The latest Snowball Derby entry form to be received by the Five Flags Speedway (FL) office made its way to Pensacola, Florida all the way from the Canadian Maritimes. And the driver listed on that entry hails from Farmington, Maine, roughly 1,600 miles away from Five Flags Speedway.
Cassius Clark, the 2013 Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North champion, has officially entered the 49th Annual Snowball Derby on December 4. He will be behind the wheel of the King Racing No. 13, owned by Rollie MacDonald, for the 300-lap race.
This will be Clark’s second straight trip to the Gulf Coast for the most prestigious pavement short track race in the country. The 17-time PASS North winner finished 16th in last year’s race after battling within the top 10 for much of the race.
“I’m really excited,” Clark told Speed51.com powered by JEGS on Monday. “We were decent there last year, kind of struggled with some problems leading up to the Last Chance Race. It was kind of unfortunate that we had to run that but we learned some stuff and had a pretty good car for the race. The last pit stop there the wheels were loose so it kind of took us out of a half-decent finishing position, but I feel like we’ll go back this year and fall back on last year’s notes and go from there.”
Overall, this will be Clark’s fourth career attempt at the Snowball Derby. He also attempted the race in 2006 and 2007, recording finishes of 15th and 33rd, respectively.
“I was fortunate enough to do it back in 06 and 07, we did it back to back years,” Clark explained. “We were decent the first year down there, led some laps. The second year down there I felt we were better than what we were the first year, we qualified a little better but got taken out on a restart by a lapped car.”
The 35-year-old racer from the Pine Tree State looks forward to having another chance at the Tom Dawson Trophy in 2016 and hopes to build off of what the team learned last year. Clark believes that being able to compete in the race in back to back years will help his chances come race day.
“If you wait a long time, stuff changes and cars change over the years. This is the same car we brought last year and everything,” he explained. “It’s the same car I’ve been running since I teamed up with Rollie. We’ve got a good feeling of the car and have had some success with it. Hopefully where we went last year we’ll have a good notebook and be able to gain on what we did last year.”
One of the biggest advantages Clark believes he’ll have in comparison to his attempt at last year’s Derby is track time. Leading into last year’s Snowball Derby, Clark hadn’t turned a single lap around the Pensacola half-mile oval since 2007. Over the course of those eight years, he said the track changed significantly compared to what he remembered.
“I hadn’t been to the track in a long time and it was totally different from what it was when I originally went down there,” Clark stated. “I suspect this year it will be somewhat similar to last year as far as what I’m going to expect from the track. I kind of know what I need for a feel there, and as far as the car and everything I feel like (crew chief) Andrew (Hicken) and the team have a good baseline to go off of. We were fairly competitive in the race. I felt that we had a good car on long runs and he’s just going to go off of that and tune on it from there to see where we’ll end up.”
Following his 16th-place finish in the 2015 Snowball Derby, Clark kicked off his 2016 racing season in style north of the border. He recorded a pair of Maritime Pro Stock Tour victories in the first three races before bad luck began to haunt the King Racing team.
Clark hopes that the bad luck and mechanical gremlins are now behind them heading into the biggest race of the year.
“We have had some bad luck here recently. We have run really well, just in the big races things didn’t go our way,” Clark said. “We started off strong and just struggled. Nothing performance wise, just some stuff that happened with engines blowing up, rear ends braking and stuff like that. It’s kind of out of everybody’s control, so hopefully we’ll have that out of the way.”
Despite the recent bad luck, Clark remains optimistic heading into this year’s Snowball Derby. He believes that his team will be in a good position to improve on their performance from one year ago.
“We had high expectations last year, we thought we were in good shape and could be competitive. We were, it just took a lot of time and we were able to find an issue that was kind of hindering our performance for most of the weekend.
“But yeah, I think we’ll have everything in a row and we should be better than we were last year.”
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 Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com