MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Over 50 Super Late Model teams converged on Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., this week for the 50th running of the prestigious Snowball Derby, including three entries from Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM). Owner-driver Kyle Busch, who won the event in 2009, will be joined by Noah Gragson and Cole Rouse for Sunday’s 300-lap event at the half-mile, high-banked oval.
KBM will be looking to collect its third Tom Dawson Memorial Trophy. In addition to Busch’s win in 2009, the organization visited victory lane with Erik Jones in 2013.
Speed51.com is offering live pay-per-view coverage of the Snowball Derby for fans that cannot attend but wish to watch one of the year’s most exciting racing events. Green flag is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT and coverage begins at 12 p.m. CT with the Snowball Derby Pre-Race Show.
Here’s a closer look at KBM’s three entries in Sunday’s race:
Driver: Kyle Busch
Starting Position: 15th
Final Practice Result: Sixth
Car: No. 51 Toyota/Phoenix Construction Camry
Associate Sponsors: Billy Ballew Motorsports, Family Funeral and Cremation, ProMoly, Stock Car Steel and Aluminum Company, SRI and TRD
Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle
Busch hopped on a plane from Las Vegas late Thursday night after attending the NASCAR Cup Series’ annual banquet and arrived in Pensacola just prior to the start of Friday’s first practice session. The Las Vegas native will be looking to score his 14th overall victory of 2017, having posted five wins in both the Cup and Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing and three Camping World Truck Series victories for KBM.
In addition to his 183 victories across NASCAR’s top three divisions, Busch has posted numerous Late Model victories throughout his career, including the Snowball Derby in 2009. Busch will be making his fourth career Snowball Derby start Sunday, most recently finishing third in the 2012 event.
Busch will be hosting the “Rowdy Roundup” in the Fan Zone at 5 Flags Speedway Sunday morning at 10 a.m. CT. Tickets for the exclusive meet and greet, which allows fans the opportunity to get two items autographed and have their picture taken with Busch, can still be purchased at the 5 Flags Speedway Main Office.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 51 Camry
“Obviously 15th isn’t where we wanted to qualify, but Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) and all the guys made our Toyota, Phoenix Construction Camry a lot better for final practice. We made some 20-lap runs and we feel like we have good long-run speed, but we’re probably still lacking a little bit of speed firing off compared to the guys that qualified up front.”
Driver: Noah Gragson
Starting Position: 20th
Final Practice Result: Ninth
Car: No. 18 Switch Camry
Associate Sponsors: Game of War, Machine Zone, Mobile Strike and SpringHill Suites
Crew Chief: Marcus Richmond
Gragson competed full-time for KBM in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season. The 19-year-old’s rookie season was highlighted by a victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in October when he outdueled series stalwarts Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton in the closing laps to pick up his first NASCAR National Series victory. In addition to his win, the Las Vegas native registered three poles, 187 laps led, four top-five and 13 top-10 finishes across 23 Truck Series starts.
In addition to his full-time schedule in the Truck Series, Gragson will be making his third start this season for the KBM Super Late Model team. In his most recent outing he scored a victory in one of the crown jewels of Super Late Model racing, the Winchester 400 at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway.
Sunday will be Gragson’s third consecutive Snowball Derby start. Last year he qualified seventh and finished ninth, improving on an 11th-place finish in 2015.
Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 18 Camry
“The first two days of practice and last night in qualifying I really wasn’t satisfied with the speed of our Switch Toyota Camry, but today in Happy Hour it was a lot better. My crew chief Marcus Richmond and the No. 18 team made some really good changes that helped the attitude of the car. I’m excited to be starting my third Snowball Derby and coming off a win in the Winchester 400, I have lot more confidence this year than I did the last two years. I didn’t grow up racing Super Late Models and don’t have a lot of experience with them, so getting that first big win takes a lot of weight off my shoulders. I know now that I’m capable of beating some of the best guys in the country. This race has a lot of the same field, it’s another long race and you have to have the same mentality to be successful.”
Driver: Cole Rouse
Starting Position: 23rd
Car: No. 46 Toyota Camry
Final Practice Result: 10th
Associate Sponsors: JBL, Rouse Custom Homes, SpringHill Suites and TRD
Crew Chief: Cody Glick
Rouse’s first season driving for KBM’s Super Late Model team has been a successful one. The Arkansas native collected two victories, one pole, five top-five and nine top-10 finishes across 11 starts en route to the CARS Super Late Model Tour championship.
The 20-year-old has been knocking on the door of collecting his first marquee Super Late Model win. In his most recent start, he won the pole and led the first 115 laps of the Winchester 400 before he went multiple laps down due to a mechanical issue. After fixing the issue the team returned to the track and were able to post a respectable 12th-place finish.
Sunday will be Rouse’s first time being a part of the 36-driver field for the Snowball Derby.
Cole Rouse, driver of the No. 46 Camry
“I over drove it a little bit in qualifying and we are starting further back in the field than we would like to, but I felt like we had a good race-run Camry today in final practice. We had a lot of low lap times and it seemed like any time we were behind someone on the track we were able to catch them — so that’s a good sign. I’m really excited for tomorrow, our Toyota Camry has a lot of drive off and I feel like that will be important when we get to racing and trying to pass people tomorrow.”
In addition to the associate sponsors for each driver, Kyle Busch Motorsports would like to thank the following season-long partners of the Super Late Model Program. Axalta, Basset Wheels, Five Star Race Car Bodies, Interstate Batteries, Lincoln Welders, Mechanix Wear, Rowdy Manufacturing, Safety Kleen and SCHROTH Safety Products.
Notable wins for the KBM Late Model team since its inception in 2007 include: Wisconsin All-Star 100 at the Milwaukee Mile (Kyle Busch 2008), Red Bud 300 at Anderson Speedway (Kyle Busch 2009), Winchester 400 at Winchester Speedway (Kyle Busch 2009, Erik Jones 2013 & 2014 and Noah Gragson 2017), Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (Kyle Busch 2009 and Erik Jones 2013), SpeedFest at Lanier National Speedway (Kyle Busch 2009 & 2010), SpeedFest at Watermelon Capital Speedway (Kyle Busch 2012), Rowdy 251 at Berlin Raceway (Kyle Busch 2010, 2011 & 2012), All-American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville (TJ Reaid 2010), Slinger Nationals at Slinger Super Speedway (Kyle Busch 2011), the Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway (Kyle Busch 2011), Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at Richmond International Raceway (Kyle Busch 2013), the Howie Lettow Memorial at the Milwaukee Mile (Kyle Busch 2013 and Erik Jones 2014) and the Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway (Christopher Bell 2015).
-Kyle Busch Motorsports Press Release. Photo credit: Speed51.com