PENSACOLA, Fla. – A year ago, if you’d asked Kaden Honeycutt whether he’d be racing in the Snowball Derby, he might have laughed at you and told you that’s a dream he hoped to accomplish someday.
Fast forward to this week, and the 15-year-old Texas traveler has made that dream into a reality.
Honeycutt, who was driving a Pro Truck entry at Five Flags Speedway last December during Snowball Derby week, will attempt to make his debut in one of the biggest super late model races in the country this weekend during the 51st running of the historic race.
He’ll have two shots to make the race, either by locking into the top 30 during two-lap time trials on Friday night or by finishing in the top four during Saturday’s last chance qualifier.
Trying to make the Snowball Derby traditionally puts a load of stress on drivers and crew members alike, but Honeycutt isn’t even worried about that part.
In fact, he’s barely stopped to take in the fact that he’s got a chance to make a Derby start for the first time.
“I honestly haven’t let it sink in; I’ve just been focused on finding some speed and making sure we get this thing (locked) in during qualifying,” noted Honeycutt. “I have to thank Sean Wood, first of all, for letting us use this race car. He’s put a lot of pride and belief into me to make the Derby and do well.
“From a truck to this … everyone has told me it’s going to be pretty difficult, but we’ve always seemed to catch on pretty quickly, particularly in the pro trucks and pro late models. Yeah, it’s a big jump, but we’re confident as a team that we can do pretty well.”
Honeycutt was quick to note that he’s in “a whole different world” driving the super late model compared to the Pro Truck that he competed at Five Flags with last winter.
“The difference between the truck and this car is that with the truck, it’s pretty hard to spin it out. It’s really just a pig,” said Honeycutt. “With the super, you have to manhandle it a lot more, with the horsepower difference and everything. For me, the handling is by far the biggest thing … with the throttle, rotation in the rear end and some of the other nuances that it has.
“It’s been a learning curve, but I feel like I’m slowly getting it,” he added. “I just don’t want to have to stress about qualifying. The goal is to lock this thing in so that Saturday, we can focus on our race car and not have to worry about getting into the show.”
For Honeycutt, who grew up in Willow Park, Texas, the opportunity to race in the Snowball Derby is above everything else that he’s done so far in his racing career.
The teenager has already competed in Bandoleros, Legend cars, Mod Lites, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Pro Trucks, pro late models and even in the ARCA Racing Series, but he’s putting this particular super late model race ahead of them all.
After all, it’s a part of his Gulf Coast heritage.
“I’ve been coming here since I was five years old with my dad, and we just love this event,” Honeycutt said. “When I got the opportunity to race this car, there was no doubt in my mind that I had to take it because of what this event means to us and to the Gulf Coast racing community.
“Growing up in the Gulf and watching Chase Elliott and all these guys race here just makes it huge,” he added. “If you put your name on the Tom Dawson Trophy, that’s a special thing, but it will be just as special to me if we can take that green flag on Sunday. That would be the coolest feeling, for me.”