The 51st Annual Snowball Derby was chalk full of storylines. While many of those stories have already made headlines on the World Wide Web, there are plenty more stories to be told. Today, we take a look at some of those stories in our annual Snowball Derby Leftovers.
Roderick Rebounds for Top-Five Finish
Casey Roderick had a fast car at the 51st Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL), ultimately finishing fifth in the race. It was Roderick’s best career finish in the Snowball Derby, but it may not even be indicative of his car’s potential, as the Lawrenceville, Georgia driver spent most of the race rallying from an early issue.
During the opening green-flag run of the race, Roderick lost a cylinder after losing a spark plug wire on his Ronnie Sanders-prepared entry.
“I felt like we had a really good car,” Roderick told Speed51.com. “We were just playing catch-up the whole race. To start the race, we went about 15 laps and a spark plug wire fell off and we lost a cylinder. We started falling way back. The second caution, we pitted with everybody else. We had a really slow stop and went a lap down. We just had to play catch-up the rest of the time.”
From there, Roderick could only drive as hard as possible to make up lost time.
“We just drove hard,” Roderick said. “The guys in the pits did a good job getting tires on it and doing what we can to have a good finish.”
Despite being his best finish in the Derby, Roderick only felt frustration from missing out on a Snowball Derby win.
‘Just frustrated, man,” Roderick said. “I want this race so bad. We don’t have the budget that the other guys do. You saw what was in front of me. [Connor] Okrzesik ran really good. I’m proud of him. He’s a good little racer from down here in Alabama. I was proud of him and his effort. That’s a really good finish for the Snowball Derby.
“We’re going to have to take some time off from the races that we do,” Roderick added. “We ran something like 40 races this year and last year. Maybe we need to cut back, do some testing, get our stuff better to compete against these guys that spend money.”
Dutilly Scratching Head Sfter Snowball Debut
Brandeton, Florida’s Jesse Dutilly is a multiple-time champion in various racing series throughout Florida but had never attempted the Snowball Derby. That changed this year, as Dutilly made his Derby debut after finishing third in the Blizzard Series points standings.
Dutilly finished 15th in the race, and overall was pleased with the run in his first try in the event. However, he was left mystified by the behavior of his car over the second half of the race.
The issues for Dutilly started on an early restart, as contact with Bubba Pollard damaged the nose of his entry.
“I was tucked up right on [Pollard] on that restart, we were going into [turn] one, and I usually don’t try to be that tucked up for that exact reason,” Dutilly said. “Something usually happens when you’re in the middle, somebody stacks up and you knock a nosepiece off the car. I was just trying to keep my position right up behind him. They all parked it, I parked it. I hit him, a guy hit me, shoved me even more, crunched the nose off the car.”
However, the confusion would come later, as Dutilly felt adjustments and repairs only made the car worse.
“We came in the next pit stop, decided to tape the hood down, close the openings just to see if we could fix the aero some,” Dutilly explained. “That run after we taped it up, the car was wicked tight compared to how it was. I don’t know if it was the tires we put on or what. It actually made it worse.”
After a brief stint at the end of an extended green-flag period, Dutilly’s car adjusted to his liking. However, it went from bad to worse on the restart, leaving Dutilly wondering if he had a rear-end issue.
“By mid-race we had a long green-flag run,” said Dutilly. “The car was tight most of the time. All of a sudden, way deep into that run, the car just freed up in five laps. Rolled the corner great, started catching cars, didn’t understand that at all. I was happy. We ran 20 laps like that, passed some cars.
“We pitted again, went out, the car tried to drive into the wall on the restart, tried to drive into the infield by the flagstand,” Dutilly continued. “I think the Gleason is going bad. The rest of the race was swatting at flies and things that weren’t in the race car trying to go in a straight line.”
Despite the car’s unpredictable behavior, Dutilly was happy to bring it home in one piece and learn from his first Snowball Derby.
“I don’t know if the Gleason’s bad or not,” Dutilly said. “It’s a terrible excuse. I hope it’s bad, because the car was doing evil things for the last 100 and something laps. We finished in the top 15, held onto it. For a first Snowball Derby, experience, we learned a ton. Everybody’s happy. The car’s in one piece, it needs a couple body panels. We’ll take it and move on.”
Last Chance Qualifier Eliminates Past Champions
Two entrants into the 51st Annual Snowball Derby were previous winners in the prestigious event. Not only did both fail to time their way into the field during Friday night’s qualifying session, they failed to finish the Last Chance Qualifier on Sunday.
Steve Wallace, the 2004 winner of the Snowball Derby, didn’t even make a lap of the LCQ, as the rear-end of his machine failed before he took the green flag. Wallace experienced a similar issue on Thursday’s practice day, forcing his team to pull the rear-end from his backup car and install it in his primary.
Nonetheless, the new rear-end failed, ending Wallace’s bid at taking his father Rusty’s colors to victory lane before it even started.
Augie Grill, the 2007 and 2008 winner of the event, only fared marginally better. Grill struggled to find speed before parking his car after 13 laps, telling Speed51.com, “I just wasn’t competitive, so I pulled off.”
California Duo Finishes Just Outside Top 10
A pair of drivers from the state of California represented the west coast well during the 51st Annual Snowball Derby; however, their bid to take the Tom Dawson Trophy west came up short.
Upper Lake’s Jeremy Doss and Lakeport’s Derek Thorn finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th, respectively.
Dossey Charges After Securing Final Starting Spot
Jack Dossey III edged out Boris Jurkovic to claim the fourth and final transfer spot in Sunday’s Last Chance Race. After starting 34th, Dossey charged to a 17th-place finish in his Snowball Derby debut. After competing on Sunday, the 2018 JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour champion will return to Five Flags next weekend for the Allen Turner Snowflake 100.
-Story by Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com