Landon Cassill compared Sunday’s Snowball Derby to the upcoming SEC Championship football game, calling it the biggest showdown between professional and amateur race car drivers in the country.
"This race has been won by Darrell Waltrip and Pete Hamilton," Cassill said. "Dale Earnhardt’s raced here and so has Mark Martin. Every big name that grew up in a stock car has come through this race so it’s important that we try to win it too."
For the driver of the BK Racing No. 83 in the Sprint Cup Series, the Snowball Derby represents an opportunity to showcase his talents against some of the best drivers in the world.
Cassill finally achieved his dream of competing full-time in the Sprint Cup Series this past season but hasn't found a lot of success driving for underfunded teams like Phoenix Racing and BK Racing. He enjoys competing in short track Late Models when away from the Cup Series because he believes it levels the playing field.
Unlike NASCAR, which is contested primarily on superspeedways over a mile in length, the Snowball Derby is at the half-mile Five Flags Speedway, a track that rewards finesse and wheelmanship over anything else.
"The Cup schedule is really tough and that level is all about sponsorship and what you’ve got as a race team," Cassill said. "So this is an opportunity to come out, knowing that I’ve got a shot to win, which is really important because it reminds us of why we do this for a living."
It helps that Cassill has been extremely competitive at this race in recent years. He finished fourth in both 2010 and 2011 and was just two laps away from winning two years ago before Johanna Long hooked him on the backstretch.
As a result, Cassill is hoping that this is the year he finally wins the Snowball Derby and gets one back over Five Flags Speedway.
"This race is definitely a matter of survival," Cassill said. "There are a lot of wrecks in this race. The corners are really tight and it doesn’t take a lot to get them congested when an accident happens. It’s easy to get caught up in something not on your own doing. You've got to keep your nose clean and you have to stay on the lead lap.
"We’ve been there the last couple of years and hopefully we can finally close it out this year."