Super Late Model ace Jesse Dutilly has been winning races and championships across the state of Florida for more than a decade. At one point, it could be said that if he pulled into Auburndale Speedway, DeSoto Speedway, or 4-17 Southern Speedway everyone else was racing for second.
But that all changed in 2018, when Dutilly decided to take his talents to Five Flags Speedway. It took two years, but that decision finally paid off when he won the Blizzard Series Finale on September 21. Now, he’s rolling into his second Snowball Derby appearance with momentum on his side.
“I think we have a good opportunity to make some noise,” Dutilly told Speed51. “Going into the Derby last year we learned a lot toward how the race goes. We won the last Blizzard race so we’re pretty high up on momentum with that. But the Snowball Derby is an entirely different race and I think it’s going to take a different strategy going into that event.”
While the strategies will change, Dutilly is more confident this go around with the addition of controlled cautions.
“I’m happy with the pit stop situation and I think that helps teams like ours be more on a level playing field during the race,” Dutilly told Speed51. “The ball is in our court to not screw that up.
“It definitely is one of the main reasons why we came back,” he continued. “The live pit stops are definitely exciting but it's hard for a team that’s not doing it all year to be on the level with the more professional type teams, and I feel like you’re at a real disadvantage there whether you think so or not. When you’re not on an equal playing field there you’re always trying to make up for lost time. I say controlled cautions probably put control a lot more in the team’s hands, especially with where your adjustments are going to be at the end of the day.”
With more control in his hands, Dutilly’s focus turns towards finishing all 300 laps after finishing two laps down in 15th last year in his Derby debut.
“You definitely got to keep yourself out of trouble,” he stated. “It’s more of an endurance type race for the car and yourself. I was surprised last year, the race actually went by pretty quick. The last blizzard race was 150 laps long with a six-tire event. At the Snowball you’re putting tires on all the time, so the race pace was a lot different than I thought it would be. Even though the race is long you’re constantly coming in and putting fresh rubber on. So it kind of changes the dynamics there a little bit.
“But definitely you have to try to keep the car in one piece,” Dutilly continued. “That’s key. We’ve gone through the entire car to try to have all our ducks in a row with that and make sure we’re on top of everything in a mechanical nature, so we don’t have any issues with a longer event. I’m trying to get that finished up this week. Hopefully by Friday I’ll have the car done. But we’re definitely excited to get over there. I’ve been waiting for this race all year and I feel like with the right opportunities we could get a good finish.”
For the guy who’s won it all in the State of Florida, the chance to win the Derby means everything.
“Well, that would trump everything. It would be, I guess a lifetime racing goal to put that feather in our cap. I really don’t think there would be anything else you can do after that, that would really surpass winning a race like that. So, I mean, I guess you could just throw away all the other trophies after winning that one.”
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 Allick Jorgensen, Speed51 National Correspondent, Twitter: @AJorgensen24
- Photo Credit: Speed51Photos.com