In recent seasons, Ross Kenseth has had strong year-long results, scoring victories and championships in various Super Late Model divisions. At the end of the season, however, that luck did not usually hold over into a positive result in the most prestigious race of them all, the Snowball Derby at Pensacola, Florida’s Five Flags Speedway.
This year, the 21-year-old son of 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Matt Kenseth, went winless in his Super Late Model efforts. While a zero in the win column is uncharacteristic for the driver from Little Chute, Wisconsin, Kenseth is hoping that is a positive foreshadowing of good things to come in this year’s Snowball Derby on December 7.
“I think if you laid out a year for somebody and said ‘you can win eight races and not win the Derby, or win none but win the Derby,’ if they haven’t won the Derby they’ll take that Snowball Derby over any other race,” said Kenseth.
Kenseth still chasing his first Snowball victory despite being close a few times in the past. His numbers may not necessarily reflect that (he has just one top five in five starts), but he’s been strong just about every time he’s traveled down to Five Flags Speedway in early December.
“It feels like every year something happens,” said Kenseth. “In 2009 we had tire issues the whole race. In 2010 I took the lead past Johanna Long and Chase Elliott with 110 (laps) to go, but something happened with Mike Garvey and we got collected and destroyed that car. Last year I had a car that I thought we could run top three and I got wrecked on pit road.”
There are no moral victories when it comes to the Snowball Derby. Not winning is disappointing. It’s not a race where one can take solace in the fact that he or she had a strong car, but had bad luck. Kenseth knows that.
“Basically going through the years and knowing that the luck we’ve had, and leaving there with no trophies is a disappointment no matter how the car is.”
In addition to adding 2012 Snowball Derby-winning crew chief Rich Lushes (with Erik Jones) to his arsenal for this year’s Derby, Kenseth is hoping a number change will bring him and his Boyne Machine racing team better luck. He’s run a variation of the No. 25 every time he’s gone to Pensacola for the Derby, but this year he’ll have a No. 3 on his door and roof after having a rough time with No. 77 throughout the 2014 season.
“We didn’t want to have something where a lot of cars would have that number,” said Kenseth. “That’s something different that I don’t think a lot of people on the (entry) list have that number.
“I feel like my best finish was when I ran that ARCA race at Kansas and we had the No. 3 there then. So it kind of just worked out. Hopefully it’ll change the luck.”
– Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor
Photo Credit: Speed51.com