Over the weekend, Grand Enfinger unloaded a familiar black and yellow No. 66 FURY Race Cars Super Late Model for a Snowball Derby test session, but its usual driver was nowhere to be found.
Steven Wallace is retired.
Enfinger is indeed the driver this week and he is once again paired with good friend and crew chief Michael Shelton, but the mystery owner did not physically reveal himself until opening day on Wednesday morning.
Out walked Archie St. Hilaire to apply No. 32 decals to his new Go Fas Racing Super Late Model in advance of technical inspection.
“Not as much pressure as Daytona, eh,” the Cup Series team owner said with a chuckle.
Wait until Friday night and qualifications as Go Fas Racing doesn’t have a guaranteed starting spot and will be one of 55 cars working towards just 30 starting spots in time trials.
Fortunately for St. Hilaire, he has one of the best drivers in the country at 5 Flags Speedway in the form of Enfinger — currently a Truck Series contender for ThorSport Racing who spent his formative years racing on the Gulf Coast.
“What do you think,” Enfinger asked as he applied a Ford sticker to the back bumper.
You would think Enfinger has a shot to win, all things equal. In 12 starts, Enfinger has one pole, three top-fives and seven top-10s. He’s one of the most consistent competitors in recent Snowball Derby history.
In five most recent starts produced finishes of eight, sixth, second, fifth and seventh.
“I expect him to win or I’m going to fire him and find a new driver,” St. Hilaire said with a laugh. “How about that for a quote?”
All joking aside, and it was a joke, Enfinger is excited to team with Go Fas Racing in the pursuit of the Tom Dawson Trophy. He hasn’t been back to race in Pensacola since the 2016 Snowball Derby. Instead, he’s been focused on extending his NASCAR Truck Series contender, where he has become one of the top contenders over the past decade.
“You never want to come down here half-cocked because everyone is bringing their best to the Snowball Derby,” Enfinger said. “This is something I love to do every year but haven’t had the opportunity to do it the past several years.”
When St. Hilaire purchased the car from Wallace, he was committed to crossing the Snowball Derby off his list but needed a driver. Enfinger is still seeking his signature Super Late Model victory but wasn’t planning to attend because he needed a car.
When St. Hilaire asked Five Flags Speedway general manager Tim Bryant who was available, Enfinger was the number one pick. Enfinger shares a connection with St. Hilaire through David Pepper, who serves as the ThorSport general manager and Go Fas Racing’s Cup Series spotter.
It was a natural fit.
“Archie texted me and asked if I had interest, and I was like ‘yeah, man, if we can do it right,’ for all the reasons I said before,” Enfinger said. “I called my buddy Shelton and he’s been working on these FURY cars.
“We shook it down and I feel like we’re in the ballpark, but also feel like we have some work to do. We have some local sponsorship and a lot of my crew guys from my Late Model days so I’m excited for it.”
For his part, St. Hilaire sold his stake of a NASCAR Cup Series ownership charter over the summer and will move his program to a part-time schedule at the highest level of the discipline. However, that also frees him up to enter at least one Super Late Model race a month around the Go FAS NASCAR Cup schedule.
At 61 years old, St. Hilaire just wants to cross races like the Snowball, All-American 400, Winchester 400 and other marquee Super Late Model races off his bucket list.
“We’re going to do six Cup races, and I want to go to Nashville, and be back here, race a lot in the Northeast, so once a month sounds like a lot of fun,” St. Hilaire said.
He knows everyone under the NASCAR umbrella but has really enjoyed getting to know this community this week.
“It’s funny last night, we went to the pit party at Beef O’Brady’s (restaurant) last night, and I’m used to knowing everyone, but I needed to start over last night,” St. Hilaire said. “We’re going to touch up on that. Casey Roderick drove for me in Xfinity before, so I have a starting point.
“It’s a great group of guys who have a lot of fun, but take this seriously, too. And it felt familiar when you see all these Cup haulers rolling in. These are a lot of great racers who take this seriously and I’m looking forward to getting to know them.”
Enfinger knows how to survive to the finish, so now it’s just a matter of taking that next step to victory lane, a task that the likes of Bubba Pollard, Stephen Nasse, Ty Majeski and Derek Thorn are still seeking too.
It’s a hard race to win.
“Races play out differently, but a lot of it is just making it to the end,” Enfinger said. “I probably should have won here in 2008 in my own stuff (when he finished second) but was just too aggressive. We just have to be smart.
“A lot has changed since I was here last. There aren’t live pit stops anymore so teams are probably going to be on similar strategies. Again, making it to the end is the battle, but you still need speed, and that’s why we have Michael Shelton here.
“I’ll try to get us to the end, and he’ll get us the speed.”