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The results do not necessarily reflect it, but Chad Finley has actually improved each time he’s made the trip south to the Snowball Derby and believes Sunday could see him return to the front of the field in a Super Late Model major.

He finished 13th in his debut Derby in 2014 but was involved in a fiery crash with Bubba Pollard a year later. Then he came back last December and was approaching the top-5 when his engine expired. He calls Five Flags Speedway one of his best tracks and believes a top-10 (or better) will come down to good fortune.

“We built this race car last year over the winter and actually led a bunch of laps here the next spring before a left rear went flat,” Finley said. “Pensacola is a good track for me. We have brought the best people and best knowledge this weekend to take the pressure off me and just kinda let me focus on driving.”

Finley has experienced every aspect of the racing business this year, driving on both asphalt and dirt, while also helping his father manage the growth of their ARCA Racing Series program. He won a top dirt Late Model race, the Wood Tick 100 at Merritt Speedway in Michigan, driving for his uncle while having three solid runs in the ARCA Series, including a fifth at Lucas Oil Speedway in Indiana.

It’s been intense but he’s had fun.

“We started the ARCA team this year after purchasing the old ThorSport equipment and we’ve been working to transform the cars into the composites,” Finley said. “We ran well at Lucas Oil this year with a steel body car and took our first composite car to Chicago and had a car capable of winning.

“We ran second and had a bad pit stop and broke a stud and ended our night … So it’s been a good year for me this year and I have learned a lot. I’m just racing as much as I can and trying to help our ARCA team grow and get some good talented young drivers in there to give them a shot.”

Of course, nothing would send a message that Chad Finley Racing can win quite like doing so in the Snowball Derby, so that’s why they’ve put so much time and energy into this week.

“A Snowball Derby win would mean a lot for me too though,” Finley said. “And that’s just because the race is so prestigious. It’s really tough to run well here all weekend. The track changes so much. It would be a great asset to our team’s resume, but really we just want to run well and represent the state of Michigan.”

And so far, so good. Finely solidly made the show on time and will start the Derby in 22nd. That’s something he can work with.

“I haven’t got to race much this year In a Super Late Model but I think we’re looking really good for this weekend.”

Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He also has extensive experience covering NASCAR, IndyCar and Dirt Sprint Cars.

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