“If at first you don’t succeed, try again.” That’s how that saying goes, right? John DeAngelis lives by that statement. He’s tried and failed to make the Snowball Derby twice. But he isn’t giving up yet. The Wisconsin native is headed back south to Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida hoping the third time is the charm during the 51st Annual Snowball Derby.
DeAngelis has made two attempts at the nation's biggest asphalt Super Late Model race. Once in 2015, and again last year. In 2015, DeAngelis qualified 56th of the 60 cars that took time. In 2017, he was much closer as he qualified 39th overall in a backup car.
“The first year wasn’t a good attempt at all,” DeAngelis said. “It was problem after problem after problem. Last year we blew up our primary car in practice and had to go to a backup car. It just took us a little bit longer to get a handle on it than we thought. Over the winter we rebuilt our equipment and had a lot more success so we figured we’d go back down.”
“We built a brand new Fury car in the last two months. Fury is a well-known name, so I think we’ll have a good shot at making it in and moving through the field over the 300 laps,” DeAngelis stated.
“We actually bought it through Chris (Wimmer, Harrison Burton’s crew chief) when he moved back to Wisconsin. He’s only two hours away from us, which is awesome. Chris has been giving us some pointers. We tested last week to shake down the car at Wisconsin International Raceway. The car was good right out of the box. We’re hoping it’s the same way for the Derby. I think with Chris being able to lend us a hand I think we’ll be pretty good.”
In DeAngelis’ mind, the reason why qualifying is so difficult for the Snowball Derby is because many of the drivers attempting to make the race have turned a lot of laps on the old pavement at Five Flags. To help with that, DeAngelis and his team ran the final Blizzard Series race of the year at Five Flags back in September.
“Honestly, we were just trying to get some laps down there," he said. "We practiced really well both days. We were in front of some pretty good heavy hitters. Unfortunately, one of our qualifying tires shrunk so we went in the pits and made an adjustment and right after we came back out we got caught up in a wreck. The finish wasn’t where we wanted it to be, but we showed some good speed and surprised a few people. There was a lot of good cars in that last Blizzard race. We practiced fourth and fifth. Obviously it didn’t show in the race, but that felt pretty good.”
If the third time is indeed the charm for DeAngelis and he does make the race this year, calling it a big moment would be an understatement.
“It’ll feel like a win, but a win isn’t a win until you cross under the checkered flag. But it’ll be a pretty big accomplishment. We’re not like the Bubba Pollards that can go out and win any race. We’re still learning these Super Late Models as a whole.”
Once you’re in the race, anything can happen over the course of 300 difficult laps of racing on Sunday, December 2. If you’re around at the end, you have a chance to win. If DeAngelis can pull off the underdog story of the century, the celebration would be big. But, DeAngelis made it clear that that has been far from the front of his mind.
“Honestly, I’m not sure,” he said when asked how big the win would be for him. “I don’t know what I would do, but it would be awesome.”
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.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Associate Editor - Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Mojo Photos