Vermont Motorsports Magazine

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New Englanders Hopeful at Snowball Derby

Posted By Tj Ingerson On December 4, 2014

Categories: Regional

Brian Hoar (#37) and Joey Polewarczyk Jr. (#97) are two New England drivers that will compete in the 47th annual Snowball Derby weekend at Five Flags Speedway in Florida this weekend. ( photos)PHOTO: Brian Hoar (#37) and Joey Polewarczyk Jr. (#97) are two New England drivers that will compete in the 47th annual Snowball Derby weekend at Five Flags Speedway in Florida this weekend. ( photos)

--by Justin St. Louis (@Justin_StLouis)
VMM Founder

December is usually not a great time for a New Englander to strap into a racecar – at least here at home. That’s why Brian Hoar, Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., and Austin Theriault are in the Florida Panhandle for this week’s 47th annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola.

Eight-time American-Canadian Tour champion Hoar, of Williston, and Fort Kent, Maine native Theriault are among the 69 entrants hoping to qualify for Sunday’s 300-lap Snowball Derby for Super Late Models. Hudson, N.H. driver Polewarczyk, the 2014 ACT champion, will be one of 79 entered drivers to attempt qualifying for the Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 support race for Pro Late Models on Saturday.

Hoar, a veteran of nearly 25 years of racing, seemed on Thursday to still be in awe of the sheer magnitude of the event. The Snowball Derby is considered to be the pinnacle of pavement short track racing.

“I’ve never been to a track where there are 150 cars laying down rubber at once,” he said. “It’s a different world down here. It’s the best of the best; there are a lot of really good cars and great teams here. You’ve never seen so many tractor trailers in one place. There’s one – just one – Pro Late Model here on an open trailer, and maybe 20 small enclosed trailers like you’d see in ACT. There are literally 100 stacker trailers here. The money these guys are spending to race is unreal.”

Polewarczyk echoed Hoar’s thoughts, and even finds himself on his own island.

“Between the 140 or 150 Supers and Pros combined, we have the only perimeter chassis in this pit area,” Polewarczyk laughed. “It’s a PASS-legal car that could be ACT-legal with a day’s worth of work. Everything down here is a straight rail chassis, even Brian’s car. Everyone is [on bump stop suspension]. The big teams are changing coolant and oil and all their fluids between every run on the track. It’s insane.”

Though they may seem a bit out of their element, Hoar and Polewarczyk have shown speed during the week’s test sessions. Time trial qualifying is on Friday for the Super Late Models with a 50-lap last-chance race on Saturday and the Snowball Derby on Sunday. The Pro Late Model division does all three on Saturday. The 30 fastest time trialers get locked into the main events. Practice sessions have lasted throughout the week.

Polewarczyk’s No. 97 Pole’s Automotive/Dojo Sante Ford has consistently ranked in or near the fastest 15 cars in each Pro Late Model practice he has taken part in. On Monday, Hoar ran second quickest in a small test that included former Derby pole sitter Mike Garvey, former All-American 400 winner Ross Kenseth, and top Florida star Jeff Choquette. Both ACT stars have sought advice from each other and from several other key players, but are also learning as they make their own path. Neither driver has much experience running on bump stop technology – this is Polewarczyk’s first race with that type of setup – and each has seen his share of ups and downs this week at Five Flags.

“The track is really worn out and really temperature sensitive,” Polewarczyk said. “We’ve run well so far, but I didn’t draw the best for time trials. We go out second to qualify at 2:00 in the afternoon [on Saturday] when it’s hot and sunny, but we race at night, so it could be tough. I’ve spoken with some guys like Spencer Davis, and [ACT driver] Travis Stearns is here helping Mike Garvey. We just want to make it into the race, quite honestly. I think we can. I hope we can.”

Hoar is a bit more nervous about his chances. Although he was less than four-tenths of a second off of Anderson Bowen’s 16.481-second practice lap on Thursday, Hoar was mired back in 45th place overall. Theriault, who was unavailable for comment on Thursday, was in the same situation, timing in 46th overall.

Hoar tried to shoulder much of the blame for his team, suggesting that many of the struggles for the No. 37 Racing Engines group are due to his own lack of experience in Super Late Models.

“[Crew chief] Rick Paya has asked me a couple of times what the car is doing, and all I can tell him is that it’s tight,” Hoar said. “We lost three or four hours of track time just making adjustments. Our setup and shocks are all based on advice from the guys that Rick has made contact with this year, and [former driver] Freddie Query has been a big help, but our struggles are mostly due to our inexperience. We were really optimistic on Monday and we thought we had a pretty good baseline setup, but the track changes all the time and we just don’t quite know all the adjustments with these cars yet. If these big Super Late Model teams came to Thunder Road to race ACT cars, we’d probably beat them because that’s what we’ve been running for 25 years and we know what we’re doing. Down here it’s the opposite.”

Hoar said his goals for the rest of the week are simple: Figure the car out and qualify on Friday, relax on Saturday, and race the Snowball Derby on Sunday.

“Our focus for Friday is to get a good overall balance and get in the top 30 in time trials,” Hoar said. “I’ll admit that I’m a little nervous.