There are 86,400 seconds in a day. However entering the 52nd Snowball Derby weekend, veteran racer Augie Grill wishes there were a few more. For the next four days, Grill won’t have a moment of down time.
In addition to piloting his familiar No. 112 Super and Pro Late Models, Grill will also wheel a similarly numbered car in the Modifieds of Mayhem season finale on Friday.
Several drivers enter two races during the weekend, known as “double duty” in racing terms, but Grill is the only driver daring enough to attempt three separate divisions as part of short track racing’s grandest weekend.
“Rick Pollaro offered me a chance to drive his modified a few years back, and I’ve just stuck with that every year. As long as it doesn’t take away from the other two, I don’t mind it at all. We just hope to keep running well with all three, and have success.”
Success at the Snowball is one thing Grill knows quite a bit about. He owns two victories in the weekend’s marquee event, three in Saturday’s Snowflake 100 and the two most-recent Modified races.
There are numerous differences in the mechanics and engineering of the Late Model and Modified - with tire grip being the largest - but Grill tends to focus on the similarities at the heart of the machine: going fast.
“At their core, they are all race cars,” Grill said. “If the car is good and you don’t have to hustle and muscle it around every lap, you can drive it. If it isn’t good, driving it is a struggle. If it starts overloading me, I’ll quit one...or all three.”
As engines roared to life on Thursday morning, Grill slid in the window of his Super Late Model optimistic and eager for another shot at hoisting the Tom Dawson Trophy. In 2018, Grill, missed out on making the Derby after failing to qualify.
He has a half dozen practice sessions on Thursday to get the Pro and Super Late Models dialed in for the weekend. But unlike in years past, Grill has been racing and driving more in 2019. He had spent the majority of the previous building chassis at his Grand American Race Cars shop outside of Birmingham, Alabama.
The lack of seat time in recent seasons led to the racing side of Grill’s career becoming less fruitful. However, he believes that 2019 could be the time when the “old Augie” comes back.
With a uber successful test session at the Snowball Derby preview in November, Grill believes he has shot to capture an elusive third win short track racing’s marquee event.
“We don’t have the modified inside the track today (Thursday),” Grill said. “Today is all about the two late models. Hopefully, we can get them as good as they were down here a few weeks ago, and be in a position to race well. I don’t think anyone will ever match Rich’s five wins, but it would be neat to get a third one,” said Grill. “I was talking to someone the other day, and told them that if I never get another one, I would be satisfied with my career. But a third Derby would be really special.”
Grill’s racing legacy is cemented in time. He will go down as one of the best to ever wheel a car in the Deep South. But there are a few things he wants to accomplish before hanging up the helmet for good...whenever that may be.
No driver has ever won the Snowball Derby and Snowflake 100 on the same weekend. In 2013, Chase Elliott took home the Snowflake on Saturday, and crossed the finish line first in the Snowball Derby on Sunday. However, he was later disqualified in post-race tech.
Grill is no stranger to coming close to racing’s holy grail. In 2007, he finished third in the Pro race, and captured his first of back-to-back Derby wins the next day.
A Derby Double, or perhaps triple, would put a stamp on Grill’s legacy and status as one of short track racing’s greatest figures.
“I’ve been fairly close a few times, but never been able to win two in the same weekend. So many things have to go your way for it to happen. You have to be fast, have no mistakes, keep the fenders on it and be in the right place at the right time. It would take an absolutely perfect weekend.”
Race fans unable to attend the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby presented by BJ's Wholesale Club can watch all of the action live on Speed51. Click here to purchase four-day and single-day video packages.
-Story by Ryan McCollough, Speed51 Gulf Coast Correspondent - Twitter: @RyanLMcCollough
-Photo credit: Speed51