Once again in 2014, Speed51.com is the Official News Site of the 47th Annual Snowball Derby. 51 is the only live coverage provider of the weeklong festivities at Pensacola, Florida’s Five Flags Speedway and will have all the fans both at the track and at home up-to-date with the latest news and information. In addition to 51’s popular Trackside Now coverage, 51 TV will have live pay-per-view broadcasts throughout the week starting on Thursday night and ending when an official winner is declared following the Snowball Derby on Sunday night.
Speed51.com is bringing a team of over 20 staff members to the Snowball Derby to cover all the action. We’ve compiled staff picks for the win in both the Snowball Derby and Saturday night’s Snowflake 100.
Last year, two Speed51.com staff members (Brandon Paul and Mikayla Kugler) hit the nail on the head picking Erik Jones to repeat in the Snowball Derby, while three members of the staff (Matt Prieur, Kevin Ramsell and Mark Keeler) correctly picked Chase Elliott to win the Snowflake 100.
Which staff members will have bragging rights heading into the 48th Annual Snowball Derby in 2015? Take a look below at the picks and follow along throughout the week on Speed51.com and 51 TV to find out.
Rob Blount (Speed51.com Regional Editor – CT, Long Island, NJ) – Twitter: @RobBlount
Snowball Derby: Daniel Hemric – The 2013 Southern Super Series champion will win his first Snowball Derby in his third attempt. Why? He’s won three times in SSS competition at Five Flags Speedway over the course of the past two years. He also scored four wins in five starts in PASS South Super Late Model competition this year. Hemric is as good as it gets. Sure, his Snowball Derby results haven’t been too strong (29th, 20th), but that will change this year.
Snowflake 100: Augie Grill – Grill has to be one of the favorites to win the Allen Turner Snowflake 100 on Saturday night at the Snowball Derby. He has two wins (2009, 2011), and has an average finish of 5.2 in the last five races.
Aaron Creed (Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent) – Twitter: @Aaron_Creed
Snowball Derby: Donnie Wilson – 2014 has been a breakthrough year for the Oklahoma native, who has been through a Super Late Model career previously filled with being just short of victory. With the continued expertise from former Snowball Derby winner Butch Miller and this year’s addition of Troy Smith, the team will be in the running toward the end once again and will add to the list of prestigious trophies acquired throughout the season.
Snowflake 100: John Hunter Nemechek – The kid has been nearly flawless in a Pro Late Model in 2014 and will continue that momentum in a race that got away from him in the closing laps just one year ago.
Snowball Derby: John Hunter Nemechek – Angie & I have been talking about this for a couple days with no resolution. There are so many good picks and then there are the obvious favorites, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and a host of others. The Snowball Derby has been the breeding grounds for up-and-coming NASCAR talent; recent winners include Elliott, Jones and Johanna Long. So, we’ll go with another up-and-comer, All American 400 winner John Hunter Nemechek. He’s got the the right stuff and has matured behind the wheel a ton this year.
Snowflake 100: Christopher Bell – If Christopher Bell shows up like we’ve heard he is, we believe this kid could shock the short track racing world in one of Kyle Busch’s Late Models. The teen is just flat-out good. He’s been tearing up the USAC ranks and won a World of Outlaws Sprint Car race too. He jumped into a pavement Super Late Model with Busch’s team and won right off the bat. He’s the real deal.
Matthew Dillner (Speed51.com Founder and 51 TV Camera Operator) – Twitter: @MatthewDillner
Snowball Derby: Johanna Long – I always like going a little off radar with my picks. Looking at the entry list it’s clear that so many will pick NASCAR Nationwide Series champ and former Derby winner Chase Elliott or another former winner and NASCAR Camping World Truck star Erik Jones. However I am looking at two drivers in particular. My gut says to pick Clay Rogers. He has a win in his pocket but would like to do it by crossing the finish line first, not being awarded the trophy after a winner-disqualification. A new car for Rogers sounds sexy, but could be trouble as well. I am going against my gut pick (Rogers) and going w/ Johanna Long. Jo has been out of the NASCAR ranks, for some reason, and is a talent that many of us in the Short Track world are very familiar with. This race means a lot to her family, and in many ways can re-vitalize her racing career. She’s won it before in very aggressive fashion. Like they say…where there’s a will there’s a way… I think she has the will to win it again.
Snowflake 100: John Hunter Nemechek – Man I ‘m tempted to go with Christopher Bell. I’ve seen his talents in USAC Open Wheel competition and I am convinced he is the real deal. I think Pensacola is a different animal though, and a place so rich with competition and such a tough / fast track that I think that at least a little experience is essential. My pick doesn’t have “that much” experience but John Hunter Nemechek will be the guy to beat. He’s a young gun who is learning how to save his equipment but knows how to get a W. He did so at Nashville and he will do so again in the Snowflake.
Mark Keeler (Speed51.com and 51 TV Production Team) – Twitter: @MarkKeeler975
Snowball Derby: Bubba Pollard – Five Flags Speedway has been Pollard’s virtual playground in 2014. He has been in victory lane twice this year with the Southern Super Series and has two pole awards to go along with those. Pollard has been in the hunt every time out in 2014 and is always a threat to win. Although he only has one top-five finish in his six Snowball Derby starts, he really seems to have the setup for this track dialed this year and would have to be considered a favorite.
Snowflake 100: Harrison Burton – At such a young age and so early into his Late Model career he continues to improve and impress every time he competes. Coming from behind in his first ever Snowflake start a year ago, he improved 18 positions throughout the race to finish 16th. He has been very smooth as of late and is not afraid or intimidated racing wheel to wheel with the veterans and heavy hitters. I look for Burton have a much better qualifying effort and starting position and be in the hunt at the end.
Matt Kentfield (Speed51.com Executive Editor) – @MattKentfield
Snowball Derby: Daniel Hemric – The Snowball Derby is such a hard race to handicap because of all the different variables that take place over the course of its 300 laps. One variable that can’t be measured is hard work. That defines Daniel Hemric and it could pay off with the biggest win of the Kannapolis, North Carolina’s racing career. He’s had strong showings in the Derby before, including one shot to win that ended in a hard crash late two years ago and leading laps last year before a suspension issue thwarted his effort. It’s hard to find a young driver these days who has accomplished more with hard work and determination instead of a pocketbook through his career than this former Five Flags race winner and Southern Super Series champion has, so this could be the year it pays off with a trip into victory lane.
Snowflake 100: John Hunter Nemechek – Nemechek has been lights-out with his Pro Late Model in 2014 and there is no reason it shouldn’t translate to success in the Snowflake. The dude has won all the other big PLM shows around the country, including the All American 400, SpeedFest and the JEGS Tour show at the Milwaukee Mile to name a few. I think it will come down to Nemechek and Spencer Davis for the win in the Saturday night 100-lapper, but the momentum of the 2014 season will be what Nemechek rides to a Snowflake victory.
Adam Mackey (51 TV Color Commentator)
Snowball Derby: Chase Elliott – This team has unfinished business to take care of after last year’s strong performance and subsequent post-race loss.
Snowflake 100: Augie Grill – This entry list is filled with big names, but one really stands out when it comes to experience. Augie Grill will win the Flake.
Bruce Nuttleman (Speed51.com Photographer) – Twitter: @BruceNuttleman
Snowball Derby: Erik Jones – Why not Erik Jones? He has the talent, the car and the drive to be the first driver to win three straight Snowball Derbys.
Snowflake 100: John Hunter Nemechek -I saw first-hand at the All-American 400 just how dominant he was in a Pro Late Model. I wouldn’t be surprised if he picks up another big PLM win in the Snowflake.
Brandon Paul (Speed51.com Northeast Editor) – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
Snowball Derby: Daniel Hemric – While all of the focus this year will be on Chase Elliott and Erick Jones, I think the door will be open for Hemric to come in and steal the show. There’s no doubt about it, Hemric is considered one of the most talented drivers in short track racing without a consistent gig in NASCAR’s top-three series. Combine his talent with the hard work he’s displayed throughout his career and I think he can leave Five Flags Speedway as a Snowball Derby winner.
Snowflake 100: Willie Allen – Allen may not be the popular pick, but I’m convinced he’s a good one. I witnessed the show he put on passing every single car in the last chance race and all but one car on his way to a second-place finish in the All American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (TN). If he can duplicate that performance even the least bit and carry the momentum over to Five Flags, he’ll be contending for a win on Saturday night.
Derek Pernesiglio (51 TV Pit Reporter) – Twitter: @PitReporterDPTV
Snowball Derby: Corey LaJoie – He’s the type of driver that could win in anything. He’s drives all different types of racecar’s and adapts quickly. You can take him to Myrtle Beach and tell him to save tires for 200 laps or you can put him in a modified and tell him to get up on the wheel and charge for 30 laps.
Snowflake 100: Christopher Bell – He’s proved himself to be one of the best dirt track racers in the country and is quickly adapting to driving a Late Model on asphalt. With good equipment from Kyle Busch Motorsports underneath him, I believe Bell will pick up the biggest asphalt win of his career in the Flake.
Matt Prieur (Speed51.com Midwest Correspondent) – Twitter: @MattPrieur
Snowball Derby: Erik Jones – It’s hard to go against the two-time defending race winner with a world of potential ahead of him. The 18-year-old from Byron, Michigan, who also just won his second consecutive Winchester 400 at the legendary high-banks of Winchester Speedway (IN), will move up to full-time status in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2015 with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Before he does though, look for the rising superstar to add to his already growing legacy as one of the most clutch Late Model drivers that has come along in several seasons.
Snowflake 100: John Hunter Nemechek – The Mooresville, North Carolina teenager has been stellar in limited Pro Late Model appearances in 2014. Three wins in the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour in three big-time events; SpeedFest 2014 at Watermelon Capital Speedway (GA). Also during the Howie Lettow Memorial at the Milwaukee Mile (WI) and the 2014 CRA Fall Brawl at Lucas Oil Raceway (IN). The 17-year-old also just won the All-American 400 (300) at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (TN) and will cap off a banner year with the win in the Snowflake 100.
Tim Quievryn (Speed51.com Correspondent) – Twitter: @TimmyQuivy
Snowball Derby: Derek Thorn – This would be the biggest upset in recent Derby history, but I’ve thought for years that Thorn is one of the most underrated drivers in the country. He picked up his second SRL title this season along with arguably his biggest Late Model victory of his career at Pikes Peak. He led 25 laps last year and finished 9th in just his second trip to Five Flags and I have every reason to believe he’ll be even better this year.
Snowflake 100: John Hunter Nemechek – Nemecheck made his career Pro Late Model debut last December in the Snowflake and promptly led 30 laps and finished second. Since then he’s won the Pro Late Model portions of SpeedFest and the Howie Lettow and then claimed the All American 400 in one of the most dominant performances you’ll ever see. Claiming the Snowflake would put an exclamation mark on a breakout year.
Kevin Ramsell (Speed51.com Director of Business, Midwest Editor) – Twitter: @KevinRamsell
Snowball Derby: Donnie Wilson – The first thought I would have is to go with Erik Jones, but I think everyone including my two-year-old niece will be picking him. This is a solid list of drivers coming to this year’s event. Looking at the list, my gut is telling me to go with Donnie Wilson this year. I think it is his time to win the big one. He has had a great season finally getting back into victory lane a few times. I think he and Butch Miller have some good momentum heading into the Derby.
Snowflake 100: Anderson Bowen – He has had some solid runs in the Pro Late Model this year. He picked up a big win at I-44 Speedway by winning the Master of the Pros 144 back in May. The big thing for him is he has Ricky Turner as his crew chief and he has won this race with Chase Elliott.
Mike Ramsell (Speed51.com Photographer)
Snowball Derby: Augie Grill – He has a good track record and is due for another Snowball Derby win.
Snowflake 100: Bubba Pollard – He has been dominating the Pro Late Model scene in the Southeast region all year long and he will be tough to beat come Saturday night at Five Flags.
Jordan St. Amant (Speed51.com Correspondent)
Snowball Derby: Chase Elliott – The Hendrick Motorsports driver and 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion has been dominant in Late Model competition, and has shown his skill as a former Snowball Derby winner. He will be looking for redemption after having a win taken away last year for a technical infraction. I see the second generation Elliott taking home the hardware again at this year’s 47th annual Snowball Derby.
Snowflake 100: John Hunter Nemechek – The 17-year-old has been dominant in Pro Late Model competition, winning the All American 400 and duking it out against Kyle Busch for a win at Lucas Oil Raceway earlier this year. He’s shown his consistency race after race, and I wouldn’t be surprised seeing him in victory lane for the Snowflake 100.
Elgin Traylor (Speed51.com Operations Manager and Southeast Editor) – Twitter: @ElginTraylor
Snowball Derby: Donnie Wilson – I made the pick in 2010 and I will make it again four years later. The field is packed, but the good luck will be going to the “law firm” as we have called them here on Speed51.com Wilson, Miller and Smith will get the job done and get Donnie Wilson to victory lane after finishing second in 2010. The co-crew chief combo of former Derby winner Butch Miller and Troy Smith has led to a break out year for Wilson who has one more big bullet left in the tank.
Snowflake 100: Harrison Burton – Right now John Hunter Nemechek is the best Pro Late Model competitor around, but Mike Garvey and Bubba Pollard are close. Nemechek will take the pole and will elect to start from the rear in an attempt to win the $7,000 bonus. That will open the door for Harrison Burton to end the year with a bang and a big win.
Jana Wimmer (51 TV Pit Reporter) – Twitter: @JWimm22
Snowball Derby: Chase Elliott – After last year he might feel he has something to prove and on a stage this big, I just think he’s a hard guy to bet against, he seems to be able to get it done when it matters.
Snowflake 100: Anderson Bowen – He is a talented young driver and with Ricky Turner as his crew chief, I think he will be tough to beat.