One year ago, David Gilliland Racing made its way to the Snowball Derby as a single-car team with Todd Gilliland, David’s son, behind the wheel. This year, the Gilliland team will show up to Five Flags Speedway (FL) during the first week of December with a three-driver “Super Team” chasing the top prize in Super Late Model racing.
Led by team owner David Gilliland, DGR has filed three entries for the Snowball Derby with drivers Todd Gilliland, Raphael Lessard and Cole Moore.
Overall, the Snowball Derby one year ago was a humbling experience for Todd Gilliland. The young driver failed to make the race. Now with an additional year of experience under his belt and a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship to his credit, he’s ready to chase the Tom Dawson Trophy.
“I’m super excited,” Gilliland told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Last year definitely didn’t work out how we were hoping to. Not making that race really made us more excited to go this year and redeem ourselves down there. We had a couple different problems fighting us last year, but we feel like we have our DGR Super Late Model program a lot better this year. We’re super excited to go back.”
Throughout the 2016 racing season, Gilliland has garnered the attention of race fans throughout the country with his strong performances. With more eyes on him heading into this year’s Snowball Derby, he’s just focused on getting back into the DGR Super Late Model and preforming well.
“I wouldn’t say it’s pressure really, I’m just pretty excited to get out there,” Gilliland said. “I feel like I’ve gained a quite a bit more attention this year than I had last year, just being able to win six races on the West Coast and then that one race at New Smyrna. I’m just super excited to get back in the DGR Super Late Model.”
Lessard will make his way to Pensacola, Florida for his first attempt at the Snowball Derby. The 15-year native of Quebec has impressed in his first full-time season with DGR. He currently leads the CARS Tour Super Late Model standings with three wins and is coming off strong performances at the All American 400 and Winchester 400.
“I’m very excited. This is going to be the biggest race of my career,” Lessard said. “I hope it’s going to be good. I know I have a very good team with David Gilliland Racing. They always give me a good Toyota Camry, so I think it’s going to be very good.”
Despite this year’s Derby being his first, Lessard enters the race with experience after competing in the Southern Super Series race at the track in May. He finished fourth in that race after starting 12th.
“We had a very good car and I think this year we’ve got better every race so I think we’ll be better for the Snowball Derby,” Lessard commented. “It’s a very nice track; it’s fast. You have to save your tires a lot. I love this track, it’s way different than other ones. It’s kind of big but you don’t have a lot of straightaway, it has wide corners and it’s pretty cool.”
Bringing some West Coast flavor to the DGR team for this year’s Snowball Derby will be 19-year-old Cole Moore, a former Motorcross rider. Moore is in just his second year of racing full-bodied race cars on pavement and is excited for his chance to race the Snowball Derby with a proven team.
“All the big boys go there, if you look at what Erik Jones did and stuff like that. If you go and do good it’s a pretty big deal,” Moore stated. “I want to go there and shine, do the best I can and see where it takes me. I’m excited to be with DGR because they have been really good. David is huge; he knows what he’s doing, look at what he did with Todd this year in the K&N Series. Raphael has been good in his car. I have faith in the team. They’re going show up and do their best so that’s what I have to do too.”
As the son of team owner David Gilliland, Todd has had a first-hand view of the transformation DGR has had since last year’s Snowball Derby. While he is the first to give his dad the credit, he’s amazed at what the team has become.
“That’s the coolest thing ever, just being able to grow it so fast,” the younger Gilliland said of the team. “Being able to go from fifth-place cars at the end of last year to winning races all of this year. It’s been super special. Just being able to be back here and watching it grow from the start has been super cool.”
Gilliland will also bring a fourth car to Five Flags Speedway on Snowball Derby weekend. The team will welcome Chase Purdy behind the wheel of the team’s Pro Late Model for the Snowflake 100 on Saturday, December 3.
With three drivers chasing the Tom Dawson Trophy and one driver hoping for Snowflake 100 glory, David Gilliland Racing will surely be a team to watch throughout Snowball Derby week.
The 49th Annual Snowball Derby weekend kicks off on Wednesday, November 30 with the Cat Country/WEAR TV3 Green Flag Pit Party and Qualifying Order Draw Down.
Thursday, December 1 will see the Super Late Models take to the track for the first official Snowball Derby practice. The night will be highlighted by a 30-lap race for the Butler U-Pull-It Bombers and a 50-lap event for the Dock on the Beach Sportsmen division.
The top Snowball Derby starting spots will be set on Friday, December 2 during NASH FM 102.7 Pole Night. The Faith Chapel Super Stocks and the Modifieds will each run 50-lap features.
The Pro Late Models take center stage on Saturday, December 3 for the Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100. The 50-lap Last Chance Qualifier for the Snowball Derby and a 50-lap feature for the Beef O’Brady’s Pro Truck division will also run on Saturday night.
Then on Sunday, December 4 the green flag will fly over the the 49th Annual Snowball Derby. The 300-lap race will begin at 2 p.m. CT.
For more information on the 49th 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 Pat Bryant at [email protected]
For entry lists, news, videos and all things Snowball Derby related, head to Snowball Central presented by Shaeffer’s Lubricants on Speed51.com, the official news source of the 49th Annual Snowball Derby. Affordable advertising rates are available now by emailing [email protected].
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com