After a strong 2019 season as well as a top-five finish in last year’s Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL), Alabama native Connor Okrzesik will likely be one of the top contenders for the Tom Dawson Trophy in this year’s Derby on December 4-8. He and his team will also be competing with heavy hearts, hungry to win the biggest race in Super Late Model racing for a fallen team member.
Michael Beasley, a long-time crew member on Okrzesik’s team, was shot and killed on Saturday, November 16. The untimely passing shocked those who knew Beasley, but has given Okrzesik and his team emotional motivation going into the Snowball Derby.
“Michael was a big part of the team,” Okrzesik told Speed51. “He did a lot of things. To lose him really sucks, especially the way it happened. We’re going to go out and try to win, because that’s what he’d want us to do. He’d want us to win this race.”
Okrzesik has plenty of reason to believe he can win the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby presented by BJ’s Wholesale Club. Last year, Okrzesik finished fourth in the crown jewel event. He was also a two-time winner in his Super Late Model this season, including a win at CRA SpeedFest in at Crisp Motorsports Park (GA) to start the year.
“I think we’re going to have a really good car. I think we’re going to be really, really fast. We’ve been quick throughout the year with the Super Late Model. We’ve just been working all year to get better for the Derby, because that’s what it comes down to. The end result all year, it’s getting everything right for the Derby. I think we have a really good shot this year.”
Okrzesik was also strong throughout the season during the Blizzard Series and Allen Turner Pro Late Models season at Five Flags Speedway (FL). Okrzesik finished second to Jake Garcia in Pro Late Model points and fourth with the Super Late Model. That gives him confidence he can compete for two wins during Derby weekend, as he will also compete in the Allen Turner Snowflake 100.
While the Snowball Derby always bring a stout field of cars from all over the nation, Okrzesik hopes the year-round success at the Pensacola half-mile will carry into the Derby.
“I think we’ll have a really good shot at both the Snowball and the Snowflake. The Derby is a different atmosphere. It’s a really cool time of year and a really cool thing to be a part of both events.”
One change from last year’s Snowball Derby is the transition to controlled cautions from live pit stops. This is a change Okrzesik sees as a positive, cutting costs on a live pit crew for his team as well as giving drivers more opportunities to dial in their car throughout the 300-lap race.
“It’s going to be a big help to us, because a big part of our budget is getting a pit crew. We’ll also be able to make changes under caution if the car is not right. Before we didn’t have time to do anything because we didn’t want to lose spots on pit road. Track position is really important.”
Ultimately, Okrzesik is hungry to add his name to the list of winners of the Snowball Derby and earn the opportunity to honor his fallen team member by hoisting the Tom Dawson Trophy.
“That’s every Late Model racer’s goal when they get involved in racing, to one day hold the Tom Dawson Trophy in victory lane in Five Flags. We really want to win.”
Fans looking to watch Okrzesik compete throughout the week of the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby can order tickets for the event now at 5flagsspeedway.com.
To order your early bird Snowball Derby four-day video package today, click here and use discount code “snowbird.” Individual video tickets are available for each day of racing; however, a four-day early bird video ticket offers a total savings of $38.
Individual video tickets can be purchased now at the regular price by clicking here.
For more information on the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby, visit Speed51’s Snowball Central.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 photo