PENSACOLA, Fla. – Corey Heim isn’t just dreaming of winning the 52nd annual Snowball Derby this weekend at Five Flags Speedway, he’s dreaming of winning anything at all.
In Heim’s mind, he just wants a trophy and a check, given the bad luck, wild circumstances and misfortune that has plagued him over the last 18 months.
Whether it was a green-white-checkered finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last October that didn’t go his way, a missed call on strategy, technical disqualifications or crashes, Heim has seen it all.
This time, as he tackles the half-mile of mayhem in the Florida panhandle, Heim just wants to see the checkered flag first.
That’s not too much to ask, right?
“You’d think that, but the way the last year or so has gone for us, I don’t know anymore,” Heim joked during an interview with SPEED SPORT following Snowball Derby practice on Thursday evening.
“We just need to shake this mojo, man. We know we have speed; we just have to put it all together.”
Heim entered the weekend believing he can perform on the biggest stage in short-track racing, despite not having the finishes to show for it. He’s spent time in contention this year on the ARCA Menards Series trail with Chad Bryant Racing, while still running numerous late model races around the country.
Eight top-five and 12 top-10 finishes in 13 ARCA starts this season did plenty to prove Heim’s skills behind the wheel, while he also notched five top-10 finishes in five CARS super late model appearances and a runner-up performance at the prestigious Winchester 400 in Winchester, Ind., as well.
All that added together has the Marietta, Ga., teenager confident about his chances at victory Sunday, when the stakes are at their highest.
“I really do think we’ve got a good shot,” Heim noted. “My guys have been working hard on it. The whole Fab Specialties crew has pretty much thrown everything they can at our car to make it better, and we’ve had some solid speed so far. It has definitely been a rough year as far as results go, but we’ve had a lot of bad luck and hopefully we can just perform and get that monkey off our back this weekend.”
Sitting seventh overall after the first practice day at the Snowball Derby goes a long way to proving that the driver and car are capable of success, but Heim knows winning at Five Flags is never that simple.
“Both corners are completely different. “You kind of just have to settle with something that’s balanced, but you’re really never going to feel great about a car until you’re 50 laps into a race run because the track’s just a lot different for the race than how it is in practice and there’s just so many things that are going to change on race day compared to practice.
“Basically, you just have to guess the best you can and hope it works, but we’re optimistic.”
To win the Snowball Derby, a driver first has to make the field, which begins Friday night at Five Flags with Country Pleasin’ Pole Night.
Heim is the first driver in the qualifying order, and he’s hoping for a lot easier time than what he had a year ago, when he snuck into the top 30 via the 29th-fastest lap in time trials.
“Last year we really had a close call in qualifying, for sure, and we struggled on practice day, but we had a whole motor come apart last year and just everything that could have went wrong did go wrong,” Heim recalled. “This year, everything’s run a lot smoother, for sure. I think as far as qualifying day goes, you know, starting on the pole … I guess you’d say for qualifying first out, is going to be tough, but I think we’ve got a better shot this year than we did last year.
“If you make this deal, you have a shot to win it, and we want to be in it two years in a row now.”
As far as taking home the Tom Dawson Trophy, however, Heim hasn’t even let his mind begin to wander in that direction yet, knowing just how many things have to go right in order to win the Snowball Derby.
But Heim does know this, a victory Sunday would be the ultimate cherry on top of a trying season.
“It’d be something I couldn’t even dream of at this point,” Heim admitted. “It’s definitely the biggest race I’ve raced all year, and to cap off the year with a win would be pretty unbelievable.
“As long as we have our confidence up and we bring a good car, I think we’ve got a shot. I really do.”