The Snowball Derby is race so mighty and so tough, that it has gained a reputation for having a say of who shall hoist the Tom Dawson Trophy after 300 laps around Five Flags Speedway. It has denied that honor to many of the best in Super Late Model racing, sometimes over their entire careers; often times teasing them with close runner-up finishes or dominating early runs that fizzle out in the late laps.
In six career Snowball Derby starts, Wisconsin hot shoe Ty Majeski has experienced as much heartbreak that this legendary race can dish out. He has won the majority of the Super Late Model majors in the Badger State, as well as others across the United States like the Rattler 250, Florida Governor’s Cup and SRL Winter Showdown. But, every time he seems to have the Derby cornered, victory manages to scurry away.
Now in 2020, the No. 91 team is coming together once again in Pensacola with hopes of finally closing the deed.
“I’m down in Charlotte now, but the guys in Wisconsin are busy with a couple of fixes to the backup car for the Derby, which is the same car that had an accident at the Governor’s Cup. The Derby car we’ve been working on for some time now. Really excited to get down there, we’re going to test on Sunday; can’t wait to get started,” Majeski told Speed51.
Less than a week ago, the 26-year-old added another racing accomplishment to his still-growing resume. Joining all those Super Late Model wins, as well as a trio of ARCA Menards Series victories in 2019, is his first win in a Late Model Stock Car. His victory in the South Carolina 400 came in his first career LMSC start, in his first appearance at Florence Motor Speedway (SC), driving for Chad Bryant Racing whom he had those ARCA wins with.
While it is a completely different style of Late Model at a completely different track, Majeski is still feeling the winning mojo from the 225-lap $10,000-to-win event, and he hopes to have that feeling heading to the Florida Panhandle.
“I’ve won a lot of races in my career, including bigger ones than that one specifically. But, that one meant a lot because it is something I had never done before, in a car I had never driven before, and to go in somebody’s wheelhouse and have that kind of success is really cool. Josh Berry has been on top of his game all year, it was neat to not only give him a run for his money, but also come out on top. So, it carries a ton of momentum to the Derby, especially bouncing back after New Smyrna.”
As bitter as the close calls in the Derby taste, including getting turned while up front on a late-race restart just one year ago, Majeski and the No. 91 camp are using them all to build themselves even stronger for 2020.
“We’ve found a lot of ways to lose the race, whether it’s strategy, late race restarts, or trouble on pit road. I’m hoping we can take a little bit of knowledge from every year strategy wise and also from a driver’s perspective what I could’ve done differently. I think we can take those things and come up with a plan so they don’t happen again. Obviously, it’s difficult to put a race-winning racecar out there year after year, but we’ve done it now two years in a row, and just didn’t close it off. I just hope we can put it all together now.”
When it comes to the question of the Snowball Derby choosing the winners itself, Majeski has become a believer in it.
“I think so, people say you can’t ever be fast enough to win that race, and that’s definitely true. That race has so many different factors from a changing strategy to late-race restarts, and of course the competition. So many things out of you control, you need things to go your way on that day to get to victory lane. Even if we get down there and we’re not the fastest car, we still need to dig deep, make good decisions, get in position to win and anything can happen.”
To win the 53rd Snowball Derby on December 6, Majeski is confident he is in the right seat, surrounded by the same people that have stuck through him for most of the past decade.
“We’re a big family, none of us are in this to make money. We just love racing, we love to race, and we love to do it together. It’s not a driver, crew chief, car owner relationship; we’re a family. We love just spending time together and we happen to have had some great success. It’s just a testament to everybody; we couldn’t do it without Toby Nuttleman our crew chief, Brad and Nancy Mannstedt our car owners, our spotters, our crew, our tire guys, and our mechanics; most of which are volunteers. That’s why it works, it’s about loving what we do, and everyone has some skin in the game in one way, shape or form.”
Majeski’s racing goals still extend beyond the Snowball Derby, but should he win on Sunday and then nothing else following that, it is something he might just be okay with.
“For me personally, this is the last crown jewel I want to win. That said, there’s other major races I want to win: the Oxford 250, Jukasa for the big race in Canada, the All American 400 at Nashville. There’s plenty more we want to win, but we’d feel pretty complete if we can check off the Snowball Derby.”
A live pay-per-view broadcast of the 53rd Annual Snowball Derby will be available on Speed51.TV. For a limited time only, race fans can take advantage of a Black Friday / Cyber Monday sale for 20% off a four-day video ticket by clicking here.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com