No upcoming driver has been more highly touted than Todd Gilliland the last two seasons, and for good reason. Gilliland won an ARCA Racing Series race in his first start. He did the same thing in NASCAR K&N Pro Series competition. Then he went out and won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship this year, too.
But there’s one thing that Gilliland didn’t accomplish, and that was a start in the Snowball Derby. Gilliland went to Five Flags Speedway in 2015 and failed to qualify for the biggest asphalt short track race of the season.
Now Gilliland is heading to the 49th Annual Snowball Derby with hopes of qualifying for his first Derby, but that isn’t his only goal.
“I feel like the whole David Gilliland Racing program has gotten so much better from last year that hopefully we aren’t just going there to try to make it into the race, but also will be contending for the win,” Gilliland said.
Gilliland has made one start at Five Flags Speedway since the 2015 Snowball Derby. He finished 18th, one lap down in a Southern Super Series race at the half-mile oval in Florida’s panhandle in April.
However, the 16-year-old second-generation driver is still heading to the Derby as confident as anybody.
“Raphael Lessard went down there and had a good run in a Southern Super Series race,” he explained. “We’re going back there with pretty similar stuff compared to what he went down there with, so we feel pretty confident about it.”
Gilliland admitted that he’s nervous about NASH FM 102.7 pole night on Friday, December 2, but he’s still thinking about what it would be like to win the Snowball Derby.
“I’d say winning the Snowball Derby would be my biggest accomplishment to this point and would probably be one of the biggest things to happen in my career.”
The only thing Gilliland hasn’t put too much thought into is what it’ll take to lift the heavy Tom Dawson Trophy over his head.
“I haven’t really thought about that too much, but I definitely want to try it out.”
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 49th Annual Snowball Derby. The 300-lap race will begin at 2 p.m. CT.
Race fans unable to make their way to Pensacola, Florida during Snowball Derby week will be able to watch all of the racing action live on Speed51.com. Four-day video tickets are now available at a savings of $20. Visit Speed51.com today for more information.
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]
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Bruce Nuttleman