Back in February a relatively unknown driver by the name of Zane Smith burst onto the Super Late Model scene by winning the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing championship at Florida's New Smyrna Speedway. Now he's heading back to the Sunshine State with the hopes of book-ending the season with another big win in Florida at the 48th Annual Snowball Derby.
"That would be absolutely huge," said Smith. "It's the Snowball Derby. Just the name says it all. You look at the previous winners and they're all names now. It would be cool to say all the people that I've beat of all the big names that go down there. And in front of all those people down there too. That would just be awesome. I couldn't even put that into words."
The 16-year-old driver will be pulling double-duty at Five Flags Speedway during the weekend of December 6 when he attempts both the Snowball Derby and the Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 in his Pro Late Model.
Smith said he knows that running both races will be a tiring endeavor, but he also said that he believes running both events will help more than it will hurt.
"It's definitely going to be tiring going from one car right out into the other," he said. "But in qualifying that kind of helps me. If I mess up in one class then I could improve in the other because I can see what I messed up in to fix it. It'll all help in the end. By the end of the week hopefully we can go home with two good finishes."
The driver originally from Huntington Beach, California said there's one part of the weekend that he is very nervous about, and that is qualifying. He's been fast at almost every race track that he's visited throughout this season, but he struggled in qualifying during the All American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (TN) this year and had to race his way in through the last chance qualifier.
"Qualifying definitely has me nervous," said Smith. "There's so much money put into one race, and so much hard work and effort. As long as we don't have anything go wrong like (the broken shock in Tennessee) then we should be perfectly fine. I'm not expecting to qualify in the top three in my second time down there but a top 15 or top 10 would be good."
One thing that does have Smith confident is his qualifying performance at the Southern Super Series finale in September, which was the last time Super Late Models raced at Five Flags, and also Smith's first trip to Five Flags.
"It was our first race there and in qualifying I was only a tenth off of Bubba Pollard who got the pole," said Smith. "We raced pretty good too. And that was a last-minute deal in deciding to go there."
As many drivers and teams do, Smith is planning on running a special design on his No. 77 machines at Five Flags. He plans to have two different designs, one for each car. But Smith said that right now he has absolutely no clue what the cars will look like.
"I have no idea what we're doing yet," he said. "We're definitely going to do a wrap. But I haven't thought of anything. If people want to go on my Facebook or Twitter or anything and give me some ideas I would love that. We were thinking a snowman on there or for the Snowflake we were thinking of having snowflakes run down the car or something like that."
The 48th Annual Snowball Derby weekend kicks off with the Cat Country/WEAR-TV3 Green Flag Party on Wednesday, December 2. On-track activities start Thursday, December 3, for the opening practice rounds for the Snowball Derby Super Late Models and Snowflake 100 Pro Late Models. The Five Flags Butler U-Pull-It Bombers and Beef 'O' Brady's Sportsman divisions will also have feature events on Snowball Derby Thursday.
The top Snowball Derby starting spots will be set on Friday, December 4 during WXBM 102.7 Pole Night at Five Flags. The Five Flags Faith Chapel Super Stocks and Modifieds will also battle in their Snowball Derby features after Super Late Model qualifying.
The Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 takes center stage on Saturday, December 5 as the top Pro Late Model racers in the country qualify and battle for 100 laps at Five Flags. In addition, Saturday's action features the final 50-lap qualifying event for Snowball Derby drivers to make one last effort to qualify for the 300-lap Super Late Model race. The Better Built Tool Box Pro Trucks will also have a 50-lap feature on Snowball Derby Saturday.
Then on Sunday, December 6, the green flag will drop on the 48th Annual Snowball Derby at 2 p.m. CT at Pensacola, Florida's Five Flags Speedway.
For more information on the 48th 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 Matt Kentfield at [email protected] and/or Pat Bryant at [email protected]
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-51 Sports/Snowball Derby Press Release
-Photo credit: Daryl Canfield/Speed51.com