The average age of Snowball Derby winners over the last seven years is just over 19 years old. Throw away 32-year-old Kyle Busch’s win one year ago and the average age drop to just 17 years old. At the age of 49 years old, Boris Jurkovic is hoping to flip the script and win one for “the old guys” during the 51st Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway.
“I’m tired of all these young kids winning all the races down there, so it’s about time some old guys started winning again,” Jurkovic told Speed51.com. “I’m old now. I used to be younger. I used to be a gunslinger. Now I’m just an old dope.”
Jurkovic of Monee, Illinois will make the trip south to Pensacola, Florida for the sixth time in his career. Thus far, he’s seen mixed results in his five previous trips. He recorded a career-best finish of seventh in 2011 but failed to qualify for the race in 2015. One year ago, he turned in a solid 14th-place performance after skipping the race in 2016.
Dating back to his first Snowball Derby attempt in 2005, Jurkovic has been one of the drivers who has witnessed the race evolve. Since his first trip to Five Flags Speedway 13 years ago, he believes there has been one major change from a competition standpoint.
“I’ve seen the field get tighter,” Jurkovic explained. “The competition, I don’t know if it’s better, but it’s tighter. The times have tightened up and it makes it hard.”
With the competition getting tighter, the intensity of qualifying has risen. Nowadays, a tenth of a second can be the difference between qualifying for the Snowball Derby and starting mid-pack in one of the dreaded last chance qualifiers.
In his four previous Snowball Derby starts, Jurkovic has an average starting spot of 28.5. That’s something he will be focused on improving this around.
“That’s the toughest part: Friday,” Jurkovic said. “I’m going to go in there and I’m going to start working on my qualifying setup earlier than I have in the past.
“Racing has never really been the issue for me. The practice and qualifying has been my biggest problem down there. I think I dial myself out too quick. I maybe even make too many adjustments. I need to keep up with my tires even better because the tires wear off so fast there. I need to not get excited when my lap times start to fall off. I have a habit of doing that. Anybody that knows me will tell you that’s my biggest problem. I need someone to go down there just to tell me to shut up and sit down. That would probably be the best thing to happen to me.”
Despite only running a limited schedule in 2018, Jurkovic did make his way south to Pensacola in September for the Blizzard Series finale at Five Flags. He finished ninth in that race while competing against many of the drivers he’ll be up against during the 51st Annual Snowball Derby.
“As far as takeaways, I’m a lot more comfortable with the race track than I’ve been in the past,” Jurkovic said. “I’m comfortable with the different lines that I was able to pull from in September. I know where the car has to go in practice to make sure it goes good in the race.”
As Jurkovic prepares to make his sixth journey to the Snowball Derby, something is different this time around. He feels better about his chances, he’s confident and he’s more excited than ever before.
“I think we’re definitely going to be a top-five race car. Now if the old man doesn’t fall out of the seat, that’s a different story.
“I feel really good. I’m not nervous, I’m a little bit excited to be going. Before it was more nerves, now it’s more excitement. I think that’s a positive for me. I’ve got a little bit of confidence back and I’m comfortable with the car.”
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.
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.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos