It’s not very often you hear about a driver traveling north to Five Flags Speedway. Central Florida standout Jesse Dutilly did just that one year ago, bursting onto the scene in the Blizzard Series and proving he can compete against some of the southeast’s best. Once again in 2019, he plans on competing at the Pensacola, Florida speed plant, chasing after the series championship and earning one of only two automatic starting positions in the Snowball Derby.
Dutilly made his first start at Five Flags Speedway in July 2017, finishing 16th and falling out of the race eleven laps short of the finish. He ran the full series last year, with a best finish of fourth in the third and fourth races of the season on his way to an third place finish in the standings. After a 15th place showing in the Snowball Derby week last December, he is excited to make the trek north and see what his team can do in their second year of full-time Blizzard Series competition.
“Pensacola is an awesome place to go race and we’ve had some good speed there toward the end of the year and learned a ton by going there,” Dutilly told Speed51.com. “Honestly, I’ve been excited to go there all year. Hopefully we have some good luck on our side and we can have a good finish.
“Well, you’re never ready but I feel like we’re getting all our ducks in a row to put our best foot forward,” Dutilly added. “The car’s pretty much ready, just waiting for stickers and a couple final things and going to go shake it down and make sure we got all our bugs worked out and we’re ready to go.”
Dutilly has picked up numerous wins in Central Florida in the decade, but never ventured outside the region on a regular basis until 2017 when he made two starts in the Blizzard Series. After seven starts at Five Flags Speedway, which includes last year’s Snowball Derby, he says the style of racing between the fast half-mile located in the Florida Panhandle and the short bullrings of Central Florida differs in many ways.
“It’s a different kind of racing,” he admitted. “Obviously the competition is very, very good. We have some good competition around here as well but it’s a different style of Late Model racing and you can’t really explain it until you do it. Definitely excited for the opportunity to go do it. You get to race with a lot of high-quality people and hopefully we can be a little bit better than they are and put it on the front straightaway.”
The Blizzard Series has been dominated by Bubba Pollard and Casey Roderick in recent years. Dutilly is aware of the challenge it is to win in the series, but believes his team is capable of beating the giants after his performance in his first full season in the Blizzard Series.
“I think if we have a very successful weekend on our end, we’re very capable of running with the people that run there well,” he stated. “It’s definitely not out of our cards, I feel like we have the car and the people, we just got to put it all together. That takes a lot of effort team-wide and we’re trying very hard and looking forward to the challenge.”
This year’s Blizzard Series races will determine if Dutilly will make another attempt at the Snowball Derby come December. While his team is undecided as of now if they will make the trip north for the biggest Super Late Model race in the country, he admits the new pit stop rules is making it harder not to attend.
“If we can run good in the Blizzard races, it always fares well to try to figure out ways to get to the Snowball Derby,” he said. “Being that they changed the pit stop rules this year, it’s definitely a lot more attractive for a team like ourselves to show up. I think it really depends on how our year goes. If we’re hitting on all cylinders, it’s definitely in the cards.”
Race fans can watch Friday’s Blizzard Series season opener on Speed51’s pay-per-view broadcast of the race for $14.99. Click here to order your video ticket today.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo