While 2018 ARCA Midwest Tour champion Dalton Zehr took a step back from Midwest Tour competition this year, the racing season hasn’t gotten any less busy for him. A partnership with John Beale has allowed him to take part in new races, and the trend will continue next weekend when he makes his first appearance in the Snowball Derby.
While Zehr grew up and began his racing career in the Sunshine State, it will be his first time at the biggest Super Late Model race in the country. In fact, he has only competed at Five Flags Speedway once in 2005, an 11th place finish in 2006.
“I’ve actually never been to it. I went there in the ASA Southern Division when I was 14 and flopped around, didn’t do so great, but otherwise I’ve never been to the track,” Zehr told Speed51.com.
Similar to several drivers, the new controlled caution format played a big role into the team’s decision to attend the Snowball Derby. The chance to compete with the best drivers in the country has Zehr excited for the opportunity.
“Since they changed the race procedure where you don’t need to hire a crew to come, it became a race that I could afford to go to and I’m excited. I’m looking forward to getting down there and getting some good notes and I’m looking forward to doing it again,” he said. “We’re wanting to learn as much as possible this go-around. I realize this is the big race, we’ve got a ton on great drivers with a lot of experience at the track, so our goal is to be up to speed and build from there.”
Having spent recent years competing exclusively in the upper Midwest, Zehr has ventured to Toledo Speedway and Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville to make his first career starts at each track. However, he feels like Five Flags Speedway presents a unique twist he is unaccustomed to.
“I think the most unique quality of Pensacola is the drop off, you crank such a fast lap and then ten laps later you’re a second slower. I feel like that’s where the most unique portion of this race is going to be, is that it’s two different cars,” he stated. “It’s one car that’s capable of that speed, then there’s the other car that’s got a little bit of long run built into it, where you can have some speed 30 laps into the run. I think that’s the biggest unique part about it. Most of the tracks up here don’t have that, I’d say that none of the tracks have that kind of drop off.”
Zehr and the Beale Racing team will have just one thing in mind leading up to the intense qualifying session the Snowball Derby provides. With that, he says one thing has to happen before they begin to worry about making the field.
“It’s overall speed, everybody’s going to be practicing qualifying, until it’s time to qualify it’s going to be all about making the show. I have to learn the track and get some good qualifying speed in the car first thing, that’s all we’ve got to worry about,” he said. “I won’t be working on qualifying right away, I’ll have to first learn where to be and what the setup should be, and from there we can work on qualifying. That’s everything, then after that we’ll worry about the race.”
Once the green flag waves on Sunday afternoon, anything can happen in the 300-laps. With qualifying into the race on time as his primary goal, he’s hoping for a little luck for a good run.
“First thing is to qualify in, I don’t want to have to race in. I feel like we’re capable of doing it, I know we are, it’s just we hope there’s no rain. If practice starts raining, then well now we’re in trouble because I don’t have much experience there, almost none,” he said. “No rain, then from there once you’re in the show it’s an anything can happen kind of race. Anything can happen in the race. That’s our main goal, qualify into the race and from there, every race I go to I want to be in tech at the end of the night. It would be just surviving to get to that point.”
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 Koty Geyer, Speed51 State Editor (IN/MI) - Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com