Throughout his career Stephen Nasse has never been afraid to share what’s on his mind, whether it’s about a fellow competitor or even himself. The former was on full display at the Snowball Derby one year ago, but the latter has also been demonstrated as Nasse and the No. 51 team prepare for the 50th Snowball Derby on December 3 at Five Flags Speedway.
Nasse enters this year’s Snowball Derby on the heels of a championship season with the Southern Super Series. But despite showing consistency en route to the championship, Nasse didn’t reach victory lane. That is something that he’s focused on accomplishing as he heads to the biggest race of the year in Pensacola, FL.
“I feel like when we go out there we always have a shot at a top ten,” Nasse said. “I think in everyone’s eye that’s a consistent and good finish. But I didn’t get into racing for consistency, I got into racing for wins and wins only. I’m sure we’ll be consistent, but if we’re not up front then we’re not good to me.”
After running against drivers that will also be competing in the Derby at the Florida Governor’s Cup at New Smyrna Speedway, Nasse came home with his nose clean in seventh. After the run, he determined that there is much to do before heading west on the Panhandle.
“If we go to the Derby like we did at New Smyrna it will be a very bad weekend for Stephen Nasse Racing. We came very unprepared,” Nasse told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We need to step it up and step it up big time going to the Derby to be able to contend for a win. I know it’s possible, I know we can do it, but it’s going to take a lot of work and we can’t shy away from that.”
Last year, Nasse struggled in Derby qualifying, but rebounded in race conditions, winning the Last Chance Race and charging through the field before a late-race incident with William Byron. This year, qualifying is not the chief concern for Nasse.
“I’m not worried about qualifying, our car has had speed initially; the big worry is 20-30 laps into the race when my car goes way out to left field and I can’t even drive it. I know we’ll be fast, we went out and tested the other day. We had speed at the beginning and the beginning is not where we are struggling and you don’t win races at the beginning, you win it on lap 300. We need to get the car working on a longer run.”
The 2017 season was a career year for Nasse, winning the Southern Super Series championship. Although he didn’t win a race, he displayed consistency throughout the season. Nasse celebrated a CARS Tour win in October, but it came in the Hamke house car, not his No. 51. For Nasse that’s not achieving his own goals. But he feels with effort and his knowledge of the Derby, if his team can crack the answer, he will be able to get a career win.
I’ve been around the Derby for four years now and around Super Late Model racing longer. I know what we need to do, it’s just whether we can do it or not, that’s the question.”
In addition to running the Super Late Model, Nasse is poised to run the Pro Late Model Allen Turner Snowflake 100 with overwhelming confidence in reserve.
“I’m not worried at all about the Pro Late Model,” Nasse said. “I know the Rick’s Service Center guys will bring an absolute rocket ship and I know we’ll be up front in that race. It’s still going to be tough, you have all those guys that have been running those cars all year long. But I look at it as just another race car and I just need to go out there and do my job.”
Nasse’s confidence comes from the current measuring stick that is Casey Roderick and the Ronnie Sanders Racing team, who Nasse has chased the few times he has run. But he feels the No. 18 is within striking distance.
“I’ve been able to run second to Roderick multiple times and actually be kind of able to run with him and race with him. If you ask anybody, he’s the best guy in the country running a Pro right now. He’s in them a lot. “I’ve run only three or four, but I’ve been able to stay right there with him. With that momentum, we should be able to step it up.”
But no matter what the circumstances are, Nasse’s drive is to still win, and he goes in with a goal of making it a clean sweep.
“We can with the Pro, but with the Super we’ll need to step it up. If we can step it up, we can go for a Snowball Derby win.”
-By Connor Sullivan
-Photo credit: Speed51.com