The Blizzard Series is used by many Super Late Model drivers as a chance to learn Five Flags Speedway and get some laps in race conditions in preparation for December’s Snowball Derby. But for former Southern Super Series champion Donnie Wilson, Friday night’s rescheduled Blizzard Series race is another chance to score his first win at the Pensacola oval.
Five Flags Speedway promoter Tim Bryant announced last month that Friday night’s race will utilize a heat race format and the main event would be shortened from 100laps to 75. The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma driver talked about what he thought about the new format during an appearance Monday morning on Speed51’s The Morning Bullring.
“I think it’s a pretty cool deal, honestly,” Wilson said. “I’ve got a background in dirt track racing and that’s where I came from like a lot of racers. I’ve had my fair shareof heat races years ago and I think it’s pretty cool to do. I think a little luck of the draw plays into it, so you could get a good starting spot for the feature, so it is what it is and I think it’ll be exciting for the fans. Your top ten guys will always be your top ten guys and they’ll figure out how to get to the front regardless.”
Five Flags Speedway and the Southern Super Series will utilize the same heat race lineups that were drawn last Friday, which will put Wilson dead last in the starting lineup for the first heat race. With 10 laps to work by six cars and a shortened 75-lap feature, he was asked about how he will approach his heat race.
“That’s the million-dollar question right there,” he said. “I mean honestly, you’ve got to be smart about it but you want to start the best you can for the feature because seventy-five laps is pretty short for a race at Pensacola for us. You want to start in the top ten for sure, so I’d have to finish third from starting seventh. I’ve got to pass four cars in ten laps, so that’s kind of my goal.”
While he admitted that he prefers qualifying over heat races, he recognizes the potential positives heat racing can do with not only fan count, but drivers who may decide to make the trip to Pensacola to race.
“I prefer to qualify but I feel like this is a different avenue to get more people in the stands, but also I think it might intrigue more guys to come to the race track too and race,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about qualifying because let’s be honest, some people are good qualifiers and some people aren’t. I’ll classify myself as not a great qualifier at all, so it might help me more than others.”
The four Blizzard Series races throughout the year are seen as “The Road to the Snowball Derby” in December. However, Wilson says the track changes so much throughout the year there isn’t much drivers can take from the Blizzard Series and apply it during Snowball Derby week. He went on to talk about what he feels is the most important when preparing for the biggest asphalt Super Late Model race in thecountry.
“The Derby’s a different animal, it’s a different time of year, the track always seemsto be different in my opinion, and it’s a lot faster,” Wilson said. “During the summer, you always fight the slick conditions of the race track and you have the total opposite when you go to the Derby. I think just making laps there is of most importance to me.”
While Wilson has scored 15 top-five finishes and finished in the top 10 in nearly half of his starts at Five Flags, he has yet to score a win at the Florida Panhandle half-mile. According to thethirdturn.com, Wilson has finished second four times, including in the 2010 Snowball Derby. As he gets set to make yet another start at Five Flags Speedway Friday night, he’s hoping to finally shake the monkey off his back and pick up the elusive win.
“I want to win there worse than anything,” he admitted. “Everyone’s goal at the end of the year is to win the Snowball Derby, and that’s what we all try to do. I’ve been competitive, had lots of top five, lots of seconds there. I struggled there last year and I’ve struggled there a little bit this year already. Not really struggled, I missed the first race and got fourth the second race so I can’t say struggled too much, but you look at the race I did run in June, I didn’t qualify very well and finished fourth. We would’ve had a better run if we would have qualified better. Now you take the qualifying aspect out of it. Will it help me, I don’t know, we’re going to find out. The goal is to win the Derby and take all the information you can get. Yeah, I’m 0 for 60, I don’t know, but I’m not going to quit going there until I win, so I’ll keep knocking my head against the wall and try to get there somehow.”
Race fans unable to make it to Pensacola, Florida Friday night will be able to watch the heat races and feature for the Blizzard Series live on Speed51’s Summer Thunder TV presented by PFC Brakes. All that is needed to watch is a monthly or yearly subscription to the Speed51 Network. Click here to join today.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI)- Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com