The last two years, Jeff Choquette has been within arm’s reach of the Tom Dawson Trophy, finishing second and third in the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL). Despite a limited schedule in 2019, the West Palm Beach, Florida native is eager to return to the Pensacola half-mile.
As part of a scaled-back schedule this season, Choquette did not run any of the Deep South Crane Blizzard Series events at Five Flags. However, he has seen many highs and lows at the track over his racing career.
Most recently, Choquette has enjoyed strong runs in the biggest race for Super Late Models. Choquette has led 130 laps over the past two years in the race, with a pair of podium finishes in those races. There have also been the heartbreaks, such as crashing while battling for the lead with Bubba Pollard in 2011 and missing the race entirely in 2008.
Those experiences create some butterflies in the stomach every year. Choquette approaches the event like two separate races, starting with the race against the clock to make the field and avoid a repeat of 2008.
“You get nervous going there, hoping to make the race,” Choquette told Speed51. “There are two races within the Snowball Derby. There’s qualifying. You’ve got to make the show. Then there’s Sunday.
“We’ve missed the show before, so our number one goal is getting in. Then, Saturday, we can work on the race run and get ready for Sunday as long as we’re sitting good Friday night.”
Some might see Choquette’s lack of seat time as a setback entering the Snowball Derby. However, he is plenty confident in his team’s ability. Choquette won the Clyde Hart Memorial and the Hart to Heart 100 at New Smyrna Speedway (FL), and Jett Motorsports teammate Stephen Nasse won the Winchester 400 at Winchester Speedway and the Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway (FL).
“If we went over to Pensacola and ran all the races this year and didn’t run well, it would definitely play a factor and give us less confidence going in. The guys have been doing a lot of racing this year. The three or four races I’ve been with them, we’ve had really good cars every weekend. Stephen Nasse has been doing well and Jett Noland is getting better. From that side of things, we have a lot of confidence.”
A big change for this year’s race is the lack of live pit stops, moving to a controlled caution format. While Choquette and his Jett Motorsports team employed a NASCAR Cup Series team for live pit stops. With that factor off the table, Choquette expects a fast car to matter a lot more for 2019.
“The last two years we had the 88 Cup crew [of Hendrick Motorsports]. That played a huge factor into who won the races the last few years. This year, I think you’re going to see a different group of cars up front. Naturally, the best car is going to win the race. I think it helps out the pocketbook with what they’re doing, and I think it will play a big role in it.”
Now, it is time to go after Super Late Model racing’s holy grail, the Snowball Derby.
“This is what everybody prepares for. Everybody goes down and runs all the Blizzard races or practices. The amount of effort everyone puts into the race speaks volumes on that end. For our Super Late Model world, which my racing career will never go higher than, this is our Daytona 500, our Super Bowl. This is the one everyone goes after.”
Race fans looking to make the pilgrimage to Pensacola for the Snowball Derby can order tickets for the event now at 5flagsspeedway.com.
For fans unable to make the trip, they can tune in to Speed51’s pay-per-view broadcast of the event. Now is the perfect time to order your video ticket and take advantage of early-bird savings.
To order your early bird Snowball Derby four-day video package today, click here and use discount code “snowbird.” Individual video tickets are available for each day of racing; however, a four-day early bird video ticket offers a total savings of $38.
Individual video tickets can be purchased now at the regular price by clicking here.
For more information on the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby, visit Speed51’s Snowball Central.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 photo