Cutting his teeth on the bullring that is Seekonk Speedway, Jake Johnson has managed to rise through the ranks at his home track in only a handful of years. But even through the learning process, the Rehoboth, Massachusetts teenager has hit the road with hopes of achieving his big racing dreams. Next week, for the third straight year, he will head to Five Flags Speedway for the Snowflake 100 during the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby week.
Already, the No. 15MA crew has shipped their Pro Late Model and equipment down to the Florida Panhandle, even hitting the track for a prior test. Despite being just 16 years old and growing up over a thousand miles away, Johnson is heading to Pensacola, Florida brimming with confidence.
“It’s starting to get cold up here, looking forward to heading down next Wednesday,” Johnson told Speed51. “We’re doing good, we actually got a chance to test down there about three weeks ago, just to make sure everything was in good shape. I think it’s the best car we’ve had since we started going down there. So, I can’t wait to get back.”
The latest trip to Pensacola in December comes after another season of change, stepping away from a home track schedule to run more on the road, mostly in New England, but also up and down the East Coast.
“Pensacola is still the farthest we’ve ever raced from home,” Johnson said. “It’s a long, banked track and we don’t have many too many like that up here, so it’s a different experience than what I’m used to. It’s been real cool, an amazing group of guys to race against, not saying everyone up here isn’t great, but it’s nice to race a different group up of faces. It’s just cool to be there and check it all out.”
After impressing many with fast practice laps and making the 2017 Snowflake 100 on his first attempt, Johnson was one of the casualties of the week-long rain delay for the 2018 edition. Despite not having the experience of single-car time trials, Johnson’s camp is putting all their focus on long race runs, rather than qualifying.
“Last year was tough with the rainout. This year, we’ll go out there and do our best to time in. But, we’re focused on the long run at the end of the race. The track is so abrasive on tires, when we went there to test we went on some old tires to see how the car would be at the end of the race. We were very happy with how it turned out.”
Johnson is determined to finish 2019 strong after a strong start to the season in Pro All Stars Series competition at Richmond Raceway did not carry over to the latter part of the year. He hopes that the great speed he found in Virginia back in the spring will return for the winter run in Florida.
“We’ve had a rough couple of races, been fast just about everywhere but we just can’t seal the deal. We did do well at Richmond, which was cool to go to a Cup track, have fun, and come out well. We’ll see if we can’t do more of the same at Pensacola and end the year with a good finish.”
Overall, Johnson is confident in both his racecar and his experience compared to when they started at Five Flags back in 2017. He has the belief that he and his Massachusetts team can shock the racing world on Saturday, December 7.
“I think we can do it this year, again, out of all the years we’re probably the most prepared with the car, and I’ve got more experience. I think that’s big, this year we traveled around; we had done Seekonk mostly and a few trips. But this year we changed it up, and I think we learned a lot, went to some new tracks, made us have to work hard, and learn fast. It’ll be of help.”
Race fans looking to make the pilgrimage to Pensacola for the Snowball Derby can order tickets for the event now at 5flagsspeedway.com.
Thanks to Speed51’s Black Friday sale, you can now also purchase a four-day video ticket for the Snowball Derby for $79.99 and receive a free three-month subscription to the Speed51 Network. Click here to take advantage of this sale now.
Individual video tickets can be purchased now at the regular price by clicking here.
For more information on the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby, visit Speed51’s Snowball Central.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51Photos.com