The last time Donnie Wilson competed in the Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway Park, he finished second to 2018 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Derek Thorn. After skipping out on last year’s race, the “Oklahoma City Bandit” will make the trip back out west in 2019 looking to finish one spot better and take the $30,000 check back to the Sooner State.
Wilson was set back early in the 2017 Winter Showdown, having qualified 23rd before driving through the field for a runner-up result. He says he will need to improve on his qualifying run to better his chances at winning on Saturday afternoon.
“The difference between 2017 and this year will be qualifying better,” Wilson told Speed51.com. “We dug ourselves a hole with qualifying 23rd, so we had to pass a lot of cars. Hopefully we can just qualify in the top ten and go from there. It’s 300 laps, so you got to bide your time and be patient and let it come to you and hopefully be there at the end like usual.”
Wilson doesn’t see many differences going into this weekend compared to what 2017 had to offer. Other than the extended distance from 250 laps to 300, the only change he sees is the tire used.
“The biggest difference is when we went in 2017, we were on a different tire combination out there,” he explained. “The tire they’re on now is a better tire, so that’s going to be the biggest thing. Just seeing what that tire does, which I’m pretty sure we kind of know what it does anyway. That tire they’re running out there is the one they run in the ARCA Midwest Tour. That’s the only change really.”
In the back of the Wilson Motorsports hauler will be a tried-and-true Super Late Model. In fact, it is the same car that has visited victory lane in another Super Late Model crown jewel in the past.
“I’m taking a different car than the one I took two years ago,” Wilson said. “I’m taking the All-American 400 winning car, which is the same car that we ran with at the Derby and set quick time at Mobile with back in October. I’m pretty confident in that car.”
The Winter Showdown has become one of the biggest Super Late Model races in the country, alongside races like the Winchester 400 and the Snowball Derby. The facility, completed in 2012, is regarded as one of the nicest short tracks in all of North America.
For Wilson, winning the Winter Showdown would be one of the biggest wins of his career.
“Kern County is one of the nicest facilities we race at,” Wilson said. “It’s a nice, big, wide race track. It’s the kind of racetrack I like. It’s a good race track. I like it, so we shouldn’t have too much of an issue. It’s a really nice facility. That place should have a NASCAR Truck race. It’s one of those facilities that we’re not used to running at.
“It’s right up there with the Winchester 400 and the Snowball Derby,” he continued. “Obviously, the $30,000 to win is the goal for all of us. It’s a big deal to put your name up there against the kingpins, Bubba Pollard, Derek Thorn, and of course Kyle Busch winning it last year. If you can win there, you’re in selective company. It’s one of the top three biggest races of the year. The SRL group are really, really professional like CRA, like the Southern Super Series. They’re all great organizations.”
The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma driver has been to victory lane in a long-distance race, winning the 2017 All-American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, so he knows what it takes to be there at the end with a chance to win. When it comes down to it, the biggest thing he needs to win is something that is out of his control.
“Just a little bit of luck. I think you got to qualify good and you got to have a really good long run car. That’s the key anywhere you go, especially on these 300-lap races. You just got to have a car that’ll be under you at about lap 275 to 300 is when it’s the most important at this race.”
Race fans unable to make it to Bakersfield, California for the Winter Showdown will be able to watch a live video stream on the Speed51 Network. All that is needed to watch is a monthly or yearly subscription to the Speed51 Network. Click here to sign up today.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI)
-Photo credit: Speed51.com