Every year, the Snowball Derby is filled with storylines throughout the field. Here are some of the stories from the 53rd Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway.
Defending Champion Accomplishes Strong Run with New Team
Despite joining a new team which had never competed in a major Super Late Model race, Travis Braden finished 13th in th3 53rd Annual Snowball Derby.
After learning Team Platinum would not compete in this year’s Snowball Derby, Braden hastily efforted to find a ride for the crown jewel event and a chance to defend his title in the race. Braden teamed up with Jake Keaton Racing, a family team out of Braden’s home state of West Virginia.
For Braden, that finish provided as much satisfaction and sense of accomplishment as last year’s Snowball Derby win.
“I feel, honestly, about as accomplished as I’ve ever felt,” Braden told Speed51. “I’m proud of myself a little bit, not to be cocky or anything like that. I’m very proud of all these guys. We came down for the first time ever in a Super Late Model race. This team had never run a Super Late Model race before, and we had never run a race together before.
“All those combinations of unknowns, to come to a race like this and qualify in on time. We were too free early in the race and went a lap down. We had a top-10 car at the end of the race if we could have gotten on the lead lap earlier.”
Throughout the weekend, Braden and the Jake Keaton Racing team gained speed, ultimately finishing on the lead lap.
“I’m proud to say we did that. We were 50th in first practice, and all we did from that point is just keep climbing. We finished the race in the best position we were the whole day. That sums up the whole effort here.”
Pollard Struggles, Exits Early in First Race with VanDoorn
Bubba Pollard made waves ahead of this year’s Snowball Derby when he revealed he would join forces with TK Racing and VanDoorn Racing Development. With Pollard’s success at Five Flags Speedway and TK Racing’s success in the 2020 season, many wondered how the combination would fare.
However, Pollard struggled for most of the week, utilizing a Blizzard Series provisional to make the Snowball Derby field and finishing
“We struggled for speed from the time we got here,” said Pollard. “It’s part of racing. You’re going to have those times where you’re down. It seems like lately, we’ve had more down than ups. We’ll just go, do the best we can, go to work. That’s all we can do, keep pushing and trying to get better.”
Despite the struggles, Pollard was able to make light of the situation at day’s end.
“Yeah, we learned a lot. We learned what not to do. It’s a big learning curve.”
Plott Scores Best Derby Finish, Sets Sights on 2021
Kyle Plott had been snakebitten in the Snowball Derby in six prior attempts, never finishing on the lead lap and only seeing the checkered flag twice. Plott took the first step towards ripping that monkey off his back Sunday, finishing 10th.
“It’s the best one we’ve had yet,” said the Georgia driver. “We finished the whole race. We fought free to start off, we fired off real free. We fought tight from there, the stagger kept going stupid. We came home with the car in one piece and a top-10, so I’m good with it.”
The strong showing has Plott excited for the 2021 season.. Working with crew chief Josh McCoy, Plott believes his team will be capable of making multiple trips to victory lane when the new year rolls around.
“I’m looking forward to next year. Me and Josh are working good together, so I think we’ll be in contention for a lot of wins next year.”
Disappointment Strikes Again for Nasse
Stephen Nasse’s results in the Snwoball Derby during his career are not indicative of his performances in the event. Between last year’s disqualification after taking the checkered flag first and various mechanical issues and incidents, the Florida driver has routinely been a front-runner in the event but has not scored a top-10 finish since coming home sixth in 2014.
Unfortunately for Nasse, that trend continued this year. Despite a fifth-place qualifying effort, his best ever in the Snowball Derby, Nasse finished 29th after battery issues ended his race on lap 222.
Prior to that point, Nasse ran in the top five for the majority of the race, only slipping to sixth briefly in the opening laps. He was running second when his car slowed dramatically and limped to pit road due to the battery issue.
Wilson Motorsports Scores Three Top-10 Finishes
Donnie Wilson did not compete in the Snowball Derby for the second straight year, but he once again brought an all-star ensemble of drivers to Five Flags Speedway. That cast of racers flexed its collective muscle throughout the day, ultimately finishing one behind the other in fourth, fifth and sixth.
Chandler Smith put on the most impressive display of the trio throughout the weekend. Starting 21st in Saturday’s Last Chance Qualifier due to a qualifying night disqualification, Smith charged through the field to finish fourth despite the 50-lap race taking place without incident or a caution flag.
Smith put on a similar charge on Sunday, racing from 34th to a fourth-place finish, just behind Last Chance Qualifier victor and NASCAR Cup Champion Chase Elliott.
Kaden Honeycutt was one of the fastest drivers all weekend in Wilson’s signature No. 2 entry, and left with a top-five finish. Honeycutt led 26 laps in the early stages of the race and never fell out of the top 10 in the running order.
Cole Butcher started the race fourth, just two spots behind Honeycutt, and also remained among the frontrunners throughout the race. Butcher completed the Wilson Motorsports trifecta with a sixth-place finish, overtaking Grant Enfinger on the final restart.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51Photos.com