Wisconsin has boasted a great lineup of race car drivers at the Snowball Derby for decades now, often rivaling the states of the Deep South. The year 2020 has some of the Badger State’s strongest representation in many years, with a wide range of age and experience. It also includes one of Wisconsin’s youngest guns going in with one of the state’s powerhouse teams.
Now 17 years old, Gabe Sommers has already turned heads up north since moving up to Super Late Models in 2018. Wins in both the TUNDRA Series and ARCA Midwest Tour, along with strong championship showings at tracks like State Park Speedway, have many tabbing him as the next force to be reckoned with in the Badger State.
Racing with team owner Chris Wimmer has also been of help, with Wimmer also having experience mentoring up-and-coming drivers in the past decade, such as Harrison Burton.
Sommers, setting his sights on Five Flags Speedway and the Snowball Derby for the first time, is now ready to test mettle in the biggest Super Late Model race of the year.
“It’s going to be a good time. I haven’t been able to participate in the Derby yet, should be a lot of fun,” Sommers said. “I can’t wait to get down there. Knowing all of the people that have won it and participated in it, there’s going to be a lot of competition there. It’s going to be an honor to race against those guys, looking forward to battling side by side. I can’t wait to get after it.”
Despite the abbreviated racing season, there has been plenty for Sommers and the No. 15 camp to do in 2020, racing a majority of the time at home. While the Snowball Derby is seen as the end-of-season extravaganza, Sommers instead sees it as the beginning to a separate winter season.
“We’ve been running the ARCA Midwest Tour, we’ve been running the ‘Alive for Five’ at Dells and we ran the All American 400 a couple of weeks ago. This is our way of getting the offseason schedule started down south. It’s going to be sweet to kick it off in Florida and go from there.”
As for his approach to studying up before heading to Pensacola, Florida, Sommers has taken a hybrid approach of both old and new school.
“I’ve talked to a few people that have run down there. Been running a little bit of iRacing, just to figure out the line. Hopefully when I get to the track, I’ll be able to figure it out fairly quick and stay on pace with everybody else.”
The only thing that is harder than the 300-lap race itself are the two laps just to make it into the Snowball Derby, at least if you don’t want to brave the 50-lap last chance race to make the show. Sommers solution to taking on the high intensity qualifying session is to just play it like business as usual.
“I’m going to take it as a normal qualifying session and drive the car as hard as I can. Whatever the car will give us, it will give us. We got a good car, Chris puts together a good car there with good results in years past. Hopefully we can have a good car again.”
Despite setting some realistic goals for the weekend, Sommers is ever the eager beaver to go out and win the whole thing right from the outset.
“I’d love to win this race, biggest race I’ll run this year or ever ran. Mainly, I’m looking for a top five or top 10 out of it, but I’d love to take the win given the chance. Biggest race in all of short track racing, biggest win a Late Model driver can win, it’d be pretty amazing.”
Want more on the Snowball Derby? Visit Snowball Central on Speed51.com for the latest entry lists, news, race history and much more including info for those heading to the Florida Panhandle.
Race fans unable to make it to Pensacola will be able to watch the 53rd Annual Snowball Derby on Speed51.TV. Video tickets can be purchased now by clicking here.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51