For many drivers, the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL) is the end to a season of chasing points and following a tour schedule. Drivers who raced in the track's own Blizzard Series, on the ASA Midwest Tour, in the CRA Super Series, on the PASS South tour, in the Ken-Ten Series or on the Sunoco National Tour for a full or limited schedule in 2010 are all expected at this year's event that takes place in Pensacola, Florida from December 1st-5th.
Dennis Schoenfeld, on the other hand, has not run enough regular races this year to even call his schedule a limited one. He has no loyalty to a particular series or tour. Points are a foreign concept to him these days. But when it comes to entering the biggest races in the Super Late Model world, Schoenfeld is there - and they don't get any bigger than the Snowball Derby.
“I grew up around this and call myself a nostalgia racer,” said Schoenfeld. “I'm 43 years old and I enjoy going to different racetracks that I went to as a kid, that mean things to me now….Winchester, Pensacola, Nashville…those places are deep down in my heart.
“I only race these big races now because they mean so much to me and I don't have the time or the money to just go and race every week. So I have to pick the ones that I want. I'd rather just race the big shows and take the time to do those right.”
Not racing as much gives Schoenfeld and his team some extra time to prepare their #43 Schoenfeld Headers Super Late Model. They do much more than just dust it off and go racing.
“We've worked hard on the car, we don't just dust it off,” said Schoenfeld. “I know a lot of people who race these cars, so the learning curve is a little bit less for us. I enjoy going down there and I've got a pretty good package that works down there. It doesn't always qualify the greatest, but it comes around pretty good when the tires start wearing out.”
Schoenfeld currently makes his home in Arkansas and will likely be the only driver from that state at the Derby this week. But even if he lived on Mars, Schoenfeld would probably find a way to get to Five Flags every December with his racecar.
“There's one or two maybe [SLM drivers in Arkansas],…and Donnie Wilson comes out of Oklahoma City and that is another 180 miles west of where I am,” said Schoenfeld.
Since he runs against the best of the best in the big shows that he enters, Schoenfeld doesn't have a long list of victories in the Super Late Model world. He was a winner in the old Big 10 Series at Concord Speedway (NC), but usually just getting a top-10 finish in the company that Schoenfeld keeps is considered a strong accomplishment.
“I'm waiting on the big one,” said Schoenfeld. “I've run a lot of big races, but haven't won a big race yet. I've won a couple of Big 10 races and those are probably the highlights of my career. You hear guys who say they won 65 track championships or 100,000 Late Model races, but they haven't raced against the top of the line drivers every week. That's what I've done. Even when I raced in Florida every week, I was racing against David Rogers and Dickie Anderson every week. That's not chump change.
And if Schoenfeld did score that big victory in the Snowball Derby?
“To win this race would be amazing,” said Schoenfeld. “A lot of people that I've known and that my Dad has known have won this race from the Alabama Gang on down. So to win it would just be so cool.”
But Schoenfeld is trying not to approach the event any differently than any of his other shows.
“It's just like any big race. You've got to race the race. You've got to put yourself in a position and hopefully you can capitalize on it. They say a win is when preparation and opportunity meet and when you've got that going for you, things happen.”
One thing that Schoenfeld might have going for him this year is in the numbers. He's a 43-year-old driver racing car #43 in the 43rd Snowball Derby. Could that mean something big is in store? While Schoenfeld isn't superstitious, he sure hopes so.
“I've got that 43 thing, so maybe that will work for me,” said Schoenfeld.
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.