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Star Power Heats Up The Snowball Derby

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, December 5 2009
Kyle Busch and Johnny Sauter try to keep warm at the Snowball Derby Friday in Florida. (RacinToday photo by Jeff Hood)

Kyle Busch and Johnny Sauter try to keep warm at the Snowball Derby Friday in Florida. (RacinToday photo by Jeff Hood)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Pensacola, Fla. – There was plenty of NASCAR star power in the pit area on Friday at Five Flags Speedway as preparations continued for this weekend’s Snowball Derby, one of the nation’s most prestigious Super Late Model races.

NASCAR drivers Kyle Busch, James Buescher, Cale Gale, Steven Wallace, Brian Scott, Ryan Sieg, Shane Sieg, Brian Ickler and David Stremme each turned laps under overcast skies on the .5-mile paved oval during practice for Sunday afternoon’s 300 lapper.

Former NASCAR Cup champion Bill Elliott stood atop his hauler and watched as his 14-year-old son, Chase Elliott, logged laps around the historic facility.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Johnny Sauter has his crew chief hat on this weekend. He’s turning wrenches on the No. 16 Kyle Busch Motorsports entry driven by Scott.

Former NASCAR crew chief Gene Roberts is atop the pit box this weekend for Joe Gibbs Racing developmental driver Max Gresham.

NASCAR truck series driver Rick Crawford, the 1989 Derby winner, is at Five Flags this weekend in a spectator role.

Former NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Freddie Query is serving as crew chief for 17-year-old Pensacola native Johanna Long, who hopes to become the second female driver to win the Derby. Tammy Jo Kirk won this event in 1994.

Cup driver Dave Blaney was busy thrashing on his son Ryan’s Pro Late Model. The younger Blaney will participate in Saturday night’s Derby warm-up act, the Snowflake 100.

Nationwide Series driver Chase Miller was spotted in the garage shaking hands. The Georgia driver is still trying to secure a ride and sponsorship for the 2010 campaign.

2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth is expected to arrive in Pensacola later this weekend to watch his son, Ross Kenseth, compete for this year’s Derby title.

Wallace confirmed early Friday that his father, 1989 Cup champion Rusty Wallace, will be in attendance during the 42nd running of the prestigious event on Sunday.

Previous winners of the Snowball Derby include the likes of Darrell Waltrip, Donnie Allison, Jody Ridley, Rick Crawford, Ted Musgrave, Butch Miller, Ronnie Sanders, Jeff Purvis, Wayne Anderson, Bobby Gill, Rich Bickle Jr., Gary St. Amant and Steven Wallace.

There will be no shortage of seat time in 2010 for James Buescher of Plano, Tex.

Buescher, who drove the No. 10 Ford truck for Circle Bar Racing this season, will drive the No. 1 Chevrolet owned by James Finch full-time in the Nationwide Series next year.

He’ll return to the truck series and compete in 19 of 25 races for Turner Motorsports. And he still hopes to squeeze in several ARCA and Late Model races.

Buescher, a former champion in the ASA Late Model Series, will make his Derby debut this weekend. He’s competed in the preliminary Snowflake 100 twice.

“To win the Derby would be pretty cool,” Buescher said. “I’m looking forward to it. You’ve got to manage your tires here. You’ve got 300 laps to manage four sets of tires.

“That shouldn’t be too difficult, but we’ll see. I think we’ve got a pretty good car. I think we’ve got a shot at the pole and a shot at the win.”

Dave Blaney said Friday his 2010 plans remain uncertain. His primary focus will likely be on his son Ryan, who has competed in 20 Late Model races this year.

“It’s fun to come down here to a big race like this and kind of measure where you’re at compared to really good guys,” Dave Blaney said. “We look forward to, hopefully, running well and learning a lot.

“As for next year, it will basically be this type of racing. We don’t know how much and where yet. We’ll see how much money we have to blow and go from there.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, December 5 2009
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