Jeff Fultz is one of the most accomplished gunslingers in all of short track racing. He won three championships and is the all-time winningest driver in the history of NASCAR’s now-defunct Southeast Series. He’s won in the ARCA Racing Series, he’s won CRA Super Series races and he has visited victory lane for the Rattler at South Alabama.
But there’s one thing that Jeff Fultz hasn’t done and that has been to win the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. Fultz has come close, but hasn’t pulled off the victory yet. There’s a new sense of urgency for him to win in this year’s 43rd running of the biggest Super Late Model race in the country. By his own admission, Fultz’s chances to win this big one are getting fewer and fewer thanks to his growing role as a driver coach for young drivers in the sport.
“This might be my last one,” said Fultz. “A lot of my career might be getting towards the end as far as the driving stuff. We’re looking forward to some really big things with some of the young drivers. So we’re working hard with a new car to try to go down there and try to win the thing. We’ve been in a position before.”
Fultz is especially hungry though because the 2009 version of the event was not his strongest Derby outing. Issues with his car actually kept Fultz from qualifying for the race. So this time around, he’s got a little extra motivation to redeem himself.
“Last year, we had probably the worst luck that we’ve ever had there when we had electrical problems with the engine,” said Fultz. “But other than that, we’ve had a great racecar in the Derby.”
Fultz has run in the Blizzard Super Late Model Series at Five Flags this year in an effort to learn what to do, and what not to do, when he gets to the Derby this year. Those lessons have been valuable ones.
“We’ve struggled a little bit this whole year at Pensacola,” said Fultz. “We’ve always run well there for the Snowball, but we’ve struggled a little bit at the Blizzard Series races. I think it is because of the heat and because we usually try a lot of new stuff down there.
“More than anything, it’s been from us. Our cars have been great, but we’ve just slipped up. The one car that we’ve designated to run there just hasn’t been that good of a car there. But we’ve got some stuff figured out and we’ve run real great at Mobile. We’ve had a couple of monkeys climb up on our back and we found some things at Winchester, but got into the fence after we crashed. If we get everything turned around for the Snowball Derby, it will be a lot better. We’ve got a new car that we are bringing down and we’ve got a new motor program with Ford racing.”
There is no doubt just how important the Snowball Derby is to Fultz.
“The Snowball Derby is kind of like the Daytona 500 for short track racing,” said Fultz. “It has been since I was a little kid. I’ve been going for years and years and years to just watch it. Then I became fortunate enough to drive in it. It’s basically the biggest short track race that you’ll go to. The excitement of it is so great. Your stomach gets sore just worrying about it until you get to Sunday when they drop the green. Just making it is one thing. Some of the biggest teams that you’ll ever see, come to race. There have been Cup, Busch and Truck drivers. They’re all there.
“It’s the biggest race of the year and I’ve been going there since I was a real young kid, so it is big race for me. It’s one that I’d really be proud to win.”
The 43rd Annual Snowball Derby weekend kicks off on Wednesday, December 1st, with the Cat Country/WEAR TV3 Free Green Flag Party, where fans can meet their favorite drivers on the Five Flags asphalt. On-track action kicks off on Thursday, December 2nd, with practice for the Snowball Derby and Snowflake 100 cars, as well as features for the Five Flags Bomber and Sportsman divisions. Friday is qualifying day for the Snowball Derby cars, while the Pro Late Models will get more practice and the Super Stocks and Modified feature events.
The Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 will go green on Saturday, December 4th, along with last-chance qualifying races for the Snowball Derby. Then on Sunday, the green flag will wave for the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby.
For more information on the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby, contact Five Flags Speedway by calling (850) 944-8400 and be sure to visit www.snowballderby.com and www.fiveflagsspeedway.com.