drama was ramped up to an all new level. An unprecedented group of drivers failed to make the cut, one driver was disqualified, and there were two redos; one redo of a qualifying attempt, and one redo at being the polesitter as Derek Thorn snagged the top starting spot for the second year in a row. 

“I’ve been here so many times and it’s such an emotional rollercoaster of a week that you’ll show up on Monday and be good then by Thursday you’ll be struggling,” said Thorn in an interview afterward. “To have a cars as good as they are, I have to thank Byron Campbell, my team for working so hard. This is a ten day run for us and to have the cars and the equipment, our FURY cars… we’ve been really strong.”

He added, “To have qualifying go like it did; the first lap wasn’t great. Then to have the second lap come in like it did and to be able to sit on the pole for the Snowball Derby twice is just a feat in itself.”

This marks the first time a driver has won back-to-back poles for the Snowball Derby since Pensacola’s Eddie Mercer achieved two poles in 1996 and 1997.

Chandler Smith was the first driver to take a lap. Moments later, after roughly ten cars had timed in, word came down that Smith’s time had been disallowed. Speed51 reported that it was due to a violation of general rules concerning cell phones.

Rule number 2 of the official general procedures for the event state the following:

“NO CELLPHONES, SMART WATCHES OR BLUETOOTH DEVICES ALLOWED IN CARS AT ANYTIME OR YOU WILL BE DISQUALIFIED.”

This also includes in the impound area following the qualifying run.

According to Short Track Scene’s Matt Weaver, Smith fell afoul of the rule after his timed run, viewing his times on a timing and scoring app provided by a crew member. When chief technical inspector Ricky Brooks saw this, Smith’s times were disallowed.


Smith took to social media to tell his side, stating that when he got out of his car after taking his time, he went over to his crew chief to look at timing and scoring and that he clicked on the phone while it was still in his crew chief’s hands.

Weaver later reported that in a follow-up with Ricky Brooks, Brooks said that Smith was outside the car, standing next to it, and put the phone in his pocket. That’s when Brooks grabbed it and issued the disqualification.

He added that Brooks doesn’t want a bluetooth device anywhere near a car over traction control concerns.


Another Smith, Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Sammy Smith was also a center of controversy in this qualifying session. After taking his warm up lap and initial timed lap, Smith was given the checkered flag prematurely, and did not complete his run.


To correct the error, officials allowed the KBM crew to cool the car down, change the tires, and reattempt his run. It was all for not, however, as Smith was not able to record a time fast enough to lock into the top 30.

The final driver that locked into the show was Florida’s Jesse Dutilly, with a 16.509 second lap to clock into the 30th starting position.

Outside of the top 30, two-time Derby winner Augie Grill clocked in 31st, joining a large list of talented drivers that includes 2018 Derby winner Noah Gragson, two-time winner and newly crowned NASCAR Cup Series Champion Chase Elliott, and 2020 Blizzard Series Champion Bubba Pollard.

All drivers beyond the top 30 will be eligible to compete in the Last Chance Qualifier on Saturday.

Four drivers will transfer from that race into the main event.

Bubba Pollard, because of his track championship, has a provisional to fall back on. Since Stephen Nasse qualified in on time, the final provisional would fall to Jeremy Pate, second place finisher in the 2020 Southern Super Series points standings.

Official Qualifying Results from Pole Night at the 53rd Snowball Derby:

1.43 – Derek Thorn, 16.258
2.2 – Kaden Honeycutt, 16.277
3.91 – Ty Majeski, 16.346
4.53 – Cole Butcher, 16.354
5.51 – Stephen Nasse, 16.377
6.43 – Daniel Dye, 16.380
7.75 – Jeremy Doss, 16.392
8.54 – Matt Craig, 16.393
9.51 – Kyle Busch, 16.395
10.11 – Logan Boyett, 16.397
11.4 – Kyle Plott, 16.407
12.54 – Preston Peltier, 16.410
13.25 – Casey Roderick, 16.415
14.9 – Derek Kraus, 16.416
15.18 – Hunter Robbins, 16.423
16.78 – Corey Heim, 16.428
17.32 – Grant Enfinger, 16.432
18.7 – John DeAngelis, 16.434
19.7 – Paul Shafer Jr., 16.443
20.39 – Kyle Sieg, 16.453
21.14 – Chris Davidson, 16.454
22.3 – Ross Kenseth, 16.459
23.53 – Boris Jurkovic, 16.460
24.16 – Cayden Lapcevich, 16.461
25.36 – Dan Fredrickson, 16.461
26.35 – Jake Garcia, 16.472
27.24 – Mason Diaz, 16.473
28.51 – Michael Atwell, 16.473
29.14 – Travis Braden, 16.499
30.30 – Jesse Dutilly, 16.509
31.112 – Augie Grill, 16.518
32.5 – Casey Johnson, 16.526
33.45 – Kodie Conner, 16.542
34.14 – Austin Nason, 16.545
35.51 – Noah Gragson, 16.549
36.14 – Carson Hocevar, 16.550
37.71 – Bubba Pollard, 16.552
38.12 – Derek Griffith, 16.556
39.15 – Gabe Sommers, 16.559
40.119 – Dalton Zehr, 16.560
41.9 – Hudson Halder, 16.562
42.9 – Chase Elliott, 16.576
43.14 – Connor Okrzesik, 16.588
44.51 – Sammy Smith, 16.593
45.21 – Jeremy Pate, 16.613
46.4 – Kyle McCallum, 16.630
47.19 – Kason Plott, 16.772
48.88 – Perry Patino, 16.781
49.44 – Justin Johnson, 16.786
50.10 – Ryan Crane, 16.873
51.79 – Kyle Bryant, 16.912
52.8 – Colton Nelson, 16.990
53.26 – Chandler Smith – DQ

The action continues tomorrow as the Last Chance Qualifier will complete the grid of the 53rd Snowball Derby. Saturday night will play host to the 22nd Snowflake 100 for the Pro Late Models.

Editors Note: This article was updated to correct the name “Brian Campbell” to “Byron Campbell” as the car owner for driver Derek Thorn.

– Daniel Vining, Twitter: @danielvining

PixelatedSPEED is a motorsports news and views website in its 2nd full season, covering all things racing and has been going “Beyond the Headline” Since 2018. If you’ve made it this far into the post, thank you. Please consider sharing this content on the interwebs and following PixelatedSPEED on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. PixelatedSPEED is a part of the Gravel Media Network. Copyright – 2018 – 2020

PixelatedSPEED

PixelatedSPEED

PixelatedSPEED is a motorsports news and views website covering all things racing and has been going "Beyond the Headline" since 2018”.