Story By: CHUCK CORDER / 5 FLAGS SPEEDWAY – PENSACOLA, FL – On a night when on-track suspense hovered above Five Flags Speedway higher than the drone the circled the famed half-mile asphalt oval, Augie Grill broke the tension and added another chapter to his storied legacy at short-track racing’s prestigious week.
In recent years, the Hayden, Ala., native was more businessman than driver, as his Grand American Race Cars company became one of the most popular chassis builders of Late Models and other short-track cars.
But Grill rekindled his passion for racing this season and it spilled into an historic night during the second day of racing at the 52nd annual Snowball Derby.
Grill became the most decorated driver in Derby history Friday at Five Flags when for the third year in a row he won the 75-lap Modifieds of Mayhem Derby, the season finale for the open-wheel series that stops at some of the southeast’s most popular short-racks.
He now owns eight Derby titles. He added his third consecutive Mods Derby crown to his three Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 titles and two Snowball Derby titles.
“It feels pretty neat,” Grill said. “That was a fun race.”
He’ll go for his third career Derby championship Sunday afternoon at the 52nd annual Snowball Derby. Grill qualified 21st while California driver Derek Thorn will sit on the pole (16.277) for Sunday’s big race that drops the green flag at approximately 2 p.m.
Grill led three times on Friday, the last for the final 30 laps after he passed fast qualifier Cody Stickler.
Stickler, whose qualifying lap of 17.314 seconds was less than a half-second off the track record, took the lead from Grill on Lap 58 but settled for runner-up honors. Bruce Bennett Jr. rounded out the podium.
“I saved it at the beginning, trying to have something at the end,” Stickler said. “We finished second to (Grill), so that ain’t that bad. It’s a good way to end the season.”
Perhaps, Grill’s biggest challenger of the night was once again Kevin Purvis. The two battled door-to-door in this same race last season with a similar result, Grill going on to win and beat Purvis.
On Friday, Purvis muscled his way around Grill on Lap 57 and appeared, for a few seconds at least, to have slayed the iconic racer a year after Grill had nudged our Purvis for the crown. But three laps later, the Ohio driver’s No. 13 was up in smoke and Grill reclaimed the lead.
“I wish we could’ve raced the 13 (Purvis) more,” Grill said. “I’m not entirely sure what happened to him.”
While there were a handful of cautions, nothing was as scary as the eight-car crash that occurred between Turn Nos. 1 and 2 with less than 10 laps remaining. Eight cars were collected in the “big one” after Zachary Knowles and Brandon Bendele made contact and the rest of the field failed to avoid them.