Friday's Southern Super Series event at Pensacola Five Flags Speedway may be the most important visit of the season.
Friday is the last of four stops at the Florida half-mile prior to the Snowball Derby in December. While not officially part of the Southern Super Series schedule, the Snowball Derby utilizes the same cars, race director and technical staff as the Super Bowl of Short Track Racing.
For all intents and purposes, it is the de facto all-star of event for Super Late Model racing. For that reason alone, momentum and data acquisition coming out of the Buddy's 125 on Friday is going to be hugely important.
No Super Series driver may have more momentum right now than 15-year-old Kyle Benjamin. The Easley, S.C. native is coming off his second ARCA Racing Series victory of the season last week at Salem Speedway and is the most recent Super Series winner at Pensacola, having won at the track on July 26.
Maintaining that energy is going to be increasingly important as the Derby approaches.
"Five Flags hasn't been one of our better tracks in the Super Late," Benjamin told SB Nation on Monday. "It was big for the whole team to get the win there in July. Another good run this weekend would make it feel like we're definitely on the right track with our setup and will give us a lot of confidence moving forward. "
Mike Garvey has been one of the more successful drivers in both the Pro and Super Late Model divisions at the Florida half-mile but has yet to win this season. He hopes to change that on Friday.
"This is a big one," Garvey said. "I thought we've had a winning car all year. And we had one at the Derby last year too before the crash ended our day. The Derby is a big focus of our season and I still feel like we're going to bring a car that can get it done."
But more importantly, getting good results in the final three races could actually have an impact on making the Derby itself.
Obtaining a top-10 position following the season ending All-American 400 at Nashville in October could mean a guaranteed starting position in the Derby. The highest ranking tour driver in the top-10 in final points that does not qualify into the Dec. 8 race will receive a provisional starting spot.
"I think this race is huge for a lot of us that has struggled this year," Donnie Wilson said. "This is especially true at Pensacola because we don't to be in a position where we need a provisional to get into the Snowball. We've struggled this year but we're bringing out some new stuff to try out and hopefully that turns our season around."
That battle begins on Friday.