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 current decade from 2010-2016, a decade which has seen a number of young stars win the race and rise to NASCAR prominence.
If you’ve missed any of the earlier decades, you can catch up on them in the links below:
December 5, 2010
Pole Winner – Cale Gale (16.335 seconds)
Race Winner – Johanna Long
Weather – Windy with temperatures in the 50s.
Special Note – Only 11 cars finished this wild Snowball Derby and only eight cars finished on the lead lap.
Johanna Long became the hometown hero when she got by Landon Cassill and held on following a late restart to win the Snowball Derby. The race had a long green flag run in which it looked as if Bubba Pollard was going to score the win before he tangled with Donnie Wilson with 11 laps to go. That set up a mad dash as Long and others took tires and ate up the leaders on the restart. With yellow flags, the race extended to 328 laps.
December 4, 2011
Pole Winner – Bubba Pollard (16.290 seconds)
Race Winner – Chase Elliott
Weather – Partly cloudy with temperatures in the 70s.
Special Note – In qualifying, Bubba Pollard broke the 31-year-old Snowball Derby track record held by Gary Balough. Pollard went 16.290 to Balough’s 16.330 in 1980.
The final five-lap shootout for the Snowball Derby win was much like a hollywood script. Chase Elliott and Mobile, Alabama driver DJ VanderLey went door-to-door for the final five circuits. VanderLey held the lead from the outside for four consecutive laps before he ran wide going into turn three on the final lap, giving Elliott his first Snowball Derby win.
December 2, 2012
Pole Winner – David Ragan (16.485 seconds)
Race Winner – Erik Jones
Weather – Temperatures in the 70s and cloudy.
Special Note – Erik Jones was the first driver since Gary St. Amant to win the race on his first try. Those two drivers and Gary Balough are the only three to do it since 1980.
The 2012 Snowball Derby was a race that put Erik Jones on the map. Jones flew under the radar most of the weekend and was leading by lap 70. After a wave of pit stops, Jones found himself avoiding a big wreck that eliminated several big guns. Jones kept his cool and regained the lead. A late pitstop got Kyle Busch out in front of Jones and the race looked to be over. The youngster from Michigan took the lead and fended off several challenges before driving away and pleasing the capacity crowd. Jones was in tears as he addressed the crowd as the winner. Busch faded to third behind Jeff Choquette. Later, Busch would hire Jones to race for him.
December 8, 2013
Pole Winner – Chase Elliott (16.133 seconds)
Race Winner – Erik Jones – Second Win
Weather – Cloudy with temperatures in the mid 60s.
Special Note – Chase Elliott broke the Snowball Derby track record from 2011. Despite the post-race disqualificaition, he held the record until 2015.
On a day when Chase Elliott absolutely blistered the field, the post-race headlines read about a disqualification that cost him his second Snowball Derby win. After the race, tungsten weights were found on the right side of the Elliott machine. Despite there being no advantage to the use of it, other than it being banned due to its high price tag, the Elliott win was taken away and give to Erik Jones for the second straight year. Jones never led the race that year.
December 7, 2014
Pole Winner – Hunter Robbins (16.212 seconds)
Race Winner – John Hunter Nemechek
Weather – Low 60s and sunny.
Special Note – Erik Jones saw his bid at three Snowball Derby victories in a row end after crashing out in the late stages.
In a race that was absolutely a toss up, John Hunter Nemechek was left standing tall in victory lane after out driving Dalton Sargeant on the final restart. The race saw Augie Grill and Erik Jones miss bids for their third Snowball Derby wins in the final laps. Jones was going for three straight.
December 6, 2015
Pole Winner – Ty Majeski (16.120 seconds)
Race Winner – Chase Elliott
Weather – Party cloudy with temperatures in the mid 60s.
Special Note – Christopher Bell’s disqualification marked the fourth time the winner lost the race in the tech line dating back to 2006 and the sixth overall in Derby history. Majeski’s fast lap of 16.120 was good for the current track record.
Christopher Bell took KBM Motorsports to victory lane at the Snowball Derby only to have it negated in tech. That gave the win to Chase Elliott, who just two years ago won the race and lost on a tech infraction. For Elliott, it was his second Snowball Derby win. In all the dramatics, John Hunter Nemechek pitted late after contending for the lead. When he came down pit road his car was on fire and he hit a crew member in the process. No injuries were life threatening.
December 6, 2016
Pole Winner – William Byron (16.201 seconds)
Race Winner – Christian Eckes
Weather – Race was washed out on both Sunday and Monday before being completed under the light Tuesday night.
Special Note – For the first time in race history, controlled cautions were used due to the postponement of the race.
Sometimes all it takes is one lap. That’s all Christian Eckes would lead in the 2016 running of the Snowball Derby as he prevailed in a fierce battle with John Hunter Nemechek to win the 49th running of the Snowball Derby. Eckes led the 300th and final lap to score the biggest win of his young career. The two out-dueled front row starter Ty Majeski in a 20-lap dash to the checkered flag.
-Text by Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent