Two of New England’s best Late Model racers are headed to Pensacola, Florida in December to compete during the biggest short track racing weekend of the year. Brian Hoar of Williston, Vermont and Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. of Hudson, New Hampshire will both be making the trip south and competing during the 47th Annual Snowball Derby weekend.
Hoar, an eight-time American-Canadian Tour champion, will be competing in the Snowball Derby 300-lap Super Late Model race on Sunday, December 7. The race will serve as the final leg of Hoar’s four-race journey that included competing in the World Crown 300, Winchester 400 and All-American 400.
Polewarczyk, the 2014 ACT champion, has elected to compete in the Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 Pro Late Model event on Saturday, December 6.
Both drivers, who are household names in the Northeast racing scene, are excited to test themselves against the best of the best in Super Late Model and Pro Late Model racing.
“I’m definitely going to enjoy it,” said Hoar. “Just the fact that I’m going to be going racing in the month of December is pretty wild. That’s going to be fun. I’ve read about this race for so many years and I’ve always wanted to get down there to watch it, let alone race it. I wouldn’t have told you a few years ago that I thought I’d ever get the opportunity to race it.”
Polewarczyk, who has scored a number of big ACT Late Model wins in the Northeast including the Oxford 250, Milk Bowl, ACT Invitational and ACT International 500, is hoping to use the Snowflake 100 as a stepping stone to attempt to qualify for the Snowball Derby down the road.
“It’s been on our list of places we’ve wanted to go for a while,” Polewarczyk said. “It’s such a big race. Up here you have the Oxford 250 that you hear about everywhere. Down there, that’s just another huge race that you hear about everywhere. We’re not doing the Derby this year, but we want to get some experience down there. Ultimately, that’s why we’re going down there this year.
“Our Super Late Model that we use up here for PASS and Granite State (Pro Stock Series) races is in one piece, so why not? It’s a long weekend and it will be good to get some experience down there. Maybe next year or sometime soon we’ll attempt the Derby.”
Hoar, who recorded a fifth-place finish in the Winchester 400 earlier this year, is optimistic after three strong showings in Super Late Model crown jewels this season. Still, he remains realistic and knows how tough it will be to qualify into the most anticipated short track racing event of the year.
“The goal is to go down there and get in the race, number one,” added Hoar. “We’d like to set a little higher goal than that, but with the number of guys who have experience down there it’s hard to do that. Every time somebody goes as a first timer and you’re a first time team, it’s hard to get people to understand how difficult it is to get into these races and be competitive right off the hauler.”
Polewarczyk has similar goals as he makes his way from his chilly New Hampshire home to the Sunshine State. He has tasted victory in Florida before, having won during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in 2011 with his ACT Late Model at New Smyrna Speedway.
“Honestly, I think if we can get into the race that is the main goal,” Polewarczyk said. “I think that’s going to be our biggest challenge because of time trials. When we get into the race, I think we can set our own pace and do what we always do up here. It’s a four-tire race, which I think plays into our favor a little bit.
“I need to just get into the race. Once we do that and we’re able to check off goal number-one, being our first time down there I’d like to finish every lap. If we do that, I think we can get a top-15 or top-10 finish. That to me would be successful for the first time down there. Me as a racer, I want more than that but we need to be realistic.”
For both Hoar and Polewarczyk, the most challenging part of Snowball Derby weekend will be time trialing to get into the race. Both drivers are accustomed to qualifying through heat races. Only one race a year, the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road, do they time trial to get into a New England feature event.
“I watch all of these races on Speed51 and see what these guys are running in practice, and then when it comes to time trials they’re like five-tenths faster,” said Polewarczyk. “I’ve somehow got to find a way to pick up that speed.”
Although Hoar has experience time trialing this year, as well as in the past racing in the series now known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, his focus going into the weekend will be on putting down two “really fast” laps during qualifying on Nash 102.7 Pole Night.
“It’s going to be a huge emphasis just because of the format with so many cars trying to time trial in,” said Hoar, the driver of the RPM Motorsports No. 37 Super Late Model. “From my understanding at least, you can lay down some incredibly fast laps before the tires start to give. Your qualifying and your race setup is going to be quite different at a place like this.
“It doesn’t favor us. Fortunately, I have spent a few years racing the Busch North or K&N Series so we did time trial for all of those races. I have some experiencing time trialing and I actually like time trialing, which is more than a lot of people. I enjoy doing it, as crazy as it sounds. We’re prepared to do what we have to do to make that thing go really fast for two laps. Quite frankly, that’s going to be the whole goal.”
Despite normally competing with each other for wins on the American-Canadian Tour, Hoar and Polewarczyk are both open to swapping information with each other once they hit the track in Pensacola. Neither driver has ever seen the track and both are open to listening to any information the other may be able to give them over the course of the long week at Five Flags Speedway.
“A lot of competitors at the races we’ve been to have been fairly open with us and actually steered us right in terms of tires and what to expect,” said Hoar. “Maybe it’s just because it’s not points races and a lot of people are there for the same reason. I definitely wouldn’t have any problems sharing information with Joey and hopefully we can help each other out.”
Polewarczyk echoed Hoar’s sentiments and said that he hopes the two drivers can pick each other’s brains to help them both get into their feature events.
“Brian has some more experience now racing those CRA races and racing the Super Late Model stuff, especially when it comes to time trialing,” said Polewarczyk. “I keep going back to that, but that’s what it all comes down to. We don’t want to go down there and not make the race, so I’m going to talk to as many people as I can about time trialing and trying to get as good as I can.”
For more information about Five Flags Speedway and the 47th Annual Snowball Derby weekend, visit www.5flagsspeedway.com, www.snowballderby.com or contact the track by calling (850) 944-8400.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com