Auto Racing: Pro Trucks, Pure Stocks and Sportsmen kick off Snowball Derby Thursday at 5 Flags

The calendar will soon flip to December. The haulers have been parked. Vendors selling funnel cakes, Honey Bun cheeseburgers, T-shirts, headsets and other merchandise are in their spots, too.

All signs point to one of Pensacola’s most popular annual events: The Snowball Derby. The 56th edition of short-track racing’s most prestigious week gets officially underway tonight at Five Flags Speedway on Pine Forest Road.

Derek Thorn celebrates after winning the 55th annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway Sunday, December 4, 2022.
Derek Thorn celebrates after winning the 55th annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway Sunday, December 4, 2022.

Racing begins at 8 p.m. today with three local classes competing for Derby titles. Festivities, however, begin at 10 this morning when Super and Pro Late Model cars begin practice and dialing in their machines for glory ahead of this weekend. The Pros will compete in the Snowflake 100 on Saturday while the Supers put a bow on this highly anticipated week with the 300-lap Derby, short-track’s crown jewel, Sunday afternoon.

First up, though, will be the Pro Trucks, Sportsmen and Pure Stocks vying for their shots at immortality and checkered flags tonight.

Last year's race: Derek Thorn can't be touched, wins 55th Snowball Derby in record performance

2021 Snowball: Chandler Smith wins 54th Annual Snowball Derby

“All you can do is think of it as a regular race,” said 17-year-old Maddox Langham, who won the Sportsmen track championship in the regular season. “You can’t go into it thinking you’re going to win. I feel like there’s no self-drive in that. Something in the back of your head has to push you. I hope I can win the Derby. I feel like I can win the Derby. It’d be great to pull it off.”

Jeremy Doss plays no favorites when checkereds are on the line. Not even for dear ol’ dad.

The two have gone toe-to-toe a few times while racing Legends cars back home in California.

“I’ve been through those situations with him where I had to move him late in the race to earn the win,” Jeremy Doss said of his father, Mike. “I’ll definitely hesitate if the opportunity presents itself again because he didn’t like that.”

Thankfully, the 27-year-old SLM driver won’t have any of those concerns at the Derby. The Doss Family will be fully aligned in their pursuit of the Tom Dawson Trophy on Sunday.

Doss is looking to become the second straight California driver to capture the Derby after Derek Thorn’s historic win last December.

“(Five Flags) is one of the toughest places I’ve ever been to,” said Doss, whose home is some 2,500 miles from Pensacola. “It can throw you for a loop because it’s not the same each time. There are so many characteristics to it, and it can be weather sensitive.

“We’ll have the same gameplan as normal,” Doss said. “We’ll go out and do our best and hopefully come home with a win.”

The Upper Lake, Calif., native has struggled in six previous Derby starts. Historically, Doss hasn’t qualified well, which, in turn, has led to disappointing finishes. His best fast time was his first Derby in 2017 when he qualified fifth en route to a 13th-place finish. Since then, it has been a grind with no top-10 finishes to his name and only one starting spot inside the top-10.

Doss finally broke through at the famed half-mile asphalt oval in 2023. He got his first career victory at Pensacola’s high banks earlier this summer. And Doss’ consistency all season—three total top-five finishes in four races—earned him the Blizzard Series track championship at Five Flags.

“We got more comfortable at (Five Flags),” Doss said. “It has been a real confidence boost for us this year. We’re going in the right direction. The nice thing about racing there is every time you go, you’re running against guys that you will see at the Derby.”

He also earned one heck of a bonus that has made this week much easier than previous December trips. For posting the best average finish between two SLM races during the PepperJack Kennels Twin Blizzards, Doss and his team were rewarded with a Derby prize package valued at $7,000.

“It’s really special,” Doss said. “It was our first time running the whole series. It’s cool to be on top against the best racecar drivers in the world. Plus, locking down that prize has made December stress free.”

Snowball Schedule


8 a.m. – Pits Open10 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Snowball Derby & Snowflake Practice  5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. – Truck, Sportsmen & Pure Stock Practice6:45 p.m. – Truck, Sportsmen & Pure Stock Qualifying8 p.m. – ZOOM Pro Truck 50, Dock of Pensacola Beach Sportsmen 50, Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stock 35


8 a.m. – Pits Open

10 to 10:45 a.m. – Snowball Derby Practice

10:45 to 11:30 a.m. – Snowflake Practice

11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Modifieds Practice

1 p.m. – Snowball Derby Practice

2 p.m. – Snowflake Practice

3 p.m. – Modifieds Qualifying

6 p.m. – 56th annual Snowball Derby Qualifying

8 p.m. – Crown Stock Practice, Group Qualifying

8:15 p.m. – Modifieds of Mayhem 75, Story & Bleich Crown Stock Invitational 25


8 a.m. – Pits Open

10 to 11 a.m. – Snowflake Practice11 to 11:45 a.m. – Outlaw Practice  11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. – Snowball Derby Practice1:30 p.m. – Outlaw Qualifying

2 p.m. – Snowflake 100 Qualifying, Snowflake Last Chance (50 Laps), Snowball Derby Last Chance (50 Laps), Outlaws B-Main (if necessary)

7 p.m. – Allen Turner Snowflake 100, Faith Chapel Outlaw 50


8 a.m. – Pits Open10 a.m. – Worship ServiceNoon – Engine Warmups /Cars to grid, pre-race festivities, 2023 Derby class photo, driver intros1 p.m. – Snowball Derby (300 Laps)

Chuck Corder is a freelance contributor for the Pensacola News Journal. For race recaps from Night 1 of the 56th annual Snowball Derby on Thursday, please visit

This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: 56th Snowball Derby gets underway Thursday at Five Flags Speedway