PENSACOLA, FL (Dec 6, 2010) When NASCAR Cup driver Landon Cassill stepped into the No. 7 Late Model stock car at Five Flags Speedway this December weekend in Pensacola, he wasn’t the only competitor with NASCAR ties.
He faced weekend competitors this December day with famous dads  Elliott, Kenseth and Blaney: Chase Elliott, 15, Ross Kenseth, 17, and Ryan Blaney, 16.  He was about to share the same short track with NASCAR drivers David Ragan and David Stremme.
Kyle Busch won the 2009 Snowball Derby, but owing to NASCAR banquet duties in Las Vegas, he put T.J. Reiad behind the Kyle Busch Motorsports entry.  Camping World Truck Series driver Ryan Seig and former Kevin Harvick Nationwide racer Cale Gale had competitive rides also.
A hometown favorite, Pensacola’s Johanna Long, has raced in NCWTS also.
Fortunately, Cassill had JEGS sponsorship with good equipment and an able crew. Still, Five Flags asphalt was not his normal turf.
Cassill also had many savvy local drivers to overcome.
It’s often said at least a 1000 drivers racing every race weekend throughout the summer on short tracks are as good, maybe better, than any NASCAR star.  Hundreds of talented drivers simply never get the right opportunity to prove it.
That talent reality is often present on the exciting 53-year-old half-mile asphalt Five Flags track with high-banks. This fast track has a history seemingly as deep as the soft beach sand at Pensacola, Florida. This hard, short turf also has a big December attraction for speed.
It brings out the greats. Five Flags has welcomed NASCAR stars, Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace in the past and Kyle Busch in the present for the Snowball Derby.
The event also attracted Team JEGS.
JEGS High Performance Parts is serious about its recent step from traditional drag racing, the straight tracks, to NASCAR contingency programs and beyond.
It seems too that third-generation Cody Coughlin, son of John and grandson of founder Jeg Sr, has started something big with his young penchant for circle-track racing.
Team JEGS recently hired Landon Cassill to race while mentoring Coughlin and he quickly showed his short track prowess.
The Snowflake 100 is the prelude to the Snowball Derby 300 and it too was a big challenge. Cassill started toward the back, but positioned himself near the front behind frontrunner Chase Elliott during final laps to be second across the finish line.
Another mentor, two-time ASA champion Gary St. Amant, car chief for JEGS stock cars commented on the moments.
“It’s special for me to be in Pensacola, Florida having won a couple of these Snowball Derbys,” St. Amant said. “To come down here and represent JEGS a have a couple good running race cars, I feel very privileged.”
Cassill started ninth in the Snowball Derby 300, and quickly joined the side-by-side bumping and banging of this intense race.  He raced in the top 15 through numerous lead changes that seemed nearly constant.
The race for winter bragging rights seemed like a wreck-fest at times.
Thirteen cautions occurred while plenty of race terminal crashes and spins happened.  That made for difficult pit decisions.
At one point as the remaining laps dwindled only 18 of 37 cars remained on the track.
It was a nose-to-tail short track thrill from flag to flag and Cassill worked his way to third as a caution on lap 300 necessitated a five lap green flag finish.
On his last set of tires older than some who chased for the lead, Johanna Long got around him and others to win the Snowball.
It took 323 laps to complete a 300 lap race with nearly half of the competing cars behind the wall.
The colorful No. 7 Chevrolet secured fourth place in the 2010 Snowball Derby. Cassill made a weekend of top five finishes look routine.
Look for more Late Model racing from Team JEGS in 2011. This long and fast road just may be many short tracks conquered.    
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