Donnie Wilson has his eyes set on his 14th appearance at the Snowball Derby in December, but his third-straight strictly as a car owner in the event. He will field five cars during the weekend in Pensacola, Florida between the Derby and the Snowflake 100, ensuring another busy weekend for the Oklahoma City native.
The 2021 season has been perhaps the strongest yet for Wilson as a car owner. His No. 22 won the Winchester 400 with Sammy Smith as a driver, while also winning at Jennerstown Speedway in July. NASCAR Truck Series Rookie of the Year Chandler Smith gave Wilson his first Five Flags Speedway win in the third Blizzard Series race back in July.
Fresh off success throughout the year with his two drivers, he now heads to the Derby with perhaps his best chance to win the prestigious race.
“I’m looking forward to it more than ever. Every year we always think we have the best stuff we can get and the goal’s always to win. Things have been going up and down with our program right now,” Wilson told Speed51. “Sammy won Winchester and other races, Chandler’s won races but he’s had bad luck at Winchester and Nashville. I’m hoping to get that corrected and get that bug out of that car. Besides that, I feel really strong about going to the Derby this year.”
Wilson Motorsports drivers finished fourth through sixth in last year’s Snowball Derby with Chandler Smith, Kaden Honeycutt and Cole Butcher. Smith and Butcher return to the lineup for this year’s race along with Sammy Smith, while Jarrett Butcher and Allen Turner Pro Late Model finale winner William Sawalich scheduled to compete in the Snowflake 100. Wilson has worked with Charlie Keeven throughout the year with his Pro Late Model and is also expected to be in attendance.
After last year’s successful Snowball Derby, Wilson has his eyes on replicating last year’s result and maybe even seeing one of his drivers hoisting the Tom Dawson Trophy in victory lane.
“After last year and having three cars there, Kaden, Chandler and Cole finishing fourth, fifth and sixth, we’ve got the same amount of cars going as far as Supers so hopefully we can have a repeat performance or even a 1-2-3, that would be stellar.”
A former All American 400 champion in his own right, Wilson says that winning feeling is the same no matter if it’s behind the wheel or on the ownership side. He admits the nerves show up a little bit more as a car owner compared to when he’s behind the wheel, but it’s still a role he relish
“It doesn’t matter if you’re driving or owning, the way I look at it is it takes a group of people and a whole team to make everything happen, it’s not just one person. That’s what makes how this year went so satisfying, whether I’m driving or not. I get more nervous now watching my stuff than when I’m in it. That’s what I’ve been having to get used to a little bit. I can only control so much, as a driver you can control a little bit more when you’re in a car. It’s a different role but I’m glad to be able to do that.”
The way I look at it is it takes a group of people and a whole team to make everything happen, not just one person.
He straps into a Super Late Model himself this weekend at the Florida Governor's Cup at New Smyrna Speedway, his first start since the All American 400 last season. The success of Sammy and Chandler Smith in 2021 has allowed him to take a step back from the driver’s seat and regroup as a driver while providing his drivers with winning race cars. He says to expect him to get back behind the wheel as his schedule allows during the 2022 season while trying to do his part in helping increase Super Late Model car counts.
“I want to get back behind the wheel when some of these opportunities come up. To be honest with you, Sammy and Chandler are very good drivers and they’ve shown that, so it makes my role a little bit easier to provide those guys with good cars to drive. I’m not done driving, I’ll still run when I can. I’m just taking a break for a little bit and regrouping personally, just taking a step back and looking at things. I’ll be back driving soon.”
“I love Super Late Model racing and I want it to continue to get stronger with all of our series and cars. Get back to Super Late Model racing like it used to be when everywhere we went we’d get 35 cars at every race. Car counts have been down, obviously COVID’s hurt, people’s struggling, money’s tight everywhere. We all have to buckle down and do everything we can for our sport.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51/Will Bellamy