From the time Spencer Davis began driving Late Models, the racing season has ended in the same place each year: Pensacola, Florida’s Five Flags Speedway. Even though he only turns 20 this coming Thursday, the Dawsonville, Georgia driver has more Snowball Derby and Snowflake 100 appearances than some drivers twice his age.
All that track time and familiarity has molded Davis into what may be considered as a veteran driver at the Derby.
Even with Davis not running a race at Five Flags since last year’s Derby, he is not concerned in the slightest, as he has experience to guide him through the week during the 51st Annual Snowball Derby.
“Every year now for the past couple of years I’ve just gone down to Pensacola just for the Derby and that week is different than the rest of the year,” Davis told Speed51.com. “In my eyes, unless you’re trying to learn the track for the first time, you don’t need to go down there throughout the year just to prepare for the Snowball. I don’t need time to adjust, it’s like riding a bicycle.”
The often-difficult task of hopping back and forth between Super Late Model and Pro Late Model is no longer a challenge for Davis. In fact, he has come to use the practice as a valuable way to gain vital information in as short a possible time.
“When I started racing Supers I was still running in the Pros, so almost every time I’d run I was going in between the two cars. Especially at big events, like the Derby. It’s more track time, if one car is not running as well as the other one, you can gather notes from the good car. It’s always a plus for me to have two cars.”
One year ago, Davis was one spot away from a victory in the Snowflake 100 with his Pro Late Model after charging from mid-pack to second in the late laps, but ran out of time and tires to challenge eventual winner Bubba Pollard.
Davis returns to the Gulf Coast with the same car, which hasn’t been raced since last year’s Snowflake. The main goal in Thursday and Friday’s practice session is to find some qualifying speed without sacrificing longevity on the race setup; a difficult balance to find given the impoundment of all cars between qualifying and feature racing on Snowflake Saturday.
“We’re taking the exact same car back for the Snowflake this year. The last time this car ran was the Snowflake, so this will be the second race on our Snowflake car. We’re going to work a little bit harder on qualifying this year. I know we can make it in solid,” Davis explained.
“Last year we started 16th and finished second, so if we can qualify pretty well, top five or even top ten, we’ll have a better shot than last year when I had to use my car up a little bit to get to second. We have a great car for the race, it’s just about getting a little bit more qualifying speed without hurting the race runs speed.”
On the other side of the coin is the Snowball Derby, where a whole day of practice lies between Friday qualifying and Sunday race day. While the pressure is usually on for most teams to find the right qualifying setup just to make the top 30, Davis has risen to the challenge the past three years, qualifying ninth, third and 11th.
This year, he wants to make a statement in qualifying to set the tone going into the race.
“Thursday and Friday to me is all about being fast for two laps because it’s so hard to make the Derby, three-tenths of a second is the difference between first and 60th. So, you got to be on your a-game when you go to qualify. It’s going to be tough, but we usually fair well. We’ve made it every year since we’ve been running down there, and we’re usually in or around the top ten in qualifying. So, we’re trying to look for a pole. We’ve come close in our family stuff before.”
Snowball Derby Sunday on the other hand has proved to be a challenge for Davis in the past, but he feels he is well aware of what the objectives are in order to win the race. Regardless of what approach you take to the race, one underlying theme is the same: you must perform at peak performance all week long if you want even a shot at the Tom Dawson Trophy.
“Come race time, it’s a totally different thing. You’ve got to be able to just be there at the end. Qualifying is the first hard task, the second is lasting to be there at the end of 300 laps, like any other long race. I’ve finished all the laps in one the Derby’s I’ve run, the others I’ve had some issues. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. You could start in the back, but if you got a car that can stay on the lead lap, you can win the Snowball Derby.”
Race fans unable to attend the 51st Annual Snowball Derby in person will be able to watch a pay-per-view broadcast all week long on Speed51.com. Five-day video tickets can be purchased now for $74.99 ($35 savings) to watch all of the action. Click here to purchase your video ticket today.
The 51st Annual Snowball Derby will take place on Wednesday, November 28 through Sunday, December 2 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL. For more information regarding the event, visit Snowball Central presented by Schaeffer’s Specialized Lubricants.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com