As the tuxedos are pressed and accolades awarded in Las Vegas this week, another crop of rising stars are eyeing an award that, on their level, is another stepping stone to one day gracing the stage as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion.
Like NASCAR greats, Darrell Waltrip, Donnie Allison and Kyle Busch before them, John Hunter Nemechek and some 60 other drivers are heading to Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. for the 47th running of the Snowball Derby in the hopes of adding this coveted milestone to their resumes.
With four wins in his Pro Late Model Series Chevy this season thus far, the 17-year old Nemechek looks to add to that column with a win in Saturday's Snowflake 100, but his crowning achievement would certainly be to bring home the win in Sunday's 300-lap Snowball Derby Super Late Model Series event at Five Flags Speedway.
"Our main focus is to win," Nemechek said. "We don't go to run second, so we're going down there full force and giving it our best to take both wins home. There are a lot of veterans out there who have run it (Snowball Derby) for more years than I have, so they have more experience running the race than I do, but it's all about how fast you go, how well you manage your tires, and how you get to the end and survive. It's all a patience game throughout the race."
Nemechek, who started racing in quarter midgets at age five, has made a steady progression and has had much success along the way including winning 15 of 18 races en route to the Allison Legacy Touring Series Championship in 2013. Competing in his NEMCO Motorsports late model is a by-design initiative that has been fundamental in his development. Competing in his second Snowflake and third Snowball event, he will rely on the benefit of his previous experience there as well as the momentum from his most recent win in the All-American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (Tenn.) on November 1.
"Every win is a special win and we've been very deliberate about the races we've run and the effort we put behind our program," Nemechek commented. "Winning the All-American 400 was definitely on our hit list but looking at this weekend's opportunity - it's definitely at the top of the list. I mean all the history that has gone down there, getting your name in the record books with Darrell Waltrip and all those guys who have raced down there and won the race, it would deﬁnitely mean a lot to me."
Nemechek's previous results at Five Flags include a second-place finish in last year's Snowflake as well as a 10th and fifth-place finish in the Snowball in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Other Pro Late Model Series wins for Nemechek this season include Watermelon Capital Speedway (Cordele, Ga.) on January 26, Milwaukee (Wis.) Mile on June 8 and Lucas Oil Raceway (Indianapolis, Ind.) on September 28.
Nemechek also competed on a limited-schedule in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series where in just 10 starts, he earned an impressive six top-10 finishes including a top-five run at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Plans for 2015 include a similar late model program as well as returning to his No. 8 SWM-NEMCO Motorsports entry in truck series action. At age 17, Nemechek is restricted to running on tracks 1.25-miles or less and the road course. Turning 18 on June 11, he will finish out the remainder of the truck series schedule beginning with Kentucky Speedway on July 9, 2015.