As we continue to close in on the 50th Annual Snowball Derby, we at Speed51.com continue our look at the history of the event through the years. Our newest feature takes you through the race decade-by-decade and give you a look at each year’s race.
Today we take a look at the 1990s, a decade in which one driver established dominance.
If you missed our look at the 1960s, you can catch up on that by clicking here. Take a look back on the 1970s by clicking here. And don’t forget about the 1980s; click here to see what went on during that decade.
December 3, 1990
Pole Winner – Bobby Gill (17.517 seconds)
Race Winner – Rich Bickle
Weather – 73 degrees and sunny; warmest Derby since the 70s.
Special Note – Polesitter Bobby Gill lasted 13 laps after having engine trouble.
The week started off with some strange activity as Rick Carelli made it into the race after Jeff Purvis and David Bonnett had qualifying times disallowed on Friday. From there, several drivers took their turns up front before Butch Miller led the most laps. The strategy played into the hands of Junior Niedecken who outlasted everyone except Rick Bickle, who powered by Niedecken for the win on lap 265 of the 332 laps completed that year.
Pole Winner – Clay Brown (17.590 seconds)
Race Winner – Rich Bickle
Weather – 75 degrees and sunny.
Special Note – Bobby Gill again lasted only a handful of laps to bring his two-year total to 16 laps.
History was made as Rich Bickle became the first driver in Snowball Derby history to win the race in back-to-back years. Bickle beat out Jeff Purvis in the late stages for the win. Purvis led a race-high 194 laps, but couldn’t dispose of Bickle in the final run. Jason Keller came from 29th to finish third.
December 6, 1992
Pole Winner – Jeff Purvis (17.000 seconds)
Race Winner – Gary St. Amant
Weather – Temperatures in the mid 50s and cloudy.
Special Note – Rich Bickle lasted only 80 laps in a quest for three Snowball Derby wins in a row.
Jeff Purvis set fast time and led the most laps, but lost out to Snowball Derby rookie Gary St. Amant. Purvis led over 100 laps for the second straight year, but the last set of tires did not match up on the car and he couldn’t run down St. Amant for the win. By our records, this was the final time a V6 car won the Snowball Derby.
December 5, 1993
Pole Winner – Hal Goodson (17.200 seconds)
Race Winner – Bobby Gill
Weather – 67 degrees and partly cloudy.
Special Note – Mike Cope led 82 laps in his third and final Snowball Derby start.
After straight three years of not making it past lap 100, Bobby Gill put it all together and won the Snowball Derby. Wayne Willard led a race-high 178 laps, but it was 1987 winner Butch Miller who Gill passed for the win with 19 laps to go. The race was slowed by 22 yellows and took almost three-and-a-half hours to complete.
December 4, 1994
Pole Winner – Bobby Gill (17.042 seconds)
Race Winner – Tammy Jo Kirk
Weather – 73 degrees and cloudy.
Special Note – Polesitter Bobby Gill led a race-high 219 laps before finishing 18th.
History was made when Tammy Jo Kirk outlasted the field in a wild race that saw 21 yellows for 133 laps. Kirk led only the final few laps to become the first female driver to win the Snowball Derby. Prior to getting the lead, Wayne Willard was spun out by Jeff Purvis and Kirk snuck by to take over the top spot. Eddie Mercer and Purvis couldn’t run her down after that.
December 3, 1995
Pole Winner – Mike Garvey (17.115 seconds)
Race Winner – Jeff Purvis
Weather – 72 degrees and partly cloudy.
Special Note – Jeff Purvis is the only driver to win the World 100 and the Snowball Derby.
After leading four previous Snowball Derby races for 372 laps, Jeff Purvis was more then due. He was so due that leading a race high 201 laps was no surprise as Purvis finally put his car into victory lane. Former winners Rick Crawford and Jody Ridley were second and third, but neither led the race.
December 8, 1996
Pole Winner – Eddie Mercer (16.912 seconds)
Race Winner – Rich Bickle – Third Snowball Derby win
Weather – 64 degrees and sunny.
Special Note – The race was slowed by 22 yellow flags, which tied the record from 1993.
Bickle makes history as the first three-time winner and the first to do it in a Dodge. Bickle took the lead from defending race winner Jeff Purvis and led the final 41 laps to score the win. Polesitter Eddie Mercer added to his frustrating history at the Derby by leading half the race and then not factoring into the finish. Darrell Brown was second at the checkered for his best run.
December 7, 1997
Pole Winner – Eddie Mercer (17.294 seconds)
Race Winner – Bobby Gill – Second Snowball Derby win
Weather – 54 degrees and cloudy.
Special Note – Thirteen cars were out of the race by the halfway mark, making it a wild show for the fans. At the finish, only 16 cars were running.
Bobby Gill proved that 1993 was no fluke as he led a race-high 157 laps to score his second Snowball Derby win. Gill beat out polesitter Eddie Mercer who was snake bit again in the late stages. 1989 winner Rick Crawford was third. Rich Bickle started up front but also had trouble and finished 24th.
December 6, 1998
Pole Winner – Bobby Gill (16.556 seconds)
Winner – Rich Bickle – Fourth Snowball Derby win
Weather – Temperatures in the 80s and cloudy.
Special Note – Five of the top-seven finishers had won or would go on to win the Snowball Derby.
Rich Bickle snuck past Tim Sauter with two laps to go and pulled away to lock down his fourth Snowball Derby win. Freddie Query led the most laps and chased Gary St. Amant across the line to make up the podium. Bickle was not much of a factor until the late stages.
December 5, 1999
Pole Winner – Gary Jones (16.600 seconds)
Race Winner – Rich Bickle – Fifth Snowball Derby win
Weather – Cloudy with temperatures in the 70s.
Special Note – Scott Hansen finished second and was the only driver that year to finish in the top 10 after starting in the top 10.
Big money was on the line for three drivers at the 1999 Snowball Derby. Bobby Gill, Gary St. Amant and Rich Bickle each had a shot at a $100,000 bonus if they won the race. As the racing world watched, the race was delayed by rain and a power failure before the green flag waved late in the night. Bobby Gill ended up on the point and took the checkered flag, but a post-race check of the scoring landed Rich Bickle his fifth Derby win and a total of $125,000 counting the race winnings.
-Text by Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent