TOLEDO, Ohio (Nov. 30, 2016) – The annual late model pilgrimage to Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida is officially underway in anticipation for the 49th running of the Snowball Derby this weekend (Nov. 30 – Dec. 4).
The entry list for the Sunday afternoon Derby is impressive to say the least and holds a lot of ARCA drivers, including Grant Enfinger, Dalton Sargeant, Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott, Bret Holmes, Mason Mingus, Chad Finley, Daniel Hemric, Bubba Pollard, Anderson Bowen, Zane Smith, Ty Majeski, Ross Kenseth and more.
There is also the Snowflake 100 race on Saturday, to help set the stage for the next-day grand finale. The Snowflake race also has its share of ARCA flavor entered including ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards veteran Josh Williams. Williams packed up the No. 1 Toyota Camry late model and pulled out Tuesday morning for the eight-and-a-half-hour ride from Charlotte to Pensacola.
“Pulled out this morning…me and my ARCA guys…John Holmes, Speedy (Adam Nelson) and Perry Mantz,” said Williams, “and my girlfriend Trazia.”
The Snowball Derby race weekend gets underway Wednesday.
“Wednesday we park and go through tech. Practice Thursday. Practice and qualify Friday and race Saturday.”
Williams will be driving a car owned by Bryan Rogers, the president of Circle Track Warehouse, who also sponsors Williams’ ARCA cars. Williams competed in the same car in last year’s Snowflake 100.
“We actually ran really well last year. Qualified 10th out of 60 or 70 cars. We were running in the top-five but we had overheating problems…something went wrong with the radiator. Kept coming down pit road. Finally got it fixed, but we didn’t get the cautions to make it up.”
While Williams can bring his ARCA experience to the table, he says very little transfers between the much heavier ARCA car and the lighter late model.
“Everything’s different…mostly working with bump-stops. We don’t run bump-stops in the ARCA cars. That and 2750 pounds compared to 3400 with the ARCA car.”
Fortunately, Williams was able to work on the late model at the Circle Track Warehouse shop so he could get his own shop cleaned up for the new year.
“That’s pretty much what we’ve been doing since Kansas…cleaning the shop. We moved some things outside and repainted the floor. Besides the late model, we haven’t worked on a race car since we took the checkered at Kansas. But it’s good to regroup and start putting your stuff back together.”
Williams also paused for a few days over the Thanksgiving holiday, going home to Port Charlotte, Florida to enjoy some family time. He plans to go back for the Christmas break too. His 2017 plans are still up in the air.
“I’m not sure what 2017 is going to be. I’m gonna race something regardless of how much. We’re building another short track car and another intermediate car. We’re going to use the newer style Cup chassis to build the newer cars.”
But before Williams turns another wrench on his ARCA cars, it’s back to the business of the big Snowball Derby race weekend ahead.
“For late model racing, the Snowball race is just like our Daytona, except it’s at the end of the season rather than the beginning. It’s huge. People come from all over the country…you’ve got teams there from Maine, Wisconsin…all over the place.
“I really like the track. It’s different. At one end you have a real long corner and the other’s a little tighter. It’s older and weathered…I like that. It’s definitely a fun track. The track’s also got quite a bit of room so you don’t have to run anyone over. And everybody’s so close in speed…it makes for a real good race. It’s hard to pass…you really have to work for it.”
Once Williams and his ARCA crew clear Pensacola, it’ll be time to take off for Indianapolis to officially take his place in the ARCA record books as the fourth-place driver in 2016 championship standings. Williams will also be attending the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show and convention that coincides with ARCA’s championship awards banquet.
“I’ve been doing PRI since it was at Orlando, so we’ve been doing that for a while. We’ll enjoy the banquet Saturday night, then go back home and get ready for the Daytona test.”