Earlier in the “50 For 50” series, we wrote about Chase Elliott, a second-generation NASCAR star, and a two-time winner of the Snowball Derby. In that piece, we mentioned that Elliott could be a three-time winner, if not for a small piece of illegal metal found in his car in 2013. This is the story about that day, and the disqualification for tungsten.
Elliott, then just 17 years old had a dominant weekend in Pensacola, Florida that year. Already a Derby winner a few years prior, Elliott won the pole position for the Snowball Derby and the Snowflake 100 Pro Late Model event. Elliott won the Snowflake from the pole on Saturday night, leading 17 of the 100 laps. Then on Sunday he led 233 of the 300 laps en route to the victory.
If you were a race fan that wasn’t at Five Flags Speedway that day, you probably remember how it went down. At 7:24 p.m. CT, a tweet from @speed51dotcom with the words “51 EXCLUSIVE: Chase Elliott disqualified from #SnowballDerby victory” rang out across the internet.
Thirty-seven minutes later, a tweet showing second-place finisher Erik Jones holding the Tom Dawson Trophy is fired out. Erik Jones, for the second year in a row, was the Snowball Derby victor.
By now just about everyone knows the story of what happened. A piece of tungsten was found in the rails of Elliott’s No. 9 Super Late Model. Tungsten is illegal at the Snowball Derby. Ricky Brooks informed him that he was disqualified and gave the trophy to Jones. But why this singular piece of illegal metal in Elliott’s car?
It was a simple mistake.
“All the weights sit on the same rack (in the shop) and it was simply just a mistake when it got installed,” Elliott told Speed51.com at the time. “That car was built last year; I am not sure who put it in there. Regardless it was a mistake and it was put in there by accident and it was overlooked before we went down there.”
One six-inch piece of tungsten is not any sort of performance advantage, but it is still illegal. Tungsten is against the rules at the Snowball Derby as a cost-saving measure for race teams. One pound of tungsten costs $48 versus just $2 for the same size of lead.
Clearly, tungsten costs a lot more than lead, and on this day it cost Chase Elliott a lot as well as his second Snowball Derby victory was taken away from him.
Elliott got his redemption just two years later, however. As we mentioned earlier in this series, Elliott was declared the winner of the 2015 Snowball Derby after Christopher Bell was disqualified.
A common cliché is “What goes around comes around,” and that would appear to be what happened to Elliott at the Snowball Derby.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount