A young driver by the name of Todd Gilliland has turned many heads in 2015 by scoring two big wins. He went to Toledo Speedway in Ohio in May and won an ARCA Racing Series event there in his first ever start with the series. He followed that up by heading west to Phoenix International Raceway (AZ) in November for a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race and once again won in his first series start.
What makes those two race wins so impressive is that he's just 15 years old. He's the youngest winner in both divisions.
Now he's heading to Pensacola, Florida for the 48th Annual Snowball Derby, and he's looking to become the youngest winner at the Derby too.
"That would be really cool," said Gilliland, son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver David Gilliland. "I don't even really know what to say about that."
There's a reason why Gilliland doesn't yet know what to say about the possibility of unseating Chase Elliott as the youngest Snowball Derby winner in history. Plainly put, he just hasn't thought that far ahead yet.
"You have to go in with the mindset that you first have to make the race before you can even think about winning," he said. "It's kind of crazy that you have to think about it like that. There's always pressure going into qualifying, but for a race like that qualifying is everything. If you don't qualify well then you have to run the Last Chance Race, all the stuff that you don't want to run."
Gilliland has limited experience behind the wheel of a Super Late Model, and he's never made an attempt to start the Snowball Derby before. If he makes the Derby, it will be just his second start in a Super Late Model this year. His only other Super Late Model start this year came at Virginia's Motor Mile Speedway in a CARS Tour event. An engine failure ended his day prematurely.
The limited experience has resulted in modest goals for Gilliland for the Derby. He's not expecting to win. But he does believe he can run well.
"We'll see what we can do," he said. "We'll aim for a top 10 or a top five. But first we have to make the race. There's no expectations going into it because it's just my second Super race of the year. We'll just learn while racing against the Chase Elliott's and guys like that."
But if Gilliland should find himself celebrating in victory lane at the end of 300 laps, he said it would mean more than his ARCA win at Toledo and his K&N West win at Phoenix.
"There's obviously really tough competition in both of (those races)," said Gilliland. "But I'd say the Snowball Derby is one of the biggest races that you could ever win."
The 48th Annual Snowball Derby weekend kicks off with the Cat Country/WEAR-TV3 Green Flag Party on Wednesday, December 2. On-track activities start Thursday, December 3, for the opening practice rounds for the Snowball Derby Super Late Models and Snowflake 100 Pro Late Models. The Five Flags Butler U-Pull-It Bombers and Beef 'O'Brady's Sportsman divisions will also have feature events on Snowball Derby Thursday.
The top Snowball Derby starting spots will be set on Friday, December 4 during WXBM 102.7 Pole Night at Five Flags. The Five Flags Faith Chapel Super Stocks and Modifieds will also battle in their Snowball Derby features after Super Late Model qualifying.
The Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 takes center stage on Saturday, December 5 as the top Pro Late Model racers in the country qualify and battle for 100 laps at Five Flags. In addition, Saturday's action features the final 50-lap qualifying event for Snowball Derby drivers to make one last effort to qualify for the 300-lap Super Late Model race. The Better Built Tool Box Pro Trucks will also have a 50-lap feature on Snowball Derby Saturday.
Then on Sunday, December 6, the green flag will drop on the 48th Annual Snowball Derby at 2 p.m. CT at Pensacola, Florida's Five Flags Speedway.
Fans unable to make it to Pensacola, Florida for the Snowball Derby can watch all of the action through a live online TV style pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51 TV. A four-day video ticket can be purchased now for $59.99 allowing fans to watch all of the action from Five Flags Speedway. Single-day video tickets are also available. Visit Speed51.com for more information.
For more information on the 48th Annual Snowball Derby weekend at Five Flags Speedway, visit www.snowballderby.com. All media credential requests and inquiries for the Snowball Derby can be sent to Matt Kentfield at [email protected] and/or Pat Bryant at [email protected]
For more information on Speed51.com and the rest of the 51 Companies, contact Jana Wimmer (Director of Business) at 51 Sports via email through [email protected] and visit Speed51.com. Speed51.com is on Twitter at @speed51dotcom and on Facebook by searching Speed51.com.
-51 Sports Press Release. Photo Credit: ARCA Racing Series