CONCORD, N.C. – William Byron’s entry for this weekend's Snowball Derby will be a total team effort.
Several members of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports squad – crew chief Rudy Fugle, spotter Branden Lines and four of the team’s mechanics – will be part of the effort with Fugle atop the box.
RELATED: How to watch the 2022 Snowball Derby on Racing America
For Byron, the start is the latest Super Late Model event on his schedule. He won six events this year with Wilson Motorsports, including the famed Slinger Nationals. Wilson Motorsports will be fielding the No. 24 entry in this event as well.
The extracurricular racing came with more than a little nudge from Fugle, who has been Byron’s NASCAR Cup Series crew chief for the past two seasons and was paired with him for a full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2016. The Livonia, New York, native served as the spotter for Byron’s most recent Snowball effort in 2016.
RELATED: Playoff performance fulfilling for Fugle, No. 24 team
"I pushed him really hard since we joined back up together to race more," Fugle told HendrickMotorsports.com this week. "Whatever he wanted to race. ... I told him that I thought racing more would not only be good for his skill set and his career but doing this at this level, it reminds you of why you love doing what you are doing. I think he has found that this year.
"With me pushing him to do all those things, I want to do the same thing. I’ve gone to a few of the races this year when I can. This whole week is a good team building process. We’re going to have fun working on the car."
The Snowball Derby is a 300-lap Super Late Model Race at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. The half-mile track hosts what is considered by many to be the biggest short-track race in the country a week after Thanksgiving.
"It’s the best of the best of the short-track racing world," Fugle said. "Anytime you can put yourself in a position to race in this kind of environment is super challenging. It’s what you are looking for as a competitor to put yourself up against it.
"It’s just a different world when you go NASCAR racing every single week. This environment is different and it’s fun to go back to your roots. It’s fun to remember those things."
RELATED: Two wins, Round of 8 appearance propel Byron
Drivers have put themselves on the map with a victory in this event. Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott won the event twice with his 2011 victory making him the youngest Snowball Derby winner in the event’s history. Kyle Busch has also won this event twice and Fugle was the crew chief for his 2017 triumph.
Lines is familiar with that winning feeling as well. He was the spotter for the first of Erik Jones’ two Snowball Derby wins in 2012. This past Cup Series season was Lines' first with Byron, but he was the spotter for the Charlotte, North Carolina, native’s title-winning season in what was then-known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2015.
The pair got off to a winning note this season when Byron was victorious twice at New Smyrna Speedway during Daytona Speedweeks. Those victories led to a growing Super Late Model schedule that saw Lines take on more races.
"He just said, 'hey, if I added more races to my schedule, do you think you could do some of them?" Lines shared with HendrickMotorsports.com. "The more that we do together as a unit is only going to make it better. I’ve short-track raced all my life so it’s fun to be with someone that wants to go back and do that kind of stuff."
Whether he is spotting at a grassroots track or on a Sunday in the Cup ranks, nothing changes for Lines. He focuses on giving every bit of information to put his driver in the best position to succeed.
"The better you can paint the picture, the brighter you can paint it, the easier it is for the driver to just really focus about what’s out front," Lines said. "Just worry about driving and hitting their marks. This race here to me is a Cup event. We have our team with our driver, we are all in place and we’re here to win. It would be super rewarding."
This year’s event will see several of Byron’s NASCAR Cup Series competitors - Jones, Brad Keselowski and Noah Gragson - taking part as well as a host of short-track aces and late model standouts from across the country.
The newly turned 25-year-old driver (his birthday was Tuesday) has competed in the event twice with a best finish of eighth in 2015. His crew chief would love nothing more than to get the victory on Sunday.
"It would be huge," Fugle said of a potential victory in the Snowball Derby. "Number one, it’s huge for the team he is racing for. That group works super hard and it's our job to represent them. This is their DAYTONA 500. This is their season-long championship. This is everything to them. To be able to help bring that light on their team is huge.
"For William and I, anytime you can stack huge accomplishments that’s what you want to do. You want to put big trophies on your trophy shelf. To me, the stresses that I feel at this race are similar to any major stress in the playoffs in NASCAR. It’s that big of a race. That’s how important it is. Anytime you can go win a trophy this cool and put your name on that Tom Dawson Trophy, you can’t even fathom or put a rank on where that would be. I hope we can do that as a team and looking forward to a challenge."
Cars will be on track with practice and qualifying taking place on Friday, Dec. 2. Another practice and the last-chance qualifier will be held on Saturday, Dec. 3. The main event takes place on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT.
Fans can find all the coverage of the 2022 Snowball Derby exclusively on Racing America. Click here for more info on the different packages you can subscribe with to catch all the action.