When the Modifieds take the green flag on Friday night at the Snowball Derby, one of the most familiar drivers will be missing. That’s because he’ll be working on his Super Late Model with hopes of qualifying for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby.
Joe Aramendia has been known for the past couple of seasons for his prowess in Open-Wheel Modifieds in the Deep South, with asphalt racing taking a hiatus in his home state of Texas. The 2017 brought great success with wins and championships on both the Modifieds of Mayhem Tour and at Five Flags Speedway. Many tagged him as a Modified favorite at the Snowball Derby, but his focus will be on his Super Late Model.
“A couple of years ago we decided we were going to build a Super Late Model. Around that time, I lost my crew chief; he died from a heart attack. So the car sat around for a while, but we finally got it done not long ago,” Aramendia told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’ve always wanted to take a shot at making the Derby. I don’t want to raise my goals too high but I’d like to win. Of course I got to get in the race first, so the intention is to get in the race, then go and get the best finish I can. But, I would still like to win, that’s why most people buckle up and race.”
Aramendia is very high on the Modifieds and the drivers that wheel them, but he indicated that making the Snowball Derby in a Super Late Model would be something truly special.
“I feel like making the Derby is a bigger accomplishment than winning in a Modified at the Derby. I would give up one of my Modified wins to get a spot in a Super in the Derby,” he admitted. “Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying a Modified is easier to drive, I’m not saying it’s less competitive. I believe that driving a Modified takes the same kind of driver, if not more, to drive a Late Model because you’re putting more horsepower down on the smaller tires in a Modified than a Super and it weighs the same. I think the Modified guys ought to get a little bit more respect than what they get. But, this is a world of Supers and this is a Super race.”
Aramendia is not coming into Derby week ice cold however, as he has gotten seat time at Five Flags in recent weeks, including the Blizzard Series finale and the Snowball Derby Preview.
“It’s a Fury car. We had taken it to Pensacola a month and a half ago for the last Blizzard Series race and we were chasing all kinds of gremlins in it and it didn’t run well,” he stated. “We were heading towards a top ten but ended up breaking the transmission late in the race. We were just hoping to get seat time; we rebuilt the transmission. We took it to the test last Saturday, we found a break on the panhard bar and got some more speed out of it. My crew chief thinks it’s good to race.”
Aramendia will enter the race with a veteran crew chief calling the shots. Rick Lushes, who has spent time at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series level this season, will be on the pit box.
Aramendia admits that for all his expertise both with a steering wheel and a wrench, it will take everything he has and probably more just to make the field. He would be over the moon just to make the greatest race at his adopted home track.
“I’ve been racing for 30 years. I’ve raced about every class you can think of, including some dirt. I can’t remember a more anxious time trying to get in the Derby,” he said. “We should have a good car for the race, we just need to focus on qualifying, some instant speed. But I think in the last three years I have more laps at Pensacola than anywhere else, and I’m from Texas. I tell everyone it’s my home track. I hear we’re going to have some racing here next year, but until I see it, that’s my home.”
Race fans can watch Aramendia attempt to make the Snowball Derby by watching a live, television-style broadcast on Speed51.com.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com