Noah Gragson has done some challenging things in his short racing career, but nothing can compare to what he's about to attempt when he heads to Pensacola, Florida during the first week of December.
The 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship runner-up will be racing for Jamie Yelton's Fathead Racing, which is based in North Carolina. Gragson has never raced with that team before, so he's headed to the East Coast a couple of weeks in advance.
"We're going back to run Myrtle Beach next week in a Late Model Stock," said Gragson. "We're going just to get our feet wet with the team and get to know the car and the guys."
The 17-year-old driver has never attempted the Snowball Derby before. On top of that, he's never even seen Five Flags Speedway before.
"I don't really know what Pensacola even looks like," said Gragson. "I don't really know what to expect. I won't know until I get there."
Gragson does know one thing about Five Flags. He knows that it's a race track that just eats up tires because it has a very abrasive surface. With that in mind, he plans on racing Five Flags like he would one of the tracks he sees during the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West campaign.
"I'd say probably the track like Tucson," said Gragson. "It's a really worn out track. We try to save our stuff a lot during the K&N race and the Super Late Model race, the Chilly Willy. It's real worn out and you definitely have to save your stuff at the end. You just have to wait and hope that you'll have more than everyone else at the end."
Gragson is a proven race winner. He won twice during this year's K&N Pro Series West season. He finished second in points by just seven markers. He knows how to get the job done, and yet he still has a fairly modest goal for Derby week.
"Making the race," he said. "Hopefully we can make the race and stay out of trouble. I'd like to finish every single lap and keep the car clean. A lot of the field drops out in these races. If you can stay out of trouble the first half of it then I think I'll be good at the end. I can't wait until I get there and see the track."
The 48th Annual Snowball Derby weekend kicks off with the Cat Country/WEAR-TV3 Green Flag Party on Wednesday, December 2. On-track activities start Thursday, December 3, for the opening practice rounds for the Snowball Derby Super Late Models and Snowflake 100 Pro Late Models. The Five Flags Butler U-Pull-It Bombers and Beef 'O'Brady's Sportsman divisions will also have feature events on Snowball Derby Thursday.
The top Snowball Derby starting spots will be set on Friday, December 4 during WXBM 102.7 Pole Night at Five Flags. The Five Flags Faith Chapel Super Stocks and Modifieds will also battle in their Snowball Derby features after Super Late Model qualifying.
The Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 takes center stage on Saturday, December 5 as the top Pro Late Model racers in the country qualify and battle for 100 laps at Five Flags. In addition, Saturday's action features the final 50-lap qualifying event for Snowball Derby drivers to make one last effort to qualify for the 300-lap Super Late Model race. The Better Built Tool Box Pro Trucks will also have a 50-lap feature on Snowball Derby Saturday.
Then on Sunday, December 6, the green flag will drop on the 48th Annual Snowball Derby at 2 p.m. CT at Pensacola, Florida's Five Flags Speedway.
Fans unable to make it to Pensacola, Florida for the Snowball Derby can watch all of the action through a live online TV style pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51 TV. A four-day video ticket can be purchased now for $59.99 allowing fans to watch all of the action from Five Flags Speedway. Single-day video tickets are also available. Visit Speed51.com for more information.
For more information on the 48th 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 Matt Kentfield at [email protected] and/or Pat Bryant at [email protected]
-51 Sports/Snowball Derby Press Release. Photo credit: Getty Images for NASCAR