According to DJ VanderLey, Pole Day for the Snowball Derby is the most stressful night in all of short track racing.

And really, once you start to break it down, it’s hard to argue with his logic. Approaching Friday morning, 62 drivers will still have the opportunity to work their way into the Super Bowl of Short Track Racing. But following time trials (7:00 p.m. ET, 51TV), only 30 of those 62 will have qualified into the main event, with three other drivers receiving provisionals.

That leaves 29 drivers left racing for four spots on Saturday night in the typically chaotic Last Chance Race, where bumpers are used liberally and tempers are guaranteed to flare.

It’s a position that no one wants to find themselves in on Saturday so qualifying into the race on speed is vital.

READ MORE: Snowball Derby Qualifying Explained

“Qualifying for The Derby is always a stressful experience,” VanderLey said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Kyle Busch or a guy that has never been here before. The year we finished second, we were just hoping to make the show and qualified fifth.

“Then the next year we felt very confident and qualified 24th — and were only a tenth or two off fifth. The field is extremely tight so it’s definitely the most stressful night in short track racing.”

Snowball Derby Pole Day has always had a way of humbling some of the most successful short track drivers in the industry. Two years after finishing second to Chase Elliott in the Derby, he wasn’t even able to put his Ford Super Late Model into the show.

Head technical inspector Ricky Brooks uses a rule book that keeps his field close together and teams will have spent Thursday and Friday looking for every edge they can get.

In 2007, Kyle Busch and Steven Wallace both appeared to have qualified into The Derby but were disqualified by Brooks for various infractions. Busch failed to meet the minimum ride height requirement, while Wallace was caught sneaking sockets into his pockets to meet the minimum weight requirements.

That goes to show you just how far teams will go to avoid risking a date with the Last Chance Race.

While Midwestern Late Model contender Chad Finley has made the cut in each of his two appearances, he admits that there is a subtle nervousness in the back of his mind. After all, even good cars qualify outside of the top-30 when speeds are as close as they are expected to be on Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.

Consider that last year, the entire field qualified inside of 16 seconds around the storied Florida half-mile. More specifically, all 62 entries were within a quarter of a second within each other. The bubble positions of 20th-40th were all within a tenth of each other.

That’s a bobble in the corner or a poor entry on a single turn.

“I think anyone going to The Derby is always a little nervous for qualifying,” Finley said. “That’s just the nature of Pensacola. There are so many variables you can’t control from where you pull in the draw to the weather, like the dew point and humidity.

“Our goal is to always qualify in the top-10 so you don’t have to worry about it. The field is so close and a half of tenth is usually four-to-five spots. You just sleep better on Friday night when you know you’re locked into the Snowball Derby.”

Even defending event runner-up Dalton Sargeant says avoiding the Last Chance Race is a goal entering Race Week, especially after he qualified 25th in 2014. Even good cars aren’t impervious to the risk.

“I’m not worried about it, personally, but it’s something you’re aware of,” Sargeant said. “I mean, look at Johnny VanDoorn last year. He practiced right there within the same bracket as the leaders and qualified 45th.

“And what’s scary is that he was only a tenth out of 30th. That’s how close we are.”

Stressful, indeed.