Sitting on the pole with a record lap isn’t a terrible way to start a race weekend, especially in one of the biggest short-track events in the country. That is, unless you get disqualified and plopped at the back of a last-chance qualifying race.
That’s been the story of the weekend for the Kyle Busch Motorsports entry of Christopher Bell at the Snowball Derby, a Super Late Model race in Pensacola, Florida. In his race debut, Bell went out and set a new track record by nearly a tenth of a second—well, before post-qualifying technical inspection. Both Bell and defending winner John Hunter Nemechek got chunked from the qualifying order after failing tech for too much space between the center of the wheel and right-rear quarter panel, sending Bell to the back of the last-chance qualifier and making Nemechek use his past-champion provisional to start the race.
But, Bell was pretty stoked for the few minutes that he did have the pole. Breaking a track record “has always been a dream” of his, even if it the disqualification handed the record (and pole) off to another driver.
“I’ve been racing for so long now, and always wanted a track record,” Bell told Jalopnik after the 50-lap qualifier. “But that was short lived.”
Despite qualifying races being known for their, ehem, carnage, Bell managed to “put everything together” and climb from the back of the field to win the race.
The result means that instead of starting first on Sunday, Bell will roll off 31st. But that’s better than the alternative, and Bell said the extra laps will help him in the actual Snowball Derby.
“That was 50 laps and [the Snowball Derby] is 300,” Bell said. “So, I think I can even be more patient and let my team take care of me with the live pit stops.”
Regardless of patience, Bell recognizes how difficult the competition will be on Sunday. After reducing an entry list of nearly 60 cars to a 37-car field, he’ll have to work through the folks who qualified for the race the first time around.
“Last year, I came here and I was watching the Derby and racing the Snowflake [100 Pro Late Model race],” Bell said. “My teammate Erik [Jones] was always probably 10th to 15th on the speed charts. It showed me how tough this race is.”
But on the bright side, he thinks his crew will do some of the passing for him. When it comes to live pit stops in short-track racing, the big teams like KBM can have a decent advantage on pit road.
“Just got pick ‘em off one by one and let my team to the rest,” Bell said. “They’ll help me out on the pit stops and I’ll help them out on the track.”
And if Bell ends up winning the race, team owner and 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch could probably help out with the celebrations.
Because, you know, that’s been the focus of his weekend.
(If you’re curious about this Super Late Model race—it’s pretty much my Christmas—and want to watch it tomorrow, there’s a paid broadcast over at Speed51 that starts at 1 p.m. ET and the race will start at 3 p.m. ET. NASCAR’s Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and Erik Jones are all past winners, and Elliott, who takes over the No. 24 Sprint Cup car for Jeff Gordon next year, will roll off on the outside pole.)
Photo credit: Alanis King/Jalopnik
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