As I sit at my computer typing this blog, I keep counting down the days for what might be the single most exciting trip of my life! On Tuesday, November 30 I will depart the Harrisburg International Airport and connect to a flight to Pensacola from Charlotte. Amazingly, it will be my first time outside the eastern time zone. After arriving in Pensacola, I will ride in my first official rental car to my hotel and from there it will be time to check out the many attractions Pensacola, Florida has to offer and the several events going on all week leading up to the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby. I will document the entire trip with my camera and flip video, posting photos and videos for everyone to see when I get back.
If you are unfamiliar with the Snowball Derby, it is a who's who of short track super late model racing with a bit of NASCAR flavor. Current NASCAR drivers David Ragan, David Stremme and Landon Cassill as well as Truck Series drivers Ryan Sieg and Johanna Long will be there competing. Although defending race winner Kyle Busch will be busy attending the NASCAR banquet, he will still have a presence fielding two cars for the race. Future stars with some familiar last names Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Ross Kenseth will be there contending for the win. Former winners of the 300 lap race Augie Grill, Clay Rogers, Eddie Mercer, Dave Mader III and perhaps Bobby Gill will all be there. Other notables among the current 55 entries include former ARCA champion Tim Steele, current ARCA driver Grant Enfinger, ASA Midwest driver Dan Fredrickson, former Kevin Harvick Inc. driver Cale Gale just to name a few. A couple drivers who have a ton of laps at Five Flags Speedway but have come up short from winning the Snowball Derby will be there to try again: Wayne Niedecken Jr. and David Rogers.
The night preceding the big race will be a 100 lap pro late model race called the Snowflake. Currently approximately 65 cars are entered including many of the names that will headline the Snowball Derby. Among the drivers doing double duty will be Mike Garvey, Stephan McCurley, Johanna Long, Ryan Crane, Bubba Pollard, Josh Hamner, Chase Elliott and Augie Grill. Modifieds, Super Stocks, Sportsman and Bombers will all be on hand for feature races during the week as well.
Predictions for Snowball Derby: How can you go against the 14 year old phenom Chase Elliott who has 12 wins in a late model in 2010? I think he will be taking the biggest win of his career so far at the Snowball Derby. Ross Kenseth will turn in an excellent second place performance with 2010 USAR Pro Cup champion Clay Rogers finishing third. My dark horse pick is Donnie Wilson. This Oklahoma driver has not won any races of this magnitude, but he has someone who has calling the shots. Freddie Query has been his crew chief all year and they have steadily improved race after race. The feel good story will be if David Rogers, after years of trying, would make it into victory lane.
Predictions for Snowflake: The double duty drivers will reign supreme as Mike Garvey, who has won two recent pro late model races and I think he will be able to take home his third during the Snowflake 100. Fan favorite Johanna Long will finish second and Georgia driver Bubba Pollard third. Kenzie Ruston will be my dark horse for this race. She hasn't really had the finishes to show for it, but she has run very well in some of the late model races she has competed in this year. The feel good pick would go to Eddie Mercer as this may quite possibly be his last Snowball Derby week as a driver.
Predictions for Homestead: Jeff Gordon wins and becomes the first full time driver to win at every Cup track he's competed on. Despite the silly chase format, Kevin Harvick finishes 2nd and wins the championship anyway when Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin finish just outside the top ten, giving Richard Childress Racing their first Cup championship since they won it with Dale Earnhardt in 1994. Finally, after the major set back of the week when Furniture Row Racing's hauler was involved in an accident going back to the race shop, the team regroups and Regan Smith gets his first top ten since his win at Talladega in 2008!
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