The New England area has historically not experienced much success during the 53-year history of the Snowball Derby. In fact, just one driver from the region has won the prestigious event at Five Flags Speedway, with Massachusetts’s Pete Hamilton winning in 1974.
Another Massachusetts driver made history last weekend when Jake Johnson won the Allen Turner Snowflake 100, becoming the first driver from New England to win the Pro Late Model crown jewel. In fact, he became just the fourth driver from outside the Southeast to win the race in its 22-year history, joining Gary St. Amant (Ohio), Evan Jackson (Indiana) and Derek Thorn (California).
Joining “The Bullring” to talk about his win, he considered the Snowflake 100 to be a win not just for himself, but also the New England region as a whole.
“It’s cool to make history like that. It’s cool to have a first at something, nobody can take that away from you. Especially to come home and bring it back to New England, it’s an everyone’s on your team type of deal,” Johnson said. “Everyone that you race against, all your competitors, it’s like you all went down on the same team together.”
Johnson also became the third driver to win the Snowflake 100 from the Last Chance Race, joining Ryan Crane in 2007 and Chase Elliott in 2010. He started 31st and quickly moved through the field, finding himself in third in the closing laps after passing polesitter and 2019 Snowflake winner Derek Thorn.
“When we started going through the field, I was just trying to take it easy like driving any other race car in any other race. Once we started getting up through the field probably around 15th maybe, I realized we had a really good race car and it wasn’t falling off, it was staying with us. Once we got into the top-ten, I think it was eighth or so, I started going for it. Whatever I had left I was using it.
“I knew it was important to get to third just to not be stuck on the outside. I knew for sure we had to get to the bottom quick and I had to get a good run out of one and two and get down. Luckily a hole was there, we had a little bit of luck on our side throughout the race.”
As Bubba Pollard and Stephen Nasse raced for the win in the final laps, Johnson was within a second of the duo and was closing. He had the best seat in the house when the two titans made contact and Pollard spun in the final corner with the checkered flag in sight.
“I don’t know exactly what happened going into three. I don’t know who to blame but all I knew is there was smoke and I wasn’t lifting. It was definitely a wild deal. My spotter (Ray Parent) chirped up a few times and said just be ready for something, you never know. It’s a good thing because he was right.”
As for the 2021 season, Johnson’s plans behind the wheel remain the same as in recent years, with a single event in mind.
“I’m thinking a lot of practice for the Oxford 250; that race means a lot to me. If I were to win that, it would be as equal as the Snowflake win. We’re definitely looking at doing some practice races to run that this year. After that, maybe one or two American-Canadian Tour races.”
Click here to watch a replay Johnson’s appearance on “The Bullring.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51Photos.com