Sunday, September 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Snowball Derby 2013: Mason Mingus fastest in Saturday Open Test

Mason Mingus scored the first blow in the 2013 Snowball Derby, winning $500 by posting the fastest time in the Open Test on Saturday at Five Flags Speedway.

Mason Mingus and his team never set out to score the fastest time in Snowball Derby open testing but that's exactly what happened late in the evening on Saturday night at the Snowball Derby Preview event at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla.

A victory in the Snowball Derby is the most coveted prize in Super Late Model racing but the race is still two weeks away. The Speedway hosts an open test the weekend prior to Thanksgiving each year to provide teams one last chance to prepare for the event, which will be held Dec. 4-8.

Seven Super Late Model teams of the 60-plus registered for the Derby turned laps in addition to Mingus. That list included 2011 Derby runner-up DJ VanderLey, two-time pole-winner and NASCAR Camping Work Truck Series winner Cale Gale, Kyle Grissom, TJ Reaid, Allen Karnes, Chase Oliver and Casey Smith.

See More: Preliminary Derby entry list includes NASCAR talent

VanderLey was fastest in the first half of the day (despite a test-ending crash in Turn 3 at 4 p.m.) but relinquished the top spot to Nathan Davis as the Sun began to drop.

Mingus went out 20 minutes into the final hour of the event -- in the penultimate session -- to take the top spot with a lap time of 16.644 around the 15 degree banked half-mile, which was good enough to hold off one final attempt by Jeremy Pate in the closing minutes.

Pate's final attempt came within 0.008 of Mingus' fast lap but came up definitely short.

Mingus has attempted the Snowball Derby three times and has only made the race -- in 2010, where he finished seventh. The 18-year-old ARCA Racing Series championship runner-up is trying to cover all of his bases for the 2013 race and ended up with fast time and the resulting $500 bonus.

"We've got into some trouble down here, actually last year in practice, trying to top the boards so we weren't worried about it this year," Mingus told SB Nation after the test. "We came into today wanting to look at some changes to put on the car and it just so happened that we went into the final (session) looking like we had a shot at it.

"We were going to mock up either way so it's cool to get bragging rights, I guess and 500 bucks to get home so it's a good day that will let us come in here in two weeks and just fine tune to get into the race."

VanderLey is most remembered for his 2010 battle with Chase Elliott for the win, a race where he came up just short. He's looking to regain the speed that had him within one lap of the Tom Dawson Memorial Trophy and seemed to have it in the first part of practice.

He was still on top of the charts when he looped the car around entering Turn 3 and did irreparable damage to his car. His team would have to pack up and leave early as a result, in a rush to get back home and make the repairs. VanderLey says the wreck will "set us back pretty bad" and that it was purely the driver's fault.

"I (screwed) up," VanderLey told SBN after the wreck. "We were fast all day and I went out there on old tires and I just lost it. I just don't know."

Qualifying for the Derby will take place on Dec. 6 and will lock in the top-30 teams. The rest of the field will be set by three provisional and three last chance race qualifiers, making practice all the more valuable.

Continuing coverage of the Snowball Derby can be found on the Ranting and Raving short track blog. Visit our Facebook page for all the updates and links to our stories leading up to the Super Bowl of Short Track Racing.

This article originally appeared on SBNation.

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