Winning at Five Flags Speedway (FL) in early December is a big deal. It doesn’t matter what division it is, a win on Snowball Derby weekend is a dream come true for short track racers.
On Sunday, Super Late Model drivers will shoot for the stars in the biggest crown jewel of them all, the 47th Annual Snowball Derby. On Saturday night, it’s the time to shine for Pro Late Model drivers competing in the Snowflake 100. But on Friday night, the drivers of the Modified division are in the spotlight, and in recent years they certainly haven’t disappointed the eyes in the crowd.
Brian Nester knows what it’s like to have one of his dreams come true. He has one win in the 50-lap Modified feature; a race that is always a must-see event on Friday. He hasn’t been back to the track since, but he wants to add another trophy from Five Flags to his collection.
“It would be big,” said Nester when asked what it would mean to add another win to his resume from Snowball Derby weekend. “One reason is we are building our own race cars now and we are trying to get a new one done to take down there, so if we can win with that it would be just awesome.”
Nester is bringing a new car to Five Flags, and said he needs his car to be good from the minute they unload because of the lack of on-track time for the Modified division. The first time the car hits the race track in December will be the first laps of any kind for his new race car. He’s running an older car when he travels to Florida two weeks before the Snowball to run in the Florida Governor’s Cup 200 at New Smyrna Speedway.
“We’re building this new car for Pensacola and hopefully we’ll have it done and whatever happens at New Smyrna I don’t have to worry about,” he said with a laugh. “We have another car ready, but that’ll be its first laps.”
Billy Melvin is one of two drivers to win the Modified feature since Nester’s absence after his win in 2011. Melvin won the race in 2012 and nearly pulled a last lap miracle to win the race again in 2013 before having to settle for second.
“It’s hard to win anything at the Snowball,” said Melvin. “You have to race the best in the southeast. To me, Five Flags is the hardest track around to drive. And the reason that it is, is the pavement is just worn out. After about 15 laps there’s no traction.”
It’s already hard enough to win at Five Flags, but Melvin’s last trip to victory lane in this race two years ago was made even harder by an issue outside of anyone’s control.
“The last time I won I was so sick I couldn’t wait to get out of the car,” said Melvin. “Then we had that late race caution and I finally got my wind back. I told (my crew) I could hold my breath for three laps. I can race anything for three laps. But before that I was just hanging on.”
Adding another win would mean the world to Melvin, but not for the reason one might think.
“It would mean more to me to win it for my crew than it does for me,” said Melvin. “They work so hard and take so much time. I have nothing left to prove to anybody, but only myself. I’m my own worst critic.”
Much like Melvin, Nester is a winner in the Modified division at many of the big tracks, like New Smyrna, Winchester Speedway (IN) and of course at Five Flags. He does well in the big races, but he especially likes when he gets the chance to travel down to Pensacola.
“It’s obviously one of the biggest races of the year,” he said. “It’s fun to go there. It’s fun, and it gets us out of the cold up north. Hopefully it will be warm down there.”
Both believe they have a good chance to be in victory lane at the end of 50 laps. Melvin is extremely confident he can do it a third time.
“We plan on winning the race,” Melvin said. “When we roll through the gate we have all intentions of winning the race. If we ever get to where we feel like we aren’t competitive enough to win we’ll just stay home.”
The full 47th Annual Snowball Derby weekend schedule is available at www.snowballderby.com.
Tickets and reserved camping spots are still available, but going fast. To order tickets or to reserve a camping spot, call the Five Flags Speedway box office at (850) 944-8400.
For more information about Five Flags Speedway and the 47th Annual Snowball Derby weekend, please visit www.5flagsspeedway.com, www.snowballderby.com or contact the track by calling (850) 944-8400.
-51 Sports/Snowball Derby Press Release. Photo Credit: Speed51.com.