“50 for 50” is a new series on Speed51.com that will tell the 50 best stories to have ever come out of the Snowball Derby. The stories will focus on the legendary tales of the event as we prepare for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby on December 3.
The year 1988 was a memorable one for sports fans all over the country. The Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series, the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl and Ted Musgrave won just about everything under the sun to end the racing season.
Musgrave’s magical season began in June 1998 when he won a 300-lap ACT race at Lee USA Speedway (NH). In October, he won the Winchester 400, and a week later he added an Oktoberfest victory to his resume.
Two weeks after Winchester, things were rolling at the All American 400 before Musgrave fell out of the race right after halfway. He had one last chance to cap off a solid season-ending run at the granddaddy of them all, the Snowball Derby.
It may not have seemed like a big gap, but the front row was seven tenths of a second faster then Musgrave who started from row nine.
“We had a V6 and a lot of guys had the big power,” Musgrave explained. “We knew if we got into the show that we could be there all day. My little V6 would stick and go like crazy after the other guys burned off their tires.”
The problem that Musgrave and crew chief Howie Lettow faced at the Derby was the talented field, specifically Rick Crawford. Dealing with so much talent is a normal problem, but Crawford was on fire and took the pole before dominating the race early on.
“One thing that will always stand out in my mind about that race was that it was the same year that Mike Alexander got hurt,” Musgrave added. “He was trying to win the Snowball Derby just like me.”
The mishap by Alexander would aid Musgrave.
“We were leading and we sat there under red for a long time and I was able to think about what I needed to do to protect the position,” Musgrave stated. “We just had things go our way and we won the race.”
Based on our records, it was the third win for a V6 engine at the Derby. It was also the only win for Musgrave, his crew chief Lettow and the Rander Chassis.
It was a historic run for the group that went to the Copper Classic in Arizona that same winter and won there. Musgrave ended up climbing the NASCAR ranks just years later, but winning the Derby was the stepping stone and it started a year before the win.
“Sometimes your first try is full of mistakes,” Musgrave said. “We ran the race in 1987 and we came back with the V6 and some other things that we learned from that first time.”
Musgrave had the itch to get back behind the wheel when we talked to him as he tried to lobby to allow the oldest past winner to make the race.
“I think they should let the oldest former winner run the show,” Musgrave said.
We told him that Dave Mader III had him beat.
“OK. I can wait a few years.”
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent