Snowball Derby week officially started on Tuesday night at Beef O’Brady’s in historic downtown Pensacola, as fans, drivers, and teams gathered for the Snowball Derby Kickoff Party. So many top drivers joined the festivities, in fact, that many openly wondered if the winner of the 51st Derby was in the room.
Many have tabbed Jeff Choquette as a favorite for this year’s Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL), based on his strength to close out the 2018 season. Choquette enters the Derby following wins in the Winchester 400 and the Florida Governor’s Cup.
“It’s been pretty good, to be honest with you,” Choquette told Speed51.com about his hot streak on the Kickoff Show. “That’s what happens when everything comes together. The work has been there every race. The team puts in the effort, us drivers, me and Stephen put in the effort behind the wheel, and that’s what happens when everything comes together.”
“Obviously, it would mean the world to win the race, Choquette said. “But there’s no reason to get hyped up until you actually get there and do it.”
However, Choquette’s Jett Concrete teammate, Stephen Nasse, was far more willing to stake his claim.
"[The winner]'s in the room right now, I promise you that,” Nasse stated. “He's in the chair right here. It's Stephen Nasse, the 51 car.
“The Snowball Derby is the big one,” Nasse also said. “It brings people from everyone in the country. I’m looking to bring the title back to Florida, baby, where it all started. We’re going to bring it home this year.”
For some drivers, knowing the level of competition in the field – and in Beef O’Brady’s Tuesday night – meant that just making the 36-car feature race on Sunday would be an accomplishment.
“I haven’t even thought about either race,” said Jack Dossey, III, who will be attempting both the Snowball Derby and the Allen Turner Snowflake 100. “I just want to make them. I’m worried about qualifying. There is a lot of pressure there, making the race. I know qualifying is really tough here. I’m confident in my team, but not overconfident. There are a lot of good teams here.”
For others, there is more pressure to finish Sunday with a win.
“I’m just thinking about Sunday,” said Chandler Smith. “Hopefully we’ll be kissing the Snowball Sunday. I really hope we’ll be getting the win. It would be really big for me and big for the crew.”
That crew is led by Ricky Turner, a former winner as both a driver and a crew chief in the Snowball Derby. That gives Smith extra incentive to win.
“It says a lot for me, since he’s won as a driver and a crew chief, now it looks at me and says, ‘Well, crap, now I’ve got to win.’ It puts a little pressure on me. Hopefully, we can get it done one of these days.”
Derek Griffith is this year’s Pro All Stars Series (PASS) National Champion and has had plenty of success in the Northeast. However, as a Snowball Derby newcomer, even he is a little starstruck by the event.
“It’s an interesting race,” Griffith said. “We don’t have anything like this back home. To see all these big haulers roll up is pretty cool. These are the guys that are winning races everywhere. I’m interested to see how we line up.”
While many of the top drivers in the Snowball Derby field were at Beef O’Brady’s, Five Flags Speedway (FL) general manager Tim Bryant was careful to point out there are even more big names in the field.
“It’s very likely that the winner is meandering around here,” Bryant said. “It’s just so hard to pick. We don’t know. There’s a guy in Dolomite, Alabama that probably hasn’t even loaded his hauler yet that’s won two Snowball Derbies.”
Fans who missed out on the Snowball Derby Kickoff Party can watch the show in its entirety for free on Speed51.com’s Five Star Bodies Facebook Feed. Click here to watch the replay of the Facebook Live stream.
Race fans unable to attend the 51st Annual Snowball Derby in person will be able to watch a pay-per-view broadcast all week long on Speed51.com, including qualifying night. Five-day video tickets can be purchased now for $74.99 ($35 savings) to watch all of the action. Click here to purchase your video ticket today.
The 51st Annual Snowball Derby will take place on Wednesday, November 28 through Sunday, December 2 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL. For more information regarding the event, visit Snowball Central presented by Schaeffer’s Specialized Lubricants.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor - Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com