Last season, a trio of drivers monopolized victory lane during the Blizzard Super Late Model Series at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. Bubba Pollard, Augie Grill and Johanna Long combined to win all of the races on the schedule and Long took home the 2009 Blizzard Series championship after all three drivers entered the season finale mathematically capable of taking the crown.
But there’s one driver in particular that hopes to end their stranglehold on winning in the Blizzard Series this season. 2008 Blizzard champion Josh Hamner did not run the Blizzard Series last year due to his national commitments of racing in the ASA Late Model Challenge Series. This year though, Hamner is back at Five Flags and starting with Friday, April 9th’s Pepsi Max 100, he will be running the full season in the #51 Super Late Model owned by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Kyle Busch.
“We’ve had a lot of success at Pensacola and have come oh-so close to winning the Snowball Derby,” said Hamner. “It will be good to get back racing there. It will be good to race against drivers who I know and to see where they have gotten better. There is always a lot of tough competition there. Some of the best racing in the county, I think, is at Pensacola and Mobile, so I’m really looking forward to being back there.”
Hamner has plenty of respect for the three drivers who dominated the 2009 Blizzard season, but he also knows that they can be beat and he is hoping that he will be the next one to do that.
“ I think we’ll be right with them. Johanna – she gets around there as good as anybody now. She’s only getting better with time as she gets more experience and runs more laps. Augie – we don’t have to say much about him. He grew up down there and he’s been around a lot of good people. He started out working with his Dad and he’s grown up learning so much that he’s got a good package there. Bubba has been a really good racer for as long as I’ve known him and last year, he hit on something really good. I expect that he’ll continue being strong.”
Hamner isn’t just watching the lead three drivers from the 2009 season though. He doesn’t underestimate any of the competition in the Blizzard Series. He points out 2005 Snowball Derby winner Eddie Mercer and former Snowflake 100 winner Brandon Carlson as just a few of the other drivers who will be contending for victories this year, along with more short track standouts such as Mike Garvey, Ryan Lawler, Chase Elliott, Casey Smith and more.
“There were plenty of other guys who were nipping at their heels all year long,” said Hamner. “Beating all of those competitive people goes a long way. To go down there and beat the quality of drivers there is something big. As a racer, you go there and know the level of drivers who you are running against. All of those guys, and girls, mean business and are on their game. They are all there to win and they want it as bad as I do.”
Win, lose or draw though, Hamner is just happy to be returning to a track that is dear to his own heart, and thankful for the existence of the Blizzard Series at Five Flags Speedway.
“They’ve got one of the best things going in racing. They’ll have 35-plus cars show up for the first race and they’ll do a really good job with those. They’ve made improvements to the track and they have a great place to go and race. In today’s times, you see tracks closing and places that only have 15 cars for a race, so this just goes to show that Five Flags is one of the best racetracks to race at the country.”
The Pepsi Max 100 Blizzard Series Super Late Model race at Five Flags Speedway will take place on Friday, April 9th. The Super Stocks, Sportsmen and Bombers will also compete as part of the Pepsi Max 100 event.
The five Blizzard Series and five Miller Lite Series events at Mobile Int’l Speedway will make up the 2010 “Gulf Coast Championship” Series, where drivers competing at both tracks are eligible for bonuses at the end of the season.
For more information about Five Flags Speedway, the Pepsi Max 100 or the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby, please visit www.5flagsspeedway.com or contact the track by calling (850) 944-8400.