Jake Garcia kept applying the pressure, but Derek Thorn executed a flawless race to win the Snowflake 100 for the second time in three years.
Thorn led wire-to-wire, but several restarts gave Garcia a chance.
Ultimately, the two were too evenly matched and Thorn had the track position earned in time trials earlier in afternoon to continue a perfect weekend. The six-time SRL Southwest Tour champion and two-time NASCAR Pro West champion has now claimed the Snowball Derby pole, the Snowflake 100 pole and the Snowflake 100 victory with the Tom Dawson Trophy on the line on Sunday.
"The Derby, you get four sets of tires, but with this you got what you got when you fire off for the race," Thorn said. "You got to manage it. I sound like a broken record, but this is (team owner) Byron Campbell and (crew chief) Mike Keen and I'm just lucky enough to drive these race cars."
Thorn took off from the lead early but was trailed by outside pole sitter Colin Allman. Thorn backed up the pace early but kept Allman from advancing. Meanwhile, Garcia backed up a couple of seconds behind them early.
Garcia picked-off Allman on a Lap 43 restart and rode directly behind Thorn for the rest of the race, except for a series of restarts resulting from crashes throughout the second half.
Garcia kept the pressure on Thorn, but they were too evenly matched and just ran nose-to-tail for the final 19 laps.
"Just needed that track position or a little bit more speed," Garcia said. "He was definitely a little bit faster than us. It’s hard to pass when you’re so even on speed. I feel like my best shot was on that last restart or even the second to last restart.
"All in all, good work by my guys."
The first half of the race was largely procedural, the first major incident not occurring until Lap 55 when Dylan Fetcho and Preston Peltier collided into Turn 1 and eliminated both from contention. Augie Grill brought out another caution on Lap 81 by stalling out in Turn 2.
That was the caution that set-up the most notable incident of the race.
On the resulting restart, Noah Gragson took Ryan Luza and Johanna Long-Robbins three-wide, which triggered a multi-car incident that also eliminated Derek Griffith, Austin McDonald, William Sawalich. Gragson had won the Last Chance Race earlier in the afternoon and had charged from outside the top-30 to just outside the top-5 by the closing stages of the race.
During the red flag to clean up the incident, a crew member from the Long-Robbins team marched over to the car driven by Gragson and leaned in to express his frustrations. He came back a second time but was ordered by official Ricky Brooks to leave or be escorted out.
Gragson returned to the track and was ultimately credited with an 11th place finish. He also expressed remorse for what happened.
"It's a bummer," Gragson said. "I don't mean to tear people's stuff up. With this (new) body so tight in traffic … when you follow someone it's a 5 or 6 tight in the corner … I knew I had to get positions there and be aggressive.
"I’m not here to take people out and I hated to see anyone get torn up."
The remorse wasn’t enough for Long, who was driving a car out of Ronnie Sander’s stable and prepared by husband Hunter Robbins.
"I see it as he doesn't watch races here," Long-Robbins said. "I don't see how he won the Snowball. You don't go three-wide, especially into 1. You're just going to tear up race cars. If he wants to come down here and pay for it, that’s great.
"He doesn’t work on them. My husband does, every night. I’m home with the kids every night. It’s a struggle. We work extremely hard and for that to happen, it’s ridiculous."
Griffith though he had slowed up in time to avoid the crash but was hit from behind and that’s how his new Pro Late Model got torn up.
"Three wide when we're not supposed to be three-wide and wrecking half the field," Griffith said. "Noah is my buddy but I want to go over there and ask him what he was thinking. It was like for sixth place. It wasn't for the win, it wasn't for anything, and now there's a bunch of torn up race cars."
Gragson wanted to make it very clear that he did not mean for that to happen and wants everyone involved to know he was available to explain his side of it in person.
"I went for a hole that was there," Gragson said. "There were 18 laps left. That wasn’t my plan to take people out. I really hate that for all of them."
Meanwhile, Thorn has another opportunity at Snowball Derby week perfection on Sunday. He won the pole for both races and won the Snowflake in 2019 but was unable to win on Sunday. He has another chance to complete the clean sweep this year.
He does believe the 100 laps on sticker tires provided valuable data for Sunday.
"We learned some stuff tonight," Thorn said. "We don’t race here all year. It is line dependent. This race is a big-time help. We get some laps under our belts. It’s not the same car but it’s similar and we learned some things that I hope transfers into tomorrow."
- Derek Thorn
- Jake Garcia
- Colin Allman
- John DeAngelis
- John Bolen
- Stephen Nasse
- Mike Hopkins
- Jarrett Butcher
- Jett Noland
- Michael Hinde
- Noah Gragson
- Jim Wall
- Chase Spradlin
- Treyten Lapcevich
- Blaine Rocha
- Wes Griffith
- Cole Williams
- Ryan Luza
- Johanna Long-Robbins
- Derek Griffith
- Mason Keller
- Austin MacDonald
- Trevor Cristiani
- William Sawalich
- Augie Grill
- Justin Bonnett
- Dakota Stroup
- Dylan Fetcho
- Preston Peltier
- Hudson Halder
- Dustin Smith
- Derrick Griffin
- Mike Garvey
- Casey Johnson
- Brandon Oakley
- Steve Dorer