One of the top North Carolina drivers has spent 2019 venturing outside the Carolinas to race with much success. Now, 2019 CARS Super Late Model Tour champion Matt Craig looks to take the momentum he’s built over recent weeks to Pensacola, Florida for his maiden Snowball Derby attempt.
Craig talked about the biggest Super Late Model race in the country while on Speed51’s The Morning Bullring. Craig made his second-career start at Five Flags Speedway back in September in the Blizzard Series finale, making a strong showing before fading to a ninth-place finish. Despite not getting the finish he wanted two months ago, he feels like he is ready for the Derby after that performance.
“We’re pretty excited, we went down there for the Blizzard Series finale and qualified second and led some laps,” Craig said while on the show. “Some mechanical issues happened to us, but we had a really good car and I’m really looking forward to getting down there.”
Craig won three straight PASS South championships before the series folded at the end of 2018. With the loss of a series in the southeast, he took the opportunity to expand his schedule out of the area. He has competed with the Southern Super Series while also taking part in the Speed51 Super Select, North/South Super Late Model Challenge, Short Track U.S. Nationals, Father’s Day 100 at The Milwaukee Mile (WI) and the Florida Governor’s Cup.
“One of the reasons is we lost a series in the southeast so we lost some races in this area. That got us traveling too, but also we wanted to hit the bigger races. You don’t get better unless you compete against really good stuff. We’ve been getting pretty good experience and learning a lot against those really, really good drivers down south.”
He admitted that he and his team haven’t been ready for the bigger shows in recent years, but with the help of Rowdy Manufacturing and venturing out of the area, 2019 felt like the right time to make their first trip to Florida for the Snowball Derby.
“Before we got on with the Rowdy car and Rowdy Manufacturing, I never really felt like our team and our car was quite good enough, and probably I wasn’t quite ready to run those big shows,” he stated. “We didn’t want to go there just to be there, we wanted to go and compete so we just kind of stayed home. We now feel like we’ve got the confidence and we’ve got the equipment and car, and I feel like I’ve got a lot more experience now. I think we’re ready for these bigger events.”
While it may be Craig’s first Derby behind the wheel, he and his father have been to the race each of the last couple years, giving him an idea of just what Derby week is all about.
“The past three years me and my dad have went down there and just hung out and experienced it and watched and learned. The whole experience is really, really good. The Friday night qualifying is really intense, I think this year is going to be even more intense because I think we’re going to have a really good car count. That whole week is just fun and awesome, the intensity is just really high there.”
On the heels of arguably the best performance of his career in a Florida Governor’s Cup victory that saw him lead all 200 laps, Craig and team are ready for the first full week of December.
“We felt like we were competing at a really high level this year and we thought this was a good year for us to go,” he said. “We’ve won our last two races so we’re going in there with a lot of confidence and momentum.”
Race fans who missed Craig's interview can watch an on-demand replay of Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring” by clicking here. The show airs on Monday mornings starting at 7 a.m. on Speed51 and Speed51’s Facebook Page presented by Five Star Race Car Bodies.
Click here for more information regarding the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com