In 2009, “The Chase” for Snowball Derby glory began for Chase Elliott. It was the year of his first Snowball Derby. Elliott arrived at Five Flags Speedway (FL) as a 14-year-old with braces who could barely see his name above the door on his No. 9 Aaron’s-sponsored Late Models. Elliott finished seventh in that race, but has since gone on to make Snowball Derby history in more ways than one.
Elliott has been able to lift the Tom Dawson Trophy above his head three different times, but he’s only taken home the Tom Dawson Trophy on two occasions. He could have had a third, and he also could have just one, depending on how you want to look at it.
The second time came in 2013. The now 21-year-old driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was disqualified from the 2013 victory after tungsten was found in his race car. It was news that sent shockwaves throughout every racing circle of the internet.
But that didn’t keep Elliott from heading back to Five Flags for the 2014 and 2015 Snowball Derby’s. The race simply means too much to the second-generation driver from Dawsonville, Georgia.
“I hate things ended the way they did, but there were so many things to be proud of that weekend. It’s amazing when one thing can make things go downhill so fast,” Elliott said back in 2014. “When it’s all said and done we shot ourselves in the foot. That’s the bottom line. It would mean a ton to go back there and win. It would be a good feeling to have after a last year.”
2014 didn’t go the way Elliott wanted to (he crashed and finished 29th), but in 2015 he was the beneficiary of a disqualification to Christopher Bell. It was a scene similar to 2013 with chief technical director Ricky Brooks in the “Room of Doom” letting Elliott know about a disqualification, but only this time he’d be the winner instead of the one getting tossed out.
“This is a very special weekend,” Elliott said after his second win in 2015. “To be able to do this twice is special to me. I hate it for Christopher. I’ve been there. I know how it feels because I wanted to crawl into a hole two years ago and not come out. Ideally, you want to be able to cross the finish line first. We were able to do that two years ago and have (the Tom Dawson Trophy) for a little while and I didn’t get to take it home, so I’m happy to get to take it home tonight."
Elliott has since gone on to superstardom at the highest levels of NASCAR. He’s taken over the No. 24 from NASCAR legend, Jeff Gordon, and next year he’ll return to the seat of the No. 9 that has so much meaning to him and his father, Bill.
The Snowball Derby played a small part in propelling Chase Elliott to become a NASCAR star. It will always be a big part of his life.
Elliott said before he won the 2015 Snowball Derby that there was a good chance it would be his last trip down to Florida’s Panhandle in December for some time, but he left the door open for a return.
We don’t know when it might happen, but we’re all hoping that Chase Elliott’s chase for more Snowball Derby greatness will continue somewhere down the road.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com