Saturday, December 1, 2018

Derby Days: Friday is Pole Day.

PixelatedSPEED Photo
Described by many as the most intense qualifying session in motorsports, the aim of the game on Friday at Five Flags Speedway was cracking the top 30 in pole qualifying for the 51st Annual Snowball Derby.

A trip in the weeds.

To get this pivotal day started, I ventured into the weeds, literally. While there are many great places to shoot photos around the facility at Five Flags Speedway, some to the best shots come after making a trek around some fences, through a campground, and along a briar patch laden path that leads to the outside wall of turn four.

I feel as though some of my best photos of the week thus far were from that hard to get to spot. I think the trip was worth it, and it’s not a journey I like to do more than once during a Derby week.

Once there, I stayed there for the duration of the first Snowball Derby practice.

Dashing through the pits.

At the conclusion of that first Snowball Derby practice, I knew I only had a few minutes to be setup for the next round, which featured the Snowflake 100 cars. I knew I wanted to be in turn two… on the literal opposite side of where I was. If I had to backtrack along the path I came, I would have run out of time and missed a decent chunk of time, plus the initial rush of cars off of pit road.

So, not wanting to waste time, once I knew the coast was clear (as in officials clearing the gates) I jumped over the turn four wall and darted across the track, then dash through the infield to get to turn two.

Again, this was worth it, as I got some shots I’d never gotten before.

Modified Madness and Interviews.

After I got my fill of photos from turn two, I made my way back to the frontstretch, shot a few candids in and around the grandstands, and headed on down to the infield once Snowflake practice ended.

Next up was Modified practice, so I setup on pit road and got photos from start finish down to turn four.


Switching gears a bit, after Modified practice I made the rounds hitting up various drivers for interviews. I was able to get just about everyone I was looking for, and for what I have to work with this week, I think those interviews came out pretty well.

There was a bit of a lull before Modified qualifying, so I got a bite to eat, and had a nice chat with Nicholas Rogers, one of the head tech officials at Five Flags Speedway.

Next up was Modified qualifying. I really wasn’t planning on covering much of it, but as I was making my way along pit road, Johnnie Walker had a part failure, from which he broke loose off of turn four and then over-corrected, slamming hard into the outside wall. I stuck around to get the candids of Johnnie getting out of his car, and assessing the damage before moving along.


I had the pleasure of chatting with Tim Horvath of Horvath Design for a spell along with colleague Matt Weaver. Horvath is a hoot. His stories can go on for days, and in some way always leave you smiling.

Before I knew it, about an hour had passed and I still had interviews to do, so I left Horvath and Weaver to hunt down those drivers, but ended up running into Hunter Robbins and DJ Vanderley… which led to another round of storytelling along with Mike Williamson, Johanna Long-Robbins’ crew chief.


I spent the lead up to qualifying getting candid shots around pit road. The lighting was providing some really cool, unique shots.

During qualifying, I shadowed Weaver for a bit, shot photos for a bit, and just sat back and took in the atmosphere of watching 47 of the nation’s top Super Late Model drivers all vying for a spot in the Snowball Derby.

Afterward, I went to the tech shed, but by then the rains had begun to fall. Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to playing the rain game, so I packed up and headed home, spending the rest of the evening (into the early morning hours actually), writing, editing, and posting.

I’m glad I didn’t stick around as the rest of the night was a wash, pushing the Modified race to Saturday.

Saturday is Snowflake 100 Day.

Saturday is going to be jam packed. On tap is the postponed Modified race, final practice sessions, last chance races, Snowflake qualifying, the Snowflake 100, and the Pro Truck feature. It’s going to be busy, for sure.

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