The 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season is barely over, but for some the racing never ends.
David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion, this weekend will compete in the Snowball Derby, a 300-lap, super late model stock car race at the half-mile Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla.
Since 1968, the Snowball Derby has been run on the first weekend in December and over the years has attracted some of the sport’s biggest names.
Following are Ragan’s thoughts on his upcoming weekend.
FOR THOSE THAT DON’T KNOW THE HISTORY, WHAT EXACTLY IS THE SNOWBALL DERBY ALL ABOUT?The Snowball Derby is the biggest late model race in the country. They will have 75 or 80 cars for the super late model race and another 50 or so for the two-barrel race. The best of the best have been down there and have won it. A lot of guys from Rusty Wallace to Darrell Waltrip to basically everybody that has raced short tracks before have gone down and raced and won the snowball. I have never been down there, and I have built a late model car over the last off -season just to go race around the Southeast and I thought, ‘Heck, let’s go down here and run it.’
THIS RACE HAS BECOME PRETTY POPULAR WITH CUP DRIVERS RECENTLY WITH KYLE BUSCH WINNING LAST YEAR. WHAT IS THE APPEAL? We are all racers and we want to go race with the best of the best. We don’t get a chance to run every weekend like a lot of these guys do. The first Cup off weekend in December there is usually no racing going on, so this is the perfect time of year to go race. It is the best of the best of short track racers down there.
It is going to be a challenge. If it was going to be a cake walk I don’t think anybody would want to go down there. It is a tough race. For me, it is all about learning something else, being competitive and seeing what I’ve got. By no means do I think we are going to go down there and win just because I race a Sprint Cup car. These guys will probably teach me a lot.
YOU MENTIONED BUILDING YOUR OWN LATE MODEL FOR RACING. WHAT EXACTLY DID YOU BUILD?It is a straight rail late model car. It is a Ford with a 700 horsepower, 358 engine in it. It is similar to our Cup cars. The race cars only weigh 2,700 pounds, so it is about 500 pounds lighter than what our Cup car is. The cars are fast, they are hard to drive, but they look cool. Our Fusion that we will take down there is sporty and slick and it is going to be fun.
I am teaming up with Richie Wauters, who is a great late model racer and the crew chief for Aric Almirola on the (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series) side and he will help me out a lot. It is fun, but we all are competitive and want to win.
ASIDE FROM THIS RACE, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU MAKE SURE YOU TRY TO DO IN YOUR SHORT OFF-SEASON?The biggest thing is to spend time with my family. So much over the racing season they are always second or third. Anytime I can spend some time with my girlfriend or go back home to Georgia and spend a few weeks seeing my grandparents really means a lot. Once Daytona rolls around we are testing and I just don’t get a chance to see them.
If I get to see them for a few weeks around Christmas and make sure I don’t miss out on any good Christmas gifts, that is a good off-season. If I get a chance to go race or go on a trip or do something else, it is a bonus.
YOU GOT TO TAKE A LAP AROUND DAYTONA IN A PRODUCTION CAR AFTER THE REPAVE. WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF IT?Daytona is going to be very smooth, three or four wide racing now. It is going to be a different mentality than we have thought about there in the past. Daytona has always been about handling and managing your tires but now it is going to be all speed. I can’t wait to get down there and make a few laps. The track looks great. Kudos to those guys that can lay that pavement two-and-a-half miles and it is perfect. It is going to be fun.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.