Johnny VanDoorn is considered one of the most accomplished racers out of the Midwest, from his three ARCA/CRA Super Series championships and countless number of wins in both template-bodied and Outlaw Super Late Models. Now, the Michigan driver is headed to “Paradise City,” returning to the Snowball Derby after several years away from the marquee event.
While on Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring,” Monday, conversation with the 2019 Redbud 400 winner quickly turned to his affinity of rock music.
“I’m a huge 80’s music fan and I’ve been one since I was a little kid, I don’t know why,” said VanDoorn. “Winger, Warrant, Poison, all those bands, those are my jam right there.”
This led to a truly important and thought-provoking question: If given the chance to select his own theme song for driver introductions at the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby, what song would he choose?
Several suggestions were provided by hosts Bob Dillner and Wesley Outland, as well as viewers on the Speed51 Facebook Feed presented by Five Star Race Car Bodies, including Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock,” Poison’s “Ain’t Nothing But a Good Time” and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” VanDoorn settled on a final selection.
“I’m over here trying to build race cars and now I’m trying to pick out driver intro songs, this is good stuff,” he added. “How about Guns N’ Roses, ‘Paradise City?’ This is like the Daytona 500, this is the big deal, let’s do that.”
When VanDoorn goes to “Paradise City” on December 4-8, it will be the first time VanDoorn makes the trip to Florida for the race since 2014, when he failed to make the field for the event. VanDoorn is riding a wave of momentum entering this year’s event, and he’s excited to return to the biggest race in Super Late Model racing.
“We love coming down there, it’s a bucket list deal, it’s the Daytona 500 of short track racing. The best of the best, if you want to compete against the best, that’s the race you want to go to,” VanDoorn told Speed51.com. “We feel like we’re in a position this year with the team and the business that we feel like we can go down there and compete. We’re ready to do it, lots of preparation goes into doing it in a race like that. The last month has been nothing but Snowball Derby preparation between the cars, the hauler, everything that goes along with it. It’s a big deal and we love going down there.”
While he has seen success in the Midwest over the past decade, it has been the opposite at the Snowball Derby. In four previous trips to Five Flags Speedway for the event, he has qualified for the race twice with a best finish of 18th in 2010. In both starts, he has failed to finish the race.
He gave his opinion on what makes the Snowball Derby tough, both personally and as a racer in general.
“From the time you get there to the time you leave, it’s the most challenging, grueling race you can do at this level of racing,” he said. “Qualifying into the show is a big deal, getting through tech is a big deal, even the two practice days are a big deal with as many cars as there are and staying out of trouble. You’ve just got to take each thing one step at a time. You get through tech day, then you get through practice day, then hopefully you qualify in, then focus on the race. It’s definitely a process to be able to go down there and have any success. We’ve had terrible success down there. I’ve done about everything you shouldn’t do down there. I’ve hit the wall qualifying, I think I’ve been down there four times and knocked out three clips, so I’m hoping to change that.”
VanDoorn has attributed his success to his time spent at the Snowball Derby, despite the misfortune he has faced in the event in the past. The opportunity to compete against the top drivers the country has to offer has him excited for the first week in December.
“I always tell people that no matter how you do in the Snowball Derby, you always leave there a better racer and a better team,” he stated. “When you’re racing against that much competition it brings you to a whole other level. Whether you do have success or don’t have success, it just leaves you in a better position when you leave that race. just to be able to go down there and have the opportunity to run that race is a huge honor.”
The best Super Late Model racers in the country will take the green flag at 2 p.m. CT on Sunday, December 8 for 300 laps of racing in the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby. Speed51 will have race fans covered with flag-to-flag coverage until the Tom Dawson Trophy is delivered to the winner in victory lane.
Individual video tickets are available for each day of racing; however, a four-day early bird video ticket offers a total savings of $38. To order your early bird Snowball Derby four-day video package today, click here and use discount code “snowbird.” Individual video tickets can be purchased now at the regular price by clicking here.
Fans who missed VanDoorn's interview can click here to see an on-demand replay of “The Morning Bullring.” The show traditionally airs at 7 a.m. ET on Speed51 and Speed51’s Facebook Feed presented by Five Star Race Car Bodies, but will take a Thanksgiving break next week, returning for an on-location episode at Five Flags Speedway (FL) on Monday, December 2 in the build-up to the Snowball Derby. Stay tuned for more details of that episode.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 State Editor (IN/MI) - Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51.com