One year ago, Ryan Luza earned the honor of being named the Pro Late Model track champion at Five Flags Speedway (FL). ‘Flyin Ryan’ would then back up his season-long accomplishments with an impressive performance during Snowball Derby weekend, pacing final practice, qualifying within the top 10 and finishing 13th among some of the best competition around in the Snowflake 100.
In 2016, the resident of Cypress, Texas, a short distance outside of Houston, made the step up into a Super Late Model and has his sights set on making his Snowball Derby debut in this year’s 49th running of the prestigious short track race.
The team has been focused entirely on perfecting their chances throughout the season, exclusively competing in the four Blizzard Series events at the Pensacola half-mile on the Southern Super Series schedule. Despite some ups and downs, Luza finished in the top 10 twice including a seventh out of 36 cars in May where he also qualified in the front half of the field.
“We raced four races this year preparing and we’ve had quite a bit of bad luck, so hopefully all of that is gone,” Luza told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We’ve got our setup pretty much ready.”
Luza already has his confidence set high going into December, much like the previous season against some of the top racers in the business. The 20-year-old is optimistic that he will be in the field by Friday night and be able to skip the often intense last chance race on Saturday afternoon.
“The really big thing is to qualify into the race,” Luza said. “It’s a pretty high expectation still with all of the competition, but that’s the main goal.”
While this will be his first attempt to be one of the starters in the prestigious race, Luza is aware of the pressure that comes with pole night simply from attending in previous years.
“I’m already nervous just thinking about it,” Luza indicated. “It’s going to be a lot worse sitting in that seat waiting to go. I’ll just try to block everything out and turn the laps you do every time you’re there and pretend it’s nothing different.”
Luza has been fine-tuning on his talents in more ways than one despite only appearing in the Super Late Model in race conditions on a select few occasions. At the closest facility to his home, Central Texas Speedway, he finished runner-up in the Pro Modified standings. Some practice and success away from the track has also contributed.
“It’s all about racecraft,” Luza stated. “You’re practicing passing, running, and driving a car. That’s all there is to it.
“I do that iRacing stuff too, which is always fun. That’s probably my biggest hobby outside of being at the race track. Race as much as you can, that’s probably the biggest thing.”
Luza won the premiere race of the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series 2016-17 schedule earlier in the month and followed it up with another victory on Tuesday night. He will get back behind the wheel of the real-life race car later in the month as the team plans to test prior to the Snowball Derby week’s festivities.
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 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 Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Bruce Nuttleman