“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.
If you want an interesting tale of the Snowball Derby’s past, making a stop in the Richie Wauters pit at Five Flags Speedway in December would be a good place to start. Wauters, a former NASCAR truck owner, found success at that level, but it’s the Snowball Derby that is his home away from home.
“There ain't nothing like going short track and the Snowball Derby is the best of the best,” Wauters said. “When you win it, you are on top of the world. When you don’t, all you can think about is next year.”
When looking at the record books, Wauters has been a part of Snowball Derby efforts for close to 30 years. From Dick Trickle, to Rich Bickle, Scott Hansen, Kyle Busch, Steve Wallace the list of drivers he has worked with goes on and on.
Wauters began fielding his own cars and had some talent behind the wheel over the years. In 1998 he had Scott Hansen and Jeff Purvis but failed to win.
“Purvis had won the Derby before and we almost won the All American 400 that year,” Wauters stated. “We had an axle brake and we got into a wreck. We ran well at the Derby but didn’t win.”
Finally in 2004 it all came together, but it was almost missed as a vacation had to be moved in order to enjoy his first Snowball Derby win.
“The race got rained out a week and we came back and ran it on a Saturday night,” Wauters began. “We had a young Steve Wallace driving for us and he was good that night. He was fast and we stayed out of trouble. When we crossed the line I was like, ‘oh my, we just won the Super Bowl.”
The worst part was my wife and daughter were in the Bamahams somewhere, but I got to call them and tell them we won. I joined them the next day after winning the biggest race of the year.”
Wauters had finished second with Hansen in the past and Wallace added a pair of second-place runs after his win. A young Dalton Sargeant added another runner-up finish out of the Wauters stable just three years ago.
“The stars almost lined up again with Sargeant,” Wauters said. “He hadn’t run a lot of Late Models and he was exceptional. He did what he had to do to be there at the end, but you know he spun the tires, just an experience and we ran second.”
Perhaps the most amazing part of the Wauters success is the people he brings to the track. No one gets into the program without a goal of racing for a win.
Statistically, Wauters worked with four Derby winners. Wallace, Bickle, Busch before he won it and Purvis after he won it. The notes of information and stories are incredible, but it all started with a well known driver from Wisconsin.
“We have worked with some great drivers,” he said. “(Dick) Trickle was a special person that knew stuff just with a look at the car. I had Dick later on in his career and we never won, but it was special. He taught me a lot over the years.”
This year with be the 50th year of the Snowball Derby and it will be special for the Wauters Motorsports team.
“I love the race weekend and working with young drivers,” Wauters added. “This year is the 50th running so perhaps we can go win this one. We won the first race that the Bryant family put on back in 2004. Maybe it’s time for us to do it again.”
The most infamous story surrounding Richie Wauters came in 2008 when the team was caught with soaked tires. The team was tossed for soaked tires, but the car was able to race after it was presented with a new owner the next day.
“We had some tough times,” Wauters reflected. “You know, you just learn from those times and this is what you got to do and it's all turned out good ever since. They treat everyone same in the tech line and we all respect that.”
While the team has yet to name a driver(s) for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby, Wauters believes they will be loaded for bear.
“We are hoping to double up our chances this year and run two cars. Hey, it’s the Snowball Derby and I am going to be there.”
1984 or 1988 - Worked with Dick Trickle at the Snowball Derby.
1996 - Worked with Rich Bickle on his third Derby win.
1998 - Fielded cars for ASA standout Scott Hansen and former Derby winner Jeff Purvis.
2002 - Won the Snowball Derby as an owner with Steve Wallace; Kyle Busch ran a team car.
2005 - Finished second with Steve Wallace.
2008 - Finished fourth with Shane Sieg after getting tossed for soaked tires in practice.
2012 - Ran Nelson Piquet, Jr. at the Derby.
2014 - Finished second with Dalton Sargeant.
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com