Travis Braden’s 2019 Snowball Derby began perhaps before any other driver’s, but not in the way you would imagine. He was at the Miss Snowball Derby Pageant in downtown Pensacola last Thursday to cheer on girlfriend Jessica Ballard as she competed in her first pageant.
“It was tense, there was double overtime, Jess was down to the final five, then it became the final two,” Braden said of the event. “She had appeared to really do a fantastic job so there was definitely a good chance she’s going to win this. Then the tiebreaker, however they did it, it came down to and she was runner-up. Overall, a lot of fun and I really would have liked to see her win it because I think she would’ve been a great part of the Snowball Derby and the next twelve months of events at Five Flags Speedway.”
It was a reversal of roles for the two, as Braden is normally the one in the spotlight. It was a night he won’t soon forget.
“I’ve never done anything like that and to be honest with you, I’ve never had the pleasure of really being on the other side, looking at it from the other perspective. I’ve always been the driver and I’ve always had people cheering me on and seldom do I get to sit back and watch and cheer on my girlfriend,” he said. “That was really cool in of itself just to have that experience between the two of us. The venue was awesome, the people we got to meet involved with Five Flags Speedway and the Snowball Derby treated us very well. It was a lot of fun, it really was.”
Throughout the 2019 season they have made a social media push to document behind the scenes of their race weekends. They plan on doing the same for the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby in hopes of growing short track racing and getting other drivers and teams to follow suit.
“You’ve probably noticed this with my girlfriend Jess and I going to the Miss Snowball Derby pageant and a couple other things, we want to do a good job of sharing our experience through social media and whatever, so we’re really going to be focused on sharing the whole week socially so followers can kind of follow the Snowball Derby and hopefully we can be a part of helping it grow.”
“I’d love to be at the forefront showing what other drivers and other teams can do as well. We really want to be a part of helping this grow,” he added. A part of that is the initiatives that Speed51 and a lot of people in short track racing have really been pushing in the past few years. We recognize that, we want to capitalize on that for ourselves but we also want to help everything going forward.
The attention goes back to the Wheeling, WV driver as he heads back to Five Flags Speedway for the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby. Team Platinum has made the trip to the Florida speed plant during Derby weekend in recent years for the Snowflake 100, but it will only be his second attempt to make the Snowball Derby.
Braden was left out of the 2014 Snowball Derby after becoming a victim of Ricky Brooks’s “Room of Doom”. He now goes back looking to find redemption from five years ago.
“I am definitely excited to get back. I’ve only attempted the Derby one time prior and we failed to make the race in qualifying, we were the first car out. We won the last chance race and we did not pass tech after the last chance race, too much left side weight,” Braden told Speed51.com. “All these years I’ve been racing these cars, I’ve been to the Snowball a number of times, but I’ve never actually had the chance to compete in the race. Our season has been fantastic with Team Platinum and it’s been one of those deals where it’s felt like it’s your year to try to go to make it happen. Just real excited to finally make a run for it. We’re pretty much ready to go and looking forward to being a part of it.”
As a former Winchester 400 winner, Braden is no stranger to crown jewel Super Late Model races. He says the timing and anticipation for the Snowball Derby makes it a race all on its own.
“You’d have to look at it from a logistical standpoint first, I think. It’s at a time of year where nothing else is going on, it’s really too cold to race anywhere but Florida, just logistically people are available for the first part of it,” he stated. “Historically, you look at the name of winners and it’s just a great racetrack that puts on great racing.”
The whole thing builds up and when you get 60 cars from all over the country to come for one big race, you really can’t expect anything less than a great show. That’s just the anticipation, right?” he continued. “If you go there and truly can win that race, you and your team are the best of the best for that calendar year. It’s something that’s sought after and we all would love to say that we won the Snowball Derby.”
The objective for Braden and Team Platinum remains straightforward going into the biggest Super Late Model race in the country. With the Tom Dawson Trophy awaiting the winner of the race, he says you first must make it into the show.
“I’ll take it kind of simple, get there, get through tech, be prepared, hopefully make the show on the first try, I know we have the speed but it’s one of those things where you have to be prepared for what weather conditions you’re going to have because it’s such a long qualifying event, I guess I’d call it,” he said. “Just make the show and then from there, put together a good strategy and if you’ve got a good enough car, just be smart, it’s a long race. We’ve had a blast this year so this is going to be fun, and if we have a shot to win it at the end you can bet your bottom I’m going to be going for it.”
Race fans looking to make the pilgrimage to Pensacola for the Snowball Derby can order tickets for the event now at 5flagsspeedway.com.
For fans unable to make the trip, they can tune in to Speed51’s pay-per-view broadcast of the event. Now is the perfect time to order your video ticket and take advantage of early-bird savings. To order your early bird Snowball Derby four-day video package today, click here and use discount code “snowbird.” Individual video tickets are available for each day of racing; however, a four-day early bird video ticket offers a total savings of $38.
Individual video tickets can be purchased now at the regular price by clicking here.
For more information on the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby, visit Speed51’s Snowball Central.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51.com