PENSACOLA, Fla. – Against all odds, Kodie Conner and his No. 45 super late model are set up and ready to go for this weekend’s 53rd running of the Snowball Derby.
After a dark horse pole at the prestigious All-American 400 at Tennessee’s Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway in November, Conner managed to reach the end of the 300-lapper unscathed, bringing his CRC Industries/Accent Imaging Camry to an eighth-place finish.
That top-10 effort was enough to satisfy the 19-year-old driver and operator of Kodie Conner Racing, but the idea of a potential run at his first Snowball Derby seemed like an idealistic dream at that point.
Conner noted the reason he’s here at Five Flags Speedway in December is due to all of the love and support he received from sponsors and fans alike throughout November.
“One thing that really helped us make this race was all my fans, everybody that supports me through my racing career, they’ve been following me, and they’ve really taken the time to help me out. A big thank you to Black Acid Racing Apparel, TruTorque, One Rail, Puddle Jumpers, Pitting Outside the Box, Baja Starters, FK Rod Ends, the Carolina Pro Late Model Series, everybody that jumps on to help me out,” Conner said.
The outpouring of support for KCR’s efforts to reach the Derby began to pick up steam on social media, as Conner himself kept his Twitter account busy over the month of November, playing both driver and salesman.
“Two weeks ago, I wasn’t coming to this race. It takes so much to be able to make the Snowball Derby happen,” Conner said.
Conner realizes the certain challenges ahead now that he’s made it to the Derby, but he is still thankful for the shot, and looking forward to the opportunity to test himself against a veritable ‘who’s who’ of short track racing.
“There’s been a lot of drivers that have been on track already, and it’s something that I’m going up against. I never thought I’d be able to make the Snowball Derby happen and all it takes is money. This is going to be a true test of my skills, and see what I have compared to everybody else,” said Conner.
“I lack a lot of seat time compared to other drivers, I haven’t been to test or rent the track at all other than being at the race track for the [Blizzard races].”
Conner finished 15th and 12th, respectively, on the two nights of racing in June that were hosted by the Southern Super Series.
“I still have it embedded in my memory, so I kinda get a good feel of what the track’s gonna be like. I did watch a couple of videos. I’ve done [iRacing] in the past, but it’s hard for me as a driver. I like to be able to feel everything, so when I’m in a simulation, it’s not the real deal,” Conner noted.
Many race shops looked at the COVID-19 pandemic as a dramatic loss in potential revenue, but Conner made the most of what was presented to him this season.
“One thing about the COVID: it’s really messed a lot of things up, but for me running my own race team trying to do everything myself, it’s really helped me to save some money. So, I’ve been able to experience and expand my racing expertise,” Kodie said.
“I’ve been at tracks I’d never thought that I’d be able to go to. Winchester was great, going to Nashville, qualified on the pole, [the pole is] something that’s helping me out.”
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