Teams attending the Snowball Derby have to get creative in order to prepare for the biggest race in Super Late Model racing. Dalton Zehr and Gildan Racing have done so just in the past few days, making their Snowball Derby trip a busy one even before the week officially starts.
The Wisconsin-based team has tested at three different tracks in the Southeast already, including one Tuesday before making an appearance on the Snowball Derby Kickoff Show. They stopped off at Montgomery Motor Speedway on the way down to Pensacola, before taking part in open testing at Five Flags Speedway. On Tuesday, Zehr and crew made the trip just over the Alabama line to Sunny South Raceway, a quarter-mile track.
“We were there today with my crew and I worked them hard. We’re three days in on a nine-day trip and they’re wore out. We had some ignition issues,” Zehr said during the Kickoff Show on Tuesday. “Our season ended back in October up in the Midwest and from there, we went to work on this car. There’s a dozen crew guys that came to the shop through the weeks and helped me get this car ready for this weekend.”
Zehr said the extra test sessions at Montgomery and Sunny South were important for the team to be ready come Thursday’s practice day. The team scrambled over the past couple days to diagnose the issue, which was finally solved Tuesday afternoon.
“We went to the track and when we worked it up it would die after ten laps. We’d come in and change ignition boxes, the standard actions you go through. It just kept repeating and repeating. Today, we rewired the car entirely and it worked. We’re ready now, we wouldn’t be if we didn’t go to those tracks and test.”
Tuesday’s session didn’t come without a close call. Zehr spun out the No.119 in turn one during the day following the direction of car owner and fellow Wisconsin racer John Beale.
“My car owner (John Beale) said he wanted to hear the chip. This is a small track, so I legged into it. Eventually I lost control of the car. I hit the chip four times and lost it going into turn one.”
With the test sessions and the ignition issue out of the way, Zehr is now focused on making the Snowball Derby field for the second year in a row. The Florida-born driver finished 11th in his debut one year ago.
Now packed with experience at the event, Sunday’s race is currently the last thing on his mind.
“We all know how hard this race is to make, so that’s our first priority as a team. After we get in the show, anything can happen. Travis Braden was one position behind me and won the Snowball Derby. Our goal is to just put it in the show, and after that hopefully this year we have a little more speed and that will make us more relevant.”
Race fans unable to attend this year’s Snowball Derby on December 2-6 at Five Flags Speedway will be able to watch live on Speed51.TV.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Gildan Racing/Beale Racing