Having finally broken through and capturing a Tom Dawson Trophy last year, Ty Majeski and Toby Nuttleman have moved onto their next primary challenge.
They want to go back-to-back in the Snowball Derby but this time entirely on their own.
In previous years, a familiar fleet of No. 91 cars owned by Majeski and Brad Mannstedt have been entered under the Lefthander Chassis banner. Nuttleman, one of the most decorated crew chiefs of his era, would take the chassis to his shop and begin making modifications to suit what he and Majeski were working to accomplish.
But this season, Majeski has entered the Snowball Derby with a first of its kind chassis, the built from the ground up TobyCar 001.
Nuttleman wanted to make clear that the project wasn’t a dissatisfaction with Lefthander. It was just something the meticulous crew chief wanted to challenge himself with. But beginning the project with the 54th Snowball Derby and with the defending race winning car as a backup no less is an awfully bold decision.
"Not if I did my job, right," Nuttleman said.
Nuttleman isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. This isn’t an effort to usurp business from any other car manufacturer. He just wanted to win the Snowball Derby with a car that he entirely built himself. It’s old school cool.
There are also some TobyCar tricks he wants to implement from the ground floor.
"When we put a car together, and I look at the finished product, I often ask myself 'why would we do it like that again,' and we wouldn't," Nuttleman said. "It's not bad things, but there are some things I would have changed if I was building it and we're going to try that and see how it goes."
Nuttleman does expect to take on a couple of TobyCar chassis clients, but he doesn't expect to get carried away with it and turn it into a conglomerate.
Majeski first tested the car on Sunday afternoon, and the early returns was a car that immediately felt similar to any modified Lefthander he has driven at Pensacola over the past decade.
That was the goal.
"This is more of a repeatability thing for us," Majeski said. "Being able to repeat what we're building instead of having to relearn a new chassis every time we put one together. Our intent was to make it as close as we could get it from a feel standpoint with some other structural improvements. So, so far, so good."
The car looked competitive early in Thursday practice too.
But again, it was kind of a gutsy decision to take the car that won the Snowball Derby last year, and arguably should have won it the year prior and make it the back-up, right?
"All the basic pickup points are the same, but the ways we got there are a little different," Nuttleman said. "There is more clearance and some safety improvements too. That’s not to say the Lefthanders weren’t safe, because they are, nut Ricky (Brooks) has come up with some more safety asks and we’ve built that into the car, too."
It was important for Majeski and Nuttleman to test on Sunday because they wanted to overcome any potential gremlins before the official start of race week. "We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best," said Majeski. As it turns out, the car performed entirely as expected.
"So, we established a realistic baseline and we’re pretty much in the same ballpark from the past several years, and it’s just a matter of polishing the little details the rest of the week," Majeski said.
When Nuttleman gets fixated on an idea, like TobyCar 001, Majeski and their crew manifest it into reality. Majeski captured the pole with a track record in 2015. They were amongst the favorites every year since. They dominated portions of the race in 2017 and 2018.
They absolutely dominated the 2019 race and lost it in a massive crash on a late restart. Nuttleman put the car back together one week after the 2019 race and it sat in their shop until the following December when they couldn’t be denied on a late restart against a dominant Derek Thorn.
"It was very rewarding," Nuttleman said. "I don't think we were as good last year as we were when we got crashed, and even though we won, that bothers me. It bothers me why we weren't.
"Hopefully we can get back to where we were two years ago. We've learned even more since then and we're learning every day. And everything we've learned, those thought processes, they've all made it into this car."
That's the essence of TobyCar 001.