You have to be fast to win multiple races in both Super Late Models and Pro Late Models during a given year, and even faster to win a Super Late Model championship in five straight seasons. Ask Matt Craig about his upcoming trip to Five Flags Speedway for the 53rd Annual Snowball Derby, and the North Carolina native is all about patience.
Craig will be making his second trip to the Snowball Derby, after qualifying seventh and finishing 19th in his debut one year ago. If there’s one thing Craig learned from the experience, it is remaining calm and patient during the ups and downs of a busy week at the Pensacola half-mile.
“Last year, it was tough going for the first time,” Craig told Speed51. “You see yourself 30th or 25th on the speed chart and you start panicking and throwing things at the car. It’s about staying calm. The track changes throughout the week.
“If you’re making race runs and other guys are qualifying, you find yourself 30th on the speed chart pretty quickly when you’re really not that bad. You just have to stay calm, take your time. Patience is the biggest thing I’ve learned in the past year or so.”
This year, Craig will be competing in both the Snowball Derby as well as the Snowflake 100 after getting back involved in Pro Late Model racing during 2020. Craig picked up a pair of Allen Turner Pro Late Model Series wins at Five Flags Speedway this year, as well as a big win in the Masters of the Pros at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
Those Pro Late Model wins not only give him confidence entering the Snowflake 100, but also helped him learn more about attacking Five Flags Speedway in his Super Late Model as well.
“We haven’t run a lot of Pro races, but we were able to win three of the four Pro races we ran this year, so that gives us a lot of confidence. Winning a couple of races in the Pro car at Five Flags really gave me a lot more confidence at the track itself.”
He was no slouch in the Super Late Model, either, winning the CARS Tour championship with three wins in that series. That title continues his streak of championship seasons in the southeast, with back-to-back CARS Tour titles after winning the PASS South Super Late Model crowns in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
While Craig has been fast in both cars throughout the year, Derby week will prove a stiff test, as he competes against the best of the best in both worlds throughout the first week in December.
“It’s hard to do that with a regular race, running both. You practice one and hop in the other. You have to remember how each car was handling when you get a break to talk about it. It’s going to be intense.
However, he knows that a few doses of patience will be the key to tackling whatever the week throws his way, regardless of which car he is driving at the time.
“Derby week is pretty jam-packed and busy already, so it will be extra busy. You just have to be calm, take your time and not rush through things. You just really have to understand what’s going on with both cars.”
Race fans will be able to watch this year’s 53rd Annual Snowball Derby live on Speed51.TV. More information about the broadcast will be announced soon.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo