In one of the most talent-laden Last Chance Qualifiers in the history of the Snowball Derby, Chase Elliott raced to the win while Chandler Smith muscled his way from the rear of the field into the final transfer spot.
Elliott took the lead from two-time Snowball Derby champion Augie Grill on lap 28 of the 50-lap event, securing his spot in Sunday’s 53rd Annual Snowball Derby.
“Fortunately, we had a really good race, and a really clean race,” Elliott told Speed51. “I was concerned about that. I appreciate the effort. I feel like we got our car a little better this morning. I think we can still improve from where we’re at, but I’m thankful to make it through.
“It was not the Saturday we wanted to have, but at the same time, haven’t raced these in a long time. To look on the bright side, we got some laps in race condition. I’m looking forward to another Snowball Derby.”
While Elliott worked his way from seventh to first, Chandler Smith put on an even more impressive charge. Starting last in the 21-car field after a disqualification during qualifying on Friday night, Smith raced his way into a transfer spot with a bold charge through the field.
Smith and Noah Gragson made door-to-door contact battling for the final transfer spot on lap 43 of the event. Smith assumed the fourth spot, while Gragson slipped to sixth.
For Smith, the Last Chance Qualifier was a chance to make an emphatic statement entering Sunday’s main event.
“My biggest thing I told the boys was I wanted to make a statement this weekend,” said Smith. “I think we’re starting it out right, driving from 21st to fourth. The balance of the car was really good. Chase obviously drove off, I don’t know if he backed off at the end but he was coming back to us.
“Second and third backed up to us quickly and we weren’t falling off at all. The biggest thing for us was in dirty air, we started fighting a little bit of bite. The good Lord guided me through the traffic, and that’s why we transferred.”
Meanwhile, a dejected Gragson headlined a list of drivers who will miss out on this year’s Derby, which also includes Carson Hocevar, Kodie Conner, Connor Okrzesik and Casey Johnson among others.
“I’m just thankful for the opportunity with this team,” said Gragson. “We had some struggles throughout the weekend and couldn’t figure this car out. It’s. not from a lack of effort. It’s a great group, this Phoenix Construction group. It’s frustrating, not being able to figure out this car. I don’t know, I’m pretty bummed out because of the hard work and sacrifice from a lot of people.”
Grill lost the lead in the second half of the Last Chance Qualifier, but still came home in second position.
“I’m very happy, excited,” said Grill. “I’m glad we have a car and we can race tomorrow, and will stay with me for 50 laps tomorrow. I’m very optimistic. I know now we can tune on it a little bit and hopefully have it better when the race starts tomorrow.”
Race fans can watch Sunday’s Snowball Derby live on Speed51.TV. Click here to order your pay-per-view tickets for the Snowball Derby broadcast presented by Hooters.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit; Speed51 Photo
Snowball Derby Last Chance Race Unofficial Results
(Top Four Transfer)
|13||44J||Justin T. Johnson|