The final four transfers into the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby presented by BJ’s Wholesale Club seemed all but decided at the end of the Last Chance Qualifier Saturday night at Five Flags Speedway. Then everything went sideways for Rich Bickle and Harrison Burton.
Bickle, the winningest driver in Snowball Derby history with five Tom Dawson Trophies, spun after contact with Carson Hocevar as the two drivers ran second, third and fourth along with Harrison Burton.
Bickle’s spin sent him into Burton and both drivers collided before coming to rest in turn one. Burton’s night ended there, while Bickle returned to action but finished ninth.
Bickle was most vocal about the incident, initially expressing his frustration on-track with Burton before realizing his contact was with Hocevar.
“It’s the same point of view you get anywhere you race anymore,” Bickle told Speed51. “You get these 14, 15, 16-year-old kids where their daddies pay for every g------ thing and you get sick of getting wrecked. I was running second, they take the top four and there are only four cars remotely fast left. I gave him plenty of room for two laps on the outside and he just totally dumps me off of four and runs me into the 12.”
Burton was disappointed to be involved in the incident, a victim of misfortune.
“Something happened between the 14 [of Hocevar] and the 45 [of Bickle],” Burton said. “I was running fourth and I didn’t want to be running there because I knew fourth was the cutoff. They started slipping up and there was a lane for me in the bottom and I guess the 14 got into the 45 and wrecked everyone. That sucks.”
Hocevar, who would go on to finish sixth and miss the feature field, took blame for the incident.
“I guess it was my fault, for sure,” Hocevar said. “We’re all racing hard. He ran me up the hill in three and four and came across my nose. I didn’t have enough time to slow down for him. He was already sideways, I was already throttled up. That’s my fault. You can’t stop these things on a dime, for sure. We didn’t make it either, so I would have rather run fourth.”
BIckle apologized to Burton after realizing the second-generation racer was not at fault for the incident, but did not back down from his stance on the incident.
“I thought the 12 got into me. I chewed his a-- pretty good. I realized it wasn’t him and told him I was sorry. I told Jeff Burton, his dad, I was sorry. Me and Jeff raced a lot of years together because we raced. That’s the problem nowadays. These kids don’t race.
“Their daddy pays for every g------ thing. All you do is get your s--- torn up for f------ stupidity. I’m sick of it. I’ve got eight race cars sitting there. I’m going to start building race cars just to show up and tear their s--- up and see how they like it.”
Burton noted that much of his conversation with Bickle couldn’t be repeated on family-friendly programming, but that the two were on good terms once Bickle realized he was not at fault.
“You can’t say most of it. I could bleep it out, but it would take too long. I was getting my senses together after what happened. I was trying to figure out what had happened. All of a sudden, I was getting yelled at, so that’s why you saw the reaction from me. I just got wrecked and this guy’s yelling at me for nothing, so I got pissed off. Once we figured it out, we were all good between me and him. It’s just an unfortunate circumstance and I’m glad that everyone is alright.”
For Burton, it was the end of a frustrating Snowball Derby week where many may have seen last year’s pole sitter as a favorite for the race.
“I guess we have to show up and be better at the beginning of the week,” said Burton. “That’s on us. We shouldn’t be in this race. I feel like our guys are better than that. We just struggled all week with the handling. We had it halfway figured out. We had some issue on the restart. We had most of our stuff figured out and I figured we would be better for the race tomorrow. Just like that, it was gone.”
It would be understandable if Bickle’s emotions were running high after seeing his shot to return to the Snowball Derby field for the first time since 2002 dashed by the incident. However, Bickle insisted his commentary was just stating facts.
“There’s no emotion, it’s all truth. I’ve got eight cars sitting there. I’m going to f------ bring them here two at a time and wreck their s--- and see if they like it. That’s the fifth race this year I’ve gotten wrecked for no reason. I’m tired of it.”
Still, Bickle says he will return to the Snowball Derby next year for another shot at the prestigious race.
“I’ve got two more to do. That’ll be my last race in two years. It’ll be 45 years of racing, the number on my car. I’ll be 60 years old. I’ll be done. I hope I can sell some books tonight. At least I put on a show from the fans going to the front like I normally do.”
When the dust had settled, Dan Fredrickson won the Last Chance Qualifier. The remaining transfer spots went to Brad May, Rodrigo Rejón and Boris Jurkovic.
Race fans can watch Saturday’s Allen Turner Snowflake 100 and the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby on Speed51. Click here to purchase your video tickets now.
52nd Annual Snowball Derby Last Chance Qualifier Results
|20||20D||Jack Dossey III|
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 photo