Thursday, November 29, 2018

Derby Days: Wednesday is Tech Day

PixelatedSPEED Photo
Day one of the 51st Annual Snowball Derby week began with a trip to track office to pick up my media credential. I then headed down to the infield. Aside from a handful of media and speedway officials, this was perhaps the most empty that the track would be for the rest of the week. It was only a few moments away from the beginning of hauler parking.

I quickly found a brand new platform in turn three and set up to snap a few shots of the first couple of haulers coming in.  Each year, this is tradition marks the start of Tech Day at the Snowball Derby. The famous voice of Dave Pavlock echoes throughout the grounds as he made the first announcement at 9am, “Logan Boyett… Pensacola, FL… now arriving.” Each and every team hauler brought in was announced in this fashion before making their way into the infield and the attention of the Five Flags Speedway officials. They somehow managed to park roughly one hundred haulers into the confines of the famed half-mile, and did so in about an hour and a half.

Once all the haulers were parked, Five Flags Speedway promoter Tim Bryant took to the microphone and announced that teams could begin to unload their racecars and head toward the technical inspection line.

The top ten drivers from the 2018 points standings in both the Allen Turner Pro Late Models and the Southern Super Series were granted first crack at the tech line. Afterward, it would be first come, first serve throughout the remainder of the day.

As teams began to unload, I captured the moment with focus on the teams parked on the frontstretch. At Five Flags, the pits continue in a ¼ mile circuit in the infield, so if you can image a can of sardines, then you’ve got the basic concept of how the teams are pitted for the Snowball Derby.

Getting those first few shots was a great feeling. After having been away from the media scene for the past several years, I know that getting back into the groove of things is going to take some time, but in some ways it's like riding a bike. There are few obstacles I have to overcome, and I have ideas that should remedy the hiccups I experienced on this first day.

Moving along, I spent most of the day snapping shots of cars in the tech line, or teams setting up their pit areas. I tried to get as many candid shots that I could, and will continue to do so. In my opinion, you can take hundreds of shots of racecars on the track at speed, but those shots quickly all begin to look the same. That’s why I like to focus more on people and things happening in the pits. More opportunities for unique photos that in many ways mean more to the people in them than any shot of a car.

The other thing I did a lot of on this day was catching up with old colleagues and friends. I’d venture a guess that I spent just as much time sharing old war stories with friends as I did actually working. With many of these people, the Snowball Derby is the only time I see them all year, and it always seems that things kind of pick up right where we left off the year before.

As the day wound to a close, and the evening set in, the Pure Stocks began to take the focus of the rest of the day. I shot a lot of pictures in the turn one and two area where the division was pitted, and attempted to capture as much of the action as I could as the daylight slipped away. Admittedly, I am terrible at shooting photos at night, so I muddled through it the best that I could and got a few good photos in the end.

I have to give a shout out to Chance Imel. The racer from Mobile, AL came to Pensacola on Wednesday having yet to win in the Pure Stock division. On Wednesday night, Chance showed that their team is on the cusp of a lot huge wins after Chance’s number 325 Chevy dominated the race, reaching the checkered flag first.

I’ve never seen my buddy Chance so happy. He climbed out of his car after the race with a huge roar, surrounded by a throng of family and friends. Tears of joy streamed down many people’s faces. Chance got to enjoy the victory lane celebration, after winning his first race in the biggest race of the year.

Unfortunately, that victory was short lived as the number 325 did not make it out of the “Room of Doom” unscathed. Five Flags officials deemed the car to be in violation of the engine compression rules, and while the amount of the infraction was negligible, it was indeed beyond the limit. If you don’t know that much about the Snowball Derby, it’s widely known that lead technical inspector Ricky Brooks runs a tight ship in the tech shed. If you’re over the line, you’re done. Simple as that.

For Chance, not having the trophy to take home won’t hurt his spirits too hard. He knows the caliber of equipment he has now. He has the confidence to push the car to it’s limits and get every speck of performance out of it. I’m sure this won’t be the last time we see Chance Imel in victory lane.

Look to the PixelatedSPEED Facebook page for galleries from all of the action at the 51st Snowball Derby, be on the lookout for the next installment of Derby Days, as I chronicle my experiences from each day.

Thursday is practice day. The Snowball Derby and Snowflake 100 cars will take to the track all day long. Thursday night will feature the local Sportsman and Outlaw divisions.

Thursday is going to be a very busy day.

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