Augie Grill has taken part in the 53rd Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway every year since 2005. However, this year’s Derby will be different for the two-time champion of the event.
This year’s Snowball Derby marks the first since the passing of Augie’s father, Frankie Grill. Frankie Grill, along with Grand American Race Cars, has played a role in 11 Snowball Derby victories, including his son’s triumphs in 2007 and 2008.
Since Frankie’s passing in September, going to the race track has been different for Augie Grill.
“It’s a little emptiness,” Grill told Speed51. “I’ve been to the track a few times since he passed away, and it’s just not the same. I’m used to him always being there, fussing at us or being behind us, whatever the case may be.
“It’s tough not having him to lean on or talk to. It’ll be different. Hopefully, by the end of the weekend, we still enjoy it and have a good time, but he’s still in my thoughts for sure.”
Grill is paying tribute to his father on his Snowball Derby entry, which features a photo of the two celebrating in victory lane. Nothing would mean more than taking this car back to victory lane, especially considering the struggles Grill has seen in the Derby.
You have to go back to 2014 to find the last time Grill was running at the finish of the Snowball Derby, scoring an eighth place finish that year. Various incidents and issues, along with a failure to make the field in 2018, have stymied Grill in the biggest event of the year since.
“It would be huge. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a really good car. Even the few years I’ve had a good car in the last few years, it seems like one thing or another bites us. Hopefully we kick the monkey off our back and we can have a car capable of running in the top five. That would be a win in itself, in my mind.”
Grill enters this year’s race happy with his car’s long-run speed, but hopes to find some more pace in qualifying trim to make his job easier on Sunday.
“I’m pretty comfortable. We went down there the other day and had a little bit of speed in the Super car. It had some good long run speed but was a little short on qualifying speed. I think we found the issue there, so we’re going down with optimism.
“Getting in on Friday night would be a win. I’ve had a struggle in recent years just qualifying well. The field is so tight at any race we go to anymore, it’s hard to start mid-pack or further pack to have a shot. We need to qualify in the top third or half and give ourselves a chance to race our way up a little bit.”
It will also be a busy weekend for Grill, as he will seek another win in his Modified on Friday while also working with the young Grant Thompson in the Allen Turner Snowflake 100 on Saturday. Once Thursday rolls around, Grill knows it will be non-stop activity until the checkered flag falls on Sunday.
“Wednesday is a laid-back day, you don’t get in too much of a rush to do anything. When we get started Thursday morning, it’ll be a blur until Sunday evening. We’ll just try to make the most of practice as it comes. We’ll try to get a little bit of two-lap speed in the Super car, and we’ll be in good shape.
“The last Allen Turner Pro race, with Grant, he was on the outside pole. We didn’t run that great of a race, but we think we found the issue there. Hopefully, we’ll be in good shape across the board.”
Race fans unable to attend the Snowball Derby can watch live on Speed51.TV. Click here to watch this weekend’s racing.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo