Fresh off of his win in the Florida Governor’s Cup, Ty Majeski entered the 48th Annual Snowball Derby full of confidence. That confidence shined through on Friday night when Majeski, one year after spinning on his qualifying lap, claimed the pole for Sunday’s 300-lap race and set a new track record.
When asked about any possible nerves about leading the Snowball Derby field to the green flag, Majeski responded with, “none at all.” He was ready for the biggest race of his life.
The green flag waved on Sunday afternoon and it was Majeski jumping out to the early lead over eventual winner Chase Elliott. He would end up giving up the lead to Elliott on lap 3, only to take it back a few laps later.
The Wisconsin driver set a blistering pace from that point on and led the way until the first caution of the race on lap 64.
That’s when pit stops would come into play, and unfortunately for Majeski he seemed to lose positions each time he took his No. 91 down pit road. That put him behind the eight-ball forcing him to pass even more cars on the race track.
At the end of the day, Majeski once again clawed his way inside the top-five and would later be credited with a third-place finish.
His performance, despite losing track position on pit road, was one that caught the eye of many.
A third-place run in the biggest pavement short track race of the year may have been just what he needed for those all around the country to realize how good of a talent the Wisconsin driver really is.
SARGEANT FLIES UNDER THE RADAR; SCORES ANOTHER TOP-FIVE
Despite a runner-up finish in 2014, Dalton Sargeant entered the 48th Annual Snowball Derby flying under the radar. While many thought he could be a contender, very few picked him to win.
Sargeant made his biggest move of the weekend during Friday night’s qualifying when he jumped to the top of the speed chart and remained there for an extended period of time. In the end, a qualifying effort of fourth put him in a good position for Sunday’s 300-lap race.
For much of the Snowball Derby, Sargeant remained in the top-five battling for position. Although he never put himself in a position to battle for the lead, he put himself in a position to be there in the end.
The end result for Sargeant was a solid fourth-place finish and his second Snowball Derby top-five in two attempts. Now with an average finish of 3.0 in the race, it is hard to believe that he’ll enter next year’s race flying under the radar.
GILLILAND FAILS TO MAKE THE BIG SHOW
One of the biggest names failing to make this year’s Snowball Derby was second-generation racer Todd Gilliland. Gilliland, who didn’t even know if he’d be competing in the race until two weeks beforehand, struggled to find the speed he needed all week long.
After not locking into the top-30 on time during Friday night’s time trials, Gilliland was forced to start the last chance race. With only the top-four cars qualifying, he was forced to head home early after a seventh-place finish.
Although it was not an ideal way to end his Snowball Derby weekend, it’s sure to serve as another important learning experience for Gilliland. At just 15 years old, he’s shown the desire to learn and constantly get better. His failed attempt at qualifying for the Snowball Derby just shows how difficult it is to qualify for the most prestigious pavement short track race of the year.
ADRIAN’S SNOWBALL DERBY DEBUT FULL OF HIGHS AND LOWS
One year after making his Snowflake 100 debut, Iowa native Caleb Adrian strapped in behind the wheel of the Adrian Carriers/Liz Girl Logistics No. 29 Super Late Model for the Snowball Derby this past weekend. Needless to say, it was a weekend full of highs and lows for the 22-year-old.
Adrian kicked of his weekend by surprising many with the fastest lap in the opening round of Super Late Model practice Thursday afternoon. He followed that up later in the day with another fast time and seemed to be in a good position heading into Snowball Derby qualifying on Friday.
But things don’t go as he had hoped in qualifying and Adrian failed to lock into the top-30 starting positions. Needing to finish in the top-four in the last chance race, Adrian crossed under the checkered flag third to lock himself into the Snowball Derby in his first start.
After starting 34th on Sunday, Adrian patiently made his way through the field while staying out of harm’s way. At the end of the day, he finished 18th in his Snowball Derby debut.
PELTIER TURNS IN MOST IMPRESSIVE SNOWBALL PERFORMANCE OF CAREER
In just his third attempt at the Snowball Derby, Preston Petltier turned in his most impressive performance yet this past weekend.
Peltier, a California native who now resides in North Carolina, teamed up with the Colorado-based No. 48 race team owned by Eddie Vecchiarelli. He said before the weekend that he thought it was his best shot to win the Snowball Derby and that proved to be true on Sunday.
A strong third-place qualifying effort Friday night put him at the front of the field for the 300-lap race and he stayed near the front throughout the race. During the early stages of the race, Peltier led 23 laps before falling back and recording a respectable seventh-place finish, the best of his career at the Derby.
HOMETOWN DRIVER BOYETT SURPRISES MANY
As a young child growing up in Pensacola, Florida, Logan Boyett had dreams of winning the Snowball Derby. Although he had competed in the race three times previously, his best chance to win the race came this past weekend during the 48th running of the race.
Boyett surprised nearly everyone in attendance, including himself, by qualifying fifth for the race during Friday’s NASH 102.7 FM Pole Night. He put himself in a position to battle at the front of the field and that’s exactly what he did early on.
Unfortunately for Boyett, he made contact with the frontstretch wall during the closing laps of the race. That incident relegated him to a 13th-place finish, but it was still a career-best finish for the hometown boy.
PRE-RACE FAVORITE GETS SHUFFLED BACK LATE
Entering the race as a pre-race favorite according to the Speed51.com staff, Derek Thorn had high expectations this past weekend.
Starting 12th on the grid, Thorn made his way towards the front and took over the lead for the first time on lap 129. He led the third most laps (44) of all drivers and appeared to be in a position to challenge for the win during the closing stages.
A late race restart with drivers jockeying for position saw Thorn get shuffled backwards toward the bottom half of the top-10. When the checkered flag was waved and results became official, he was credited with a ninth-place finish. The finish serves as Thorn’s third straight top-10 in the race, but certainly leaves him wanting more next year.
BURTON’S RACE COMES TO AN END EARLY
It’s hard to argue that any team worked harder than Harrison Burton’s No. 12 team at the 48th Annual Snowball Derby.
After suffering heavy suspension damage following a Thursday practice crash, the Burton crew stayed up all night and through the morning to put a new front clip on the car. They loaded the car back up on a flatbed Friday morning and arrived at the track just as the first Late Model practice was getting ready to roll.
Once at the track, the team continued to work on the car and put finishing touches on it before getting the young driver in the driver’s seat for the final round of Late Model practice.
With just one practice under his belt, Burton qualified 24th for the race and locked himself into the Snowball Derby for the first time in his career.
Driving a patched together race car on Sunday, Burton was able to battle near the top-20 for the first 200 laps of the race before having to withdraw after 214 laps due to suspension issues.
It ended up being a race that ended early, but a weekend that could have ended a lot earlier for Burton and his team.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Bruce Nuttleman/Speed51.com