With the 49th Snowball Derby less than six weeks away, the anticipation is building as teams and drivers prepare to take aim at Pensacola, Florida’s Five Flags Speedway. Harrison Burton is especially eager to make his second Derby start and is hoping for a smooth weekend all around. After making his Derby debut in 2015 following two Snowflake 100 starts, Burton showed promise on the Thursday practice day until he got a rough Derby initiation.
“We had a crash in practice that we had to work on a whole night to get the car ready for qualifying the next day,” Burton told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We ended up making the race, which speaks to the level that my guys can get out and get the job done. We ran pretty good in the race, I think we were running about eighth, had some loose lugnuts, had a loose wheel and had to pit which ended our day. I’m super excited to go out and get another do at it.”
His rough debut only served to strengthen the team’s expertise and Burton’s resolve, not just for this year’s Derby but the entire season up until now.
“You learn from your mistakes and you move on,” the 16-year-old stated. “I made a mistake in practice, got the car in the fence, my guys helped me out with that and we kept learning the whole year, not just during the Snowball. We’ve made some mistakes and it’s all made us better.”
The learning process has already turned into success for Burton in 2016 as he scored a Blizzard Series win at Five Flags back on May 27. It’s a triumph that he holds in high regard.
“That was probably the biggest win of my career so far,” Burton said. “I was really thrilled to be a part of that, just to win in Pensacola itself is awesome. Hopefully we can repeat that in the Snowball Derby.”
Five Flags Speedway has become a favorite track of Burton’s, especially now that he has experience to go with his still very abundant youth.
“It’s a high grip racetrack and it’s a lot of fun, but it’s physically demanding as well,” Burton explained. “I think that gives me a little bit of an advantage just because I’m so young.”
While his Super Late Model schedule has been limited in 2016 due to his full-time ride in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series with HScott Motorsports, he feels that the time has continued to make him a more well-groomed driver.
“Any track time helps, even if it’s not at the race track or race car you’ll be in,” Burton said. “You can learn a ton about restarts and how to get by people and be aggressive. You can make moves you normally wouldn’t. With more experience I’ve gotten more aggressive and I think that shows on the racetrack week in and week out.”
All of this has made Burton certain that victory is well within his sights.
“We wouldn’t be going down there if we didn’t think we had a shot. We race to win and we have a good time doing it. I think we have a really good shot at it, our guys have a lot of good ideas to try out down there. I’m really excited.”
Burton also has an experience unlike any other coming up this weekend as he makes his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start, driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports at Martinsville Speedway (VA).
He will also take the No. 12 Super Late Model to New Smyrna Speedway (FL) on November 13 for the Florida Governor’s Cup before switching to full on Snowball Derby mode.
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 the 49th Annual Snowball Derby. The 300-lap race will begin at 2 p.m. CT.
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]
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-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com (CT, MA, Long Island) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Bruce Nuttleman