While all the water cooler talk after the 49th Annual Snowball Derby was about the wild 0.017 second photo finish between Christian Eckes and John Hunter Nemechek or the crazy incident between Stephen Nasse and William Byron, Chad Finley’s dominating performance has been largely forgotten. That isn’t exactly fair for the 24-year-old Michigan driver who led a race-high 169 laps.
Finley was an ace on restarts, and his car excelled on the long runs. No matter who he went up against, whether it was Nemechek or Ty Majeski or anyone else, Finley was able to get the jump and pull away from the field.
Finley’s battery died with less than 20 laps to go and his No. 42 lost power. He was left to settle for a 20th-place finish.
“I obviously had a fast race car, so it’ll hurt for a long time,” Finley told Speed51.com powered by JEGS almost a week after the event. “I don’t think many people would disagree that we probably should have won the race. But, that’s done and over with and I’m already looking forward to 2017.”
Finley said he spent much of this past weekend thinking about what he could have potentially done differently, but he hasn’t been able to find an answer to his questions.
“At the end of the day there’s not too many tell-tale signs of a battery going dead,” he said. “But that’s the sort of thing that goes through your mind.”
To many, the dominating performance by Finley was a surprise. It’s been a while since Finley has gone to victory lane in a Super Late Model. However, Finley said his performance wasn’t surprising to anybody on his race team.
“We didn’t have a good speed lap in the car for whatever reason. It took three or four laps for the car to really get going, but in race trim we were really happy with it all weekend. We knew that when we did get to race we’d be pretty good.”
Finley also said while he doesn’t feel like he should be considered an underdog pick or a sleeper pick, he can understand why people were surprised to see him run as strong as he did at Five Flags Speedway on Tuesday night.
“It used to bother me when I was younger and I had something to prove, but now that I’m almost 25 years old it’s whatever. I’ve won plenty of Late Model races. I’ve won on the dirt. I’ve had solid runs in ARCA and K&N. It doesn’t bother me. I wouldn’t call myself an underdog and there’s plenty of people on social media that would say the same thing, and there’s also a lot of people who would say that we are. The only reason people say that is because I race 10 races a year. It’s a lot harder when you’re only running 10 races a year to win four or five of them compared to the guys that race 60 a year.”
While the last few trips to Five Flags Speedway have been near-misses for Finley, he said he doesn’t feel like the track owes him anything. He’s just anxious for the next trip to the Florida Panhandle half-mile.
“Five Flags has owed me one for a while, but I don’t really like to think anything owes me anything or any track owes me something,” Finley said. “For me, as soon as I leave the race track I’m already ready to go for the next one. I would love to win there. It’s such a prestigious track in itself. I think next year we’ll be really good again and I’m already wishing it was Derby week of 2017.”
While Finley may already be ready, he’ll have to wait a while. There’s still 356 days until the 50th Annual Snowball Derby on December 3, 2017. Until then, he will only be able to think about what could have been.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com