John Hunter Nemechek was the one kissing the snowball atop the Tom Dawson Trophy at the end of the 47th Annual Snowball Derby in 2014. One year later in 2015, Nemechek was eight laps away from his second straight win when his race literally went up in flames. Now Nemechek is heading back to Pensacola, Florida seeking more glory in the 49th Annual Snowball Derby.
“We’re going down there to go and win the race,” Nemechek told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We had a mechanical failure that took us out while we were leading with eight laps to go or we would have been the car to beat at the end. As long as we prepare our equipment correctly and make sure that we’re fast during practice we’ll be good. We’ve learned how to run the race strategy wise so hopefully everything will fall into place and we can be there at the end in the top three going for the win.”
Nemechek, a current NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular, will compete in both the Snowball Derby and the Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 the night before the Derby.
Pulling double-duty is something Nemechek has done the past three years as well, and has seen great results. In 2014, Nemechek finished second in the Snowflake and won the Snowball Derby. In 2015, Nemechek won the Snowflake and was leading late until a mechanical failure derailed his path to victory. Nemechek also finished second in the 2013 Snowflake 100 and scored another top five in that year’s Derby as well.
Nemechek said the main reason he runs both races every year is simple. It’s just fun.
“It’s challenging as a driver to run both the Pro and the Super Late Model,” he said. “They’re so different. It’s not like jumping from a Cup to an XFINITY car according to some drivers. The horsepower is way different and you have to drive both of them totally differently. As a driver, I like the challenge. I like to run the Super and the Pro and I like to be able to be in the car every day too. As a driver you want to run every chance that you can.”
The 19-year-old North Carolina native said the amount of fun he has is the main reason he enjoys Snowball Derby week so much. He doesn’t worry about the workload or the stress that typically comes with trying to win the biggest race of the year. He just has fun because he’s a racer and he gets to race.
“I think just being in a race car every day,” Nemechek said. “When you’re running most weekends you’re only in the car one or two days every weekend. But here you’re in the race car three or four days. We work way hard on our cars down there compared to any other race that you would really go to.”
Nemechek knows that even with as much fun as he already has during Derby week, there’s one way it can be even more fun.
“It’s always been fun to be able to go down there and run and it’s an exciting week. To win that trophy means a lot, so we keep going down there to win and to keep bringing those trophies back home.”
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 Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com