One of the Midwest’s most accomplished racers will be making his way to Pensacola, Florida this December. 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter has filed an entry for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway.
Sauter will make his way to the historic short track racing event with his own team, a couple buddies and a trio of supporters – Smokey Mountain, Triple K Construction and Deppe Enterprises – that helped make his Snowball Derby debut possible.
“Better late than never, right? I’ve got some people that want to help me out and go do it,” Sauter told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “That’s probably the biggest reason. I have no idea what I’m in for. I’m just going to go down there and have some fun.”
The Snowball Derby will not be Sauter’s first Super Late Model race of the season, as he has competed in a handful of Midwest races including the Oktoberfest race where he visited victory lane. When asked about what keeps him going back to the short track ranks, he responded the same way many racers would.
“That’s the same question my wife asks me all the time,” Sauter joked. “I don’t know; I’m just a racer. I like racing, so why not? I don’t really hunt or fish really very much. I enjoy building cars and working on them just as much as racing them, if you want the truth. It’s just another deal. Me and a couple of buddies from Wisconsin are going to go down and see what we can do.”
Although Sauter will be making his debut at the Snowball Derby, it will not be the first time a member of the Sauter family has competed in the race. Johnny’s brother Tim Sauter finished fifth in the 1997 Snowball Derby and ninth in 1998. Johnny’s father Jim also competed in the race in 1980 and finished 15th.
“I know my Dad went and ran it once or twice. Obviously, my brother Tim came really close to winning it once or twice in the late, late 90s. Other than that, I don’t know anyone in my family who has done it,” Sauter stated. “I don’t know. Obviously, that race is getting more popular. You see a lot of good cars going to that race, so you want to go see where you are and where you shake out.”
Like many of the racers in attendance on Snowball Derby weekend, much of Sauter’s focus will be on Friday’s all-important qualifying. It will be at that point during the weekend when he will find out whether he belongs to be in the Snowball Derby.
“I’ve got news for you. If I can’t qualify in on Friday night, I don’t deserve to be in the race anyways,” Sauter said. “That’s kind of the way I look at it. Like I said, I’ve never been there and never turned a lap there. I did go watch the race in 2009. But, it’s just another race. At the end of the day, it’s a race car and a race track. You’ve got to make it the best you can. That’s what I plan on doing on practice day.”
Despite his impressive resume that includes 15 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victories, three NASCAR XFINITY Series wins and an ASA National Tour championships, a Snowball Derby victory would be a special moment for Sauter.
“Winning any race is hard anymore, so it’d be a big deal. It’s a very prestigious race and doing it the way I’m trying to go about doing it would even make it extra special,” he said. “I don’t know. We’re just going to go down there and give it all we’ve got. It’d be a big win, there’s no doubt about it.”
Sauter will join a strong field of Super Late Model racers who will be chasing the Tom Dawson trophy during the 50th Annual Snowball Derby. A full list of current Snowball Derby entries can be found by visiting Schaeffer’s Snowball Central on Speed51.com.
Tickets for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby can be purchased by calling the Five Flags Speedway office at 850-944-8400.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images