The Night of Champions at Five Flags Speedway will not only sort out the top dogs in the Deep South Cranes Blizzard Series and Allen Turner Hyundai Pro Late Models, it is one last opportunity for teams on the Road to the Snowball Derby to be able to test themselves at the Pensacola, FL half-mile under actual racing conditions. This produces some of the biggest fields outside of Derby week in December.
One driver who has gotten used to making the long flight south the past three years for the Snowball Derby is Canadian Cole Butcher of Nova Scotia. Twice a champion of the Parts for Trucks Maritime Pro Stock Tour, Butcher has become a familiar face down South in the colder months. This weekend, that’s about to change, as the Kulwicki Driver Development Program alum, heads to Five Flags earlier than usual.
“It’s going to be different, I looked at the weather, and it’s going to be hot compared to what I’m used to. I was in North Carolina on Monday and I thought it was hot then, but it's got nothing on the weather in Pensacola,” Butcher told Speed51.
Running a selection of races in both the Canadian Maritimes and across the U.S. in 2019, Butcher returned home last weekend to Nova Scotia, and now enters this coming weekend with one more trophy to his collection.
“I was able to capture the last race of the year at Riverside Speedway. It was a little bit of a rough race, but it was entertaining, and that’s what our sport’s about. I had struggled at Riverside for about six years, but I was able to get two victories this year, so that was pretty special. Especially it being their 50th anniversary.”
Along with momentum, Butcher has familiarity with his No. 53 team under the care of owner/driver Donnie Wilson.
“We have the same team as last year, I have Donnie’s crew chief Troy Smith, and we get along really well. He’s a become a good friend, so we’ve gained a relationship over the last three or four years. With everyone else, it will be an entertaining weekend regardless of the outcome.”
Despite the complaint of not having won yet at Five Flags, Butcher feels that it is a track that seems to fit his driving style. At the same time, there’s always something new to learn, something he anticipates this weekend with the hot weather conditions expected.
“We’re not winning, but I guess we’re always there. It’s a driver’s track, you have to be consistent, and hard on yourself to make sure you run every lap the right way. If you’re off, you lose so much time. It’s different than any other racetrack I guess, especially what I’m used to. Some people like it, some people don’t. I guess we do. I don’t know if I’ll like it this weekend because it’s going to be ten times hotter than it will be for Derby week.”
While Butcher would be happy with just going down for a straight up test, there’s nothing quite like an actual racing weekend, to whip a team into shape.
“We could get ready for Derby week just with the Friday practice this week. We’ll get lots of track time and come Saturday we get two rounds of practice and qualifying. So, it’s good to get back in the rhythm of qualifying because I’m used to doing heat races, so it’s good to get back in the roll of things.”
Preparation for the Snowball Derby is a major priority, but going for all the marbles in Saturday’s 150-lap Super Late Model contest is just as important for when it comes time to go for the Tom Dawson trophy on December 8.
“Winning is part of the whole deal, if you win, you got a pretty good shot at the Derby. But, we’re just looking to get used to these new Rowdy cars, and work on our package. That’s what I’m focused on. We got to beat Bubba Polard, Casey Roderick, Connor Okrezsik and a lot of guys that have a lot more laps there than I do. It’s there neck of the woods, so we got to be ready to beat them there.”
Race fans from Florida to Nova Scotia and everywhere else can see Saturday’s Super Late Model/Pro Late Model doubleheader live on Speed51’s pay-per-view broadcast. Click here for more info.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51