Prior to his debut NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season, Dalton Sargeant was a junior open-wheel prospect living in Switzerland and chasing dreams of someday competing in Formula 1.

But it wasn’t until he remarkably finished second in the Snowball Derby last year that he began to earn a reputation in the United States as a top Stock Car prospect. Now Sargeant returns to the site of his initial success looking for one more spot and the Tom Dawson Memorial Trophy.

Driving for Wauters Motorsports, excellence is expected in these major events, but finishing second to John Hunter Nemechek still came as a surprise to a driver making just his fifth start in a Super Late Model — and second at Five Flags Speedway. Sargeant restarted that race to the outside of Nemechek on a green-white-checkered, and had a chance to reel him in, but believes he did everything he could have.

“I definitely revisit it but at the end of the day, that was my first Snowball Derby and I feel like I did a good job on that restart,” Sargeant said. “Based on my experience, I think we would have been happy with a top-10 or maybe even a top-5 but I don’t think we could have expected a top-3, much less a runner-up in my first start.”

Now with a full year of K&N and Super Late Model experience on his resume, Sargeant believes he has both the resources and experience needed to seal the deal and capture a signature victory in the Snowball Derby.

“I’ve been thinking about this race all year,” Sargeant said. “As the year has gone on, I’ve been reflecting on how we got to this point, working on our Truck Series debut and racing for wins in the K&N Series — it all started with our performance at the Derby.

“We had fun in a Late Model Stock but it was important for me to get in a Super. This is where you come to prove yourself against guys like Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and Daniel Hemric. Showing that you can run with them and maybe even beat them is a statement to the world.”

Speaking of Hemric, the current Camping World Truck Series contender and 2013 Southern Super Series champion recently joined Sargeant as a teammate at Wauters Motorsports and the 17-year-old believes that’s made the entire team even more capable. Even though the pair prefer vastly different set-ups, Sargeant says he’s leaned a great deal from Hemric, especially in regards to managing the weekend and providing feedback to crew chiefs Richie Wauters and Bobby Gill.

“He knows so much about these Super Late Models,” Sargeant said of Hemric. “He’s been his own crew chief before and he’s just good with the ins and outs of the cars. I’ve picked up on a lot just watching him just talk to Richie about what his car is doing and that’s only going to make both cars better.”

Even though Sargeant feels confident and secure about his 2016 plans, running in a variety of cars and trucks to gain experience, he still believes a victory in the Derby would be a game-changer.

After all, Nemechek, Jones, Elliott and Johanna Long have all used a victory at Five Flags in December as a catapult for their NASCAR ambitions. Sargeant has always dreamed big and he’s arrived on the Gulf Coast dreaming of one more spot in the Snowball Derby.

“It would be huge,” Sargeant said. “I remember everything about last year. This is a special race. Everything about it is big time. It’s the biggest race we run at this stage of our career. To be able to win it would be a game-changer and something I’m going to work really hard to make happen.”