Hearts are broken, dreams are crushed, luck runs out and tempers flare. No, we are not talking about pole night for the Snowball Derby; we are talking about the day after: the day of the Last Chance Race.
Drivers who don’t qualify in on time Friday night will find their way into a Last Chance Race that will see only four drivers qualify for the main event. The race is 50 laps and it separates those who will be racing in the Snowball Derby and those who will be heading home.
Let’s look back at the 10 best stories from the Last Chance Races from the Snowball Derby and the Snowflake 100 in recent years.
1) Brandon Bendele won Snowflake qualifiers in back-to-back seasons in 2008 and 2009. He also got into the Snowflake with a provisional in 2011. This former Pro Late Model winner was always clutch in the Last Chance Race.
2) Stephen McCurley never won at Five Flags Speedway in a Late Model, but the Humble, Texas driver had a notch for being the final guy in. On three occasions, he made his way into the main events via the last chance races. In 2007, he got a provisional to run the Snowflake and in 2011 he raced his way into the Snowflake and the Snowball Derby on the same day.
3) In 2007, we saw big drama from the Snowflake last chance race. First Jack Smith was tossed in post-race technical inspection for his car being too wide, paving the way for Brent Downey to make the Flake in race one. In race two, Ryan Crane stole the show and won the race. From there, Crane’s night got better as he rolled from 32nd to the victory in the Snowflake 100. Crane waited until the 97th lap to make the final pass for the win on Augie Grill.
4) Second verse, same as the first. After getting only one lap in qualifying, Chase Elliott was relegated to the 2010 Snowflake Last Chance Race. After getting the win there, he paced himself and moved to the front to score the win in the Snowflake. The reason this was better than the Crane feat was the fact that the Snowflake was a four-tire race this year, but it was six-tire race in 2007. Some star power notes find that Erik Jones and Daniel Hemric where the last cars into the Snowflake from the Last Chance Race.
5) The 2009 Snowball Derby Last Chance race got off to a tough start for one veteran. Jeff Fultz was scheduled to start near the front of the 50-lap event, but broke on the pace lap and limped to pit road. That paved the way for Dennis Schoenfeld, Heath Hindman, Ryan Lawler and Gary Helton to make the big show.
6) One of the most talented fields in Derby Last Chance Race history saw lots of heartbreak in 2015. First it was Cole Timm, fresh off the CARS Tour Super Late Model title, then Midwest standout Brian Campbell, West Coast star Jeremy Doss and former Winchester 400 winner Boris Jurkovic who all missed the show for crashes or various reasons. Christopher Bell won the race and went on to win the Derby the next day only to get his win stripped in the tech line due to a left-side weight infraction.
7) In 2014, we saw Last Chance Race winner Travis Braden’s Snowball Derby dreams come to a screeching halt. That memory was erased in the tech line due to a left-side weight infraction. His bad fortune turned into good fortune for Cole Timm who snuck into the race thanks to the disqualification. The shoe would be on the other foot the next year as Timm would miss the Derby.
8) In 2013, Mason Mingus sailed under the checkered flag first in the Last Chance Race and that was the only thing that was certain for a few minutes. Second-place finisher Brady Boswell and fourth-place finisher Chris Wimmer each had problems with carburetors in the post-race tech line and got tossed from the Derby. That paved the way for Cale Gale and Josh Hamner to make the big show. Wimmer told 51 he was relieved when he made the show and then refused comment after the tech deal showing the full swing of the emotions of the Last Chance Race in a matter of 10 minutes.
9) A wild three-ring circus was the story of the 2008 Snowball Derby Last Chance Race. With three laps to go, Benny Gordon went around after contract with Shane Sieg. Gordon would miss the transfer spots and he had some foul words for Sieg after the race. The plot thickened when Chris Davidson, who finished third, was found to be a lap down, jumbling the running order. Davidson’s team protested and lost. Because of the confusion with the lapped car, Alex Hasse and Gordon were added to the Derby. Brian Ickler won the Last Chance Race and went on to win the Derby only to get busted for brake blowers on his machine. That gave the win to Augie Grill who started 38th and made the race on the defending champions provisional.
10) Aaron Sorkin could have not written a better script than that of the 2007 Snowball Derby last chance night. A long day of practice and tech pushed the then two 25-lap last chance races to under the lights with cold temperatures.
Steve Wallace won the Last Chance Race in 2007, but in the tech line things don’t go well. The car goes over the scales light and a few minutes later it was heavy on the second try. Wallace was searched and found with heavy sockets in his pockets, which became an infamous story.
While that was going on in the infield Jason Hogan put the Kyle Busch Motorsports ride in the show along with Pro Cup ace Benny Gordon. Both would get bounced in the tech line. Hogan was too low on the roof height and Benny Gordon was too wide. Ryan Foster and Korey Ruble inherited wins and Bobby Gill and Roger Reuse received the final transfer spots.
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent