Just two days after his fast time in qualifying was disallowed, Christopher Bell climbed from the 31st starting position as the initial winner of the 48th Annual Snowball Derby.
However, almost immediately upon rolling across the scales in post-race technical inspection, the Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 51 was disqualified.
The left side weight for Bell’s car was at a 58.3% ratio, violating the limit of 58.0%. Chief technical inspector Ricky Brooks mentioned that he gave the KBM team three chances to get the left side weight right this week.
"I have no idea, I really don't,” a rather speechless Bell told Speed51.com powered by JEGS upon receiving the news. “KBM built a great racecar and it was fast. I crossed the finish line first."
Bell’s crew chief Chris Gabehart indicated that they believe the buildup on the left side tires on the car was due to Bell’s victory lap in which he went the reverse direction around the half-mile.
“We were paranoid as heck about how to let the kid celebrate his first Snowball Derby win, and for good reason,” Gabehart explained. “Obviously the left side tires are caked in rubber from the cool down lap. He rode around backwards and had the left sides up in the debris. I can promise you we can weigh the left side tires and they are five pounds heavier than the others we had on the car. No question.”
Brooks told 51 after the race that this was a case of having a zero-tolerance policy, and he wasn’t buying any sort of excuse from the Kyle Busch Motorsports team.
“If they were too close, they shouldn’t have taken a backwards victory lap and put rubber on the tires,” said Brooks. “Every car had rubber on their tires, the other two cars were well within the limits. They said they burned fuel, well they pitted on lap 265 and they were really close on the total weight at the start of the race, so you can’t blame it on fuel burn off.”
Despite the frustration, Gabehart stressed the importance of the effort from the team, especially Bell for having to claw his way to the front in both the 300-lap race on Sunday afternoon and the 50-lap last chance qualifier the day before.
“I think it’s clear who had the best car here, and the best driver, “said Gabehart. “He came from the back of a 58 car field, not a 37 car field, and passed every one of them for position at least once and has a small door mark on the left side of the racecar to show for it. Let’s not lose sight what a talent Christopher Bell is and he is going to do a lot of great things in this sport because of the generosity of Kyle Busch Motorsports and Toyota.”
After technical inspection was complete, original second-place finisher Chase Elliott was officially awarded the Tom Dawson Trophy, ironically two years he was disqualified for using tungsten, handing KBM Super Late Model driver Erik Jones the win.
Being in a similar situation before, Elliott admitted feeling bad for Bell.
“I think he did a really good job and he deserves a lot of credit for getting the job done on the racetrack,” the now two-time Snowball Derby winner said. “I’ve been there and I know how it feels. I wanted to crawl in a hole two years ago.”
Despite the circumstances, Elliott was satisfied with the performance that got him to second and winning such a prestigious race again before embarking on a full time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.
“It’s special, and to be able to take that trophy back home it means a lot,” Elliott remarked. “Obviously we would have loved to cross the finish line first. That’s the ideal way to do it, but we’ll definitely take it.”
Zane Smith scored a runner-up finish in his Snowball Derby debut with fast qualifier Ty Majeski, 2014 runner-up Dalton Sargeant, and Super Late Model ace Bubba Pollard rounding out the top five.
More coverage of the 48th Annual Snowball Derby can be found on Speed51.com shortly including exclusive Speed51 Network video interviews with involved parties.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Bruce Nuttleman/Speed51.com
OFFICIAL Snowball Derby Results
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