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Snowball Derby

Tyler Ankrum hopes improbable season ends with Snowball Derby triumph

The K&N East champion hopes to end the season with a signature win …

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Why not us?

In a season that came so out of nowhere that not even the most optimistic version of Tyler Ankrum could have predicted it, the reigning NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion doesn’t see any reason it can’t be his No. 58 that lands in Victory Lane on Sunday night.

“That’s the attitude you have to have at a place like this,” Ankrum told Short Track Scene on Tuesday. “This place throws so many curve balls at you. It changes, literally, every time you come here. We tested three times last week and we were fast, and then we sucked, and then we were fast again. It goes through these swings and I have confidence and that ‘why not me’ attitude.”

Ankrum’s championship season in the Pro Series was remarkable because it wasn’t supposed to happen.

The 17-year-old signed a part-time deal with DGR-Crosley and was the championship leader after three races. The team kept adding races and four victories later, he emerged as the champion and a top NASCAR prospect.

But most anyone will tell you that the K&N Series has nothing on Super Late Model racing when it comes to the difficulty and competition level — even more so in an event like the Snowball Derby.

“The Snowball Derby is about racing the best,” Ankrum said. “Just qualifying for the race is the toughest challenge and there is going to be some real nervous people here on Friday night.

“We’ve had a lot of success, we’ve won five or six races this year and have led a lot of laps. But it’s all come to this and we’ve come to do this here.”

READ MORE: Complete Snowball Derby coverage

Ankrum has assembled quite a team with crew chief Blake Bainbridge and driver coach Clay Rogers — the five-time CARS Pro Cup Series champion and 2007 Snowball Derby winner.

He needs it too with a dizzying schedule that includes going back and forth from home to Pensacola and preparing for the NASCAR championship banquet next weekend in Charlotte.

“I’ve been wide open,” Ankrum said. “But we’re having a good time and I can’t wait for this week.”

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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 is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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