For the 15th consecutive year, Speed51.com will serve as the Official News Site for the 48th Annual Snowball Derby. With the addition of the live Speed51 TV broadcast for the second year in a row, as well as on-demand videos for the Speed51 Network, Speed51.com is bringing a record number of team members to this year’s event at Five Flags Speedway.
Many of those 51’ers have elected to join a yearly tradition here on Speed51.com powered by JEGS by making their picks for the big race.
We’ve compiled those picks below and some of the pre-race favorites may surprise you.
Last year, Bob and Angie Dillner were the only ones who hit the nail on the head here at Speed51.com by picking John Hunter Nemechek to win the Snowball Derby.
Which staff members will have bragging rights heading into the 49th Annual Snowball Derby in 2016? Take a look below at the picks and follow along throughout the week on Speed51.com and Speed51 TV to find out.
Order your Speed51 TV video package for the Snowball Derby by clicking here.
Aaron Creed (Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor) – Twitter: @aaron_creed
Derek Thorn – The Californian has made a name for himself out west and has turned heads when traveling east as well. After an impressive podium finish in last year’s running of the Snowball Derby, Thorn and the Campbell Motorsports team led laps and ran competitively with one of the best in Super Late Model racing, Bubba Pollard, twice in 2015 during similar long-distance events. With some lessons learned and experience gained from both the Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway Park and Summer Showdown at Evergreen Speedway, the preparation and strategy will allow for Thorn to outrun the host of talent at the 48th Annual Snowball Derby.
Adam Mackey (Speed 51 TV Color Commentator)
Chase Elliott – While I’d love to be the guy who picks a surprise winner, I’ve got to go with my firm pick. Chase Elliott will get back to Snowball Derby victory lane. While his win came four years ago, he also crossed the line first two years ago before a disqualification, and would’ve likely been out front at the end last year had he not been caught up in a crash. Elliott will cross under the checkered flag first on Sunday.
Derek Thorn – We believe the left coast may be the best coast for the 48th Annual Snowball Derby. Thorn would be the first driver from California to win the prestigious race. Kyle Busch may be listed from Nevada (team was based in NC when he won), but Thorn would also be part of the first West Coast team to score the victory at the Derby. He finished on the podium in last year’s Derby and won a Pro Late Model race at Pensacola this year in preparation for the event. Why did he do this? He simply wants to win the Derby, which would add to an already impressive resume that includes a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and SRL championship.
Brandon Paul (Speed51.com Editor) – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
Christopher Bell – Whenever the Kyle Busch Motorsports team shows up to a Late Model race, the bar is raised for the other teams in attendance. During the last three Snowball Derby, the team is batting .500 with team owner Kyle Busch winning in 2009 and Erik Jones going back-to-back in 2012-2013. This year, the No. 1 pick in the Speed51.com Short Track Draft is behind the wheel and Late Model team manager Bond Suss will be calling the shots. That’s certainly a combo that I’m not picking against.
Bruce Nuttleman (Speed51.com Photographer) – Twitter: @BruceNuttleman
Ty Majeski – Aside it being a huge win for Majeski, the Governor’s Cup win at New Smyrna served another important role – competitively getting their Midwest based team converted over to the Snowball Derby rules package. More importantly, a thorough once over of the No. 91, already, from Ricky Brooks. That should help them hit the ground running when all cars are on the grounds for Thursday practice. Ty has run a lot of races this year. He’s made a few mistakes and he has learned some valuable lessons that should give him a much better chance of surviving the first half of the race to contend at the end.
Connor Sullivan (Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
Bubba Pollard – If there’s one driver that is overdue for success at the Snowball Derby, it has to be Pollard. Despite 10 career Southern Super Series wins at Five Flags, and winning both the 2014 Five Flags Super Late Model championship & Snowflake 100, Pollard has been snake-bitten repeatedly at the Derby by wrecks and mechanical failures. But, lightning can strike in the same place only so many times, this will be the year he combines speed with survival to finally earn his first Tom Dawson trophy.
Elgin Traylor (Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent) – Twitter: @ElginTraylor
Bubba Pollard – He was in the top five at the Florida Governor’s Cup 200, the All American 400 and the Winchester 400. In all those efforts it might seem as if they were trying something for the Derby. Perhaps it’s only speculation, but Bubba Pollard is ready to cap off the coast-to-coast tour with a triumph in Pensacola. He’s a king of the 100-lappers and he’s lost the race so many times that he’s a modern day Eddie Mercer who will get the monkey off his back.
Jana Wimmer (Speed51.com Director of Business) – Twitter: @JWimm22
Daniel Hemric – Hemric is such a smart racer and always there at the end. He saves his stuff when he needs to and knows when it’s go time. He has proven he can win the big races and in a Wauters car, who has had success at the Snowball Derby, I think this year he gets it done this year.
Mark Keeler (Speed51.com Operations Manager) – Twitter: @MarkKeeler975
Bubba Pollard – With his new car he seems to have more confidence than ever and the on-track performance to justify it. He has won or been a threat in every big race he’s entered, against the toughest competition from east to west. Nobody has been more “lights out” at Five Flags Speedway recently than Pollard. He has admittedly worked the entire year focusing on the one goal of hoisting the Tom Dawson Trophy and this just may be his year.
Matt Kentfield (Speed51.com Executive Director) – Twitter: @mattkentfield
Daniel Hemric – He’s been one of the elite short track racers of his generation. He parlayed that into a strong rookie season in the NASCAR Truck Series this season. Still, there’s only a few boxes left on Hemric’s resume that would mean the world to him to check off. Probably the highest one on his list is the Snowball Derby. He has led laps at the Snowball Derby before, but bad luck has plagued him at some point or another during the 300-lap grind. I have a strong feeling that his immense talent plus the strength of the Snowball Derby-winning Richie Wauters team will lead to one of Hemric’s trademark backflips in victory lane at Five Flags on December 6.
Patrick Hahe (Speed51.com In-Car Camera Specialist) – Twitter: @NEORacingNews
Ty Majeski – He’s shown strong results around the region, and is going into the weekend with the Governor’s Cup already sitting in his trophy cabinet. Look for this up and coming driver to raise eyebrows on the national stage.
Rob Blount (Speed51.com Southeast Editor) – Twitter: @RobBlount
Derek Thorn – Thorn’s podium finish last year at the Derby surprised many. He’s a great driver, and many people know that, but what made his finish last year so surprising was that the Derby was his only trip to Five Flags that year. This year he’s gone to Pensacola a handful of times racing Kurt Jett’s Pro Late Model, and he won a couple of those races. Now with more track time and some confidence that he can win at Five Flags, I expect Thorn to be right there contending for the win in the late stages of the Snowball Derby.
Ryan McCollough (Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent) – Twitter: @RyanLMcCollough
Donnie Wilson – It’s easy to go Elliott or Pollard, but I like to think outside the box. In the most recent race at Five Flags, Donnie Wilson started deep in the field and ran Pollard down before mechanical issues ruined his night. After years of mediocre finishes, Wilson has had career resurgence in the past few seasons. Wilson has been mighty close to winning the Derby before, I think 2015 is finally the year DW gets a victory lane hug from Snowball.
Spencer Lewis (Speed51 TV Pit Reporter) – Twitter: @itsspencerlewis
Ty Majeski – It’s tough to bet against Ty Majeski at any speedway in the country these days. The Wisconsin native had as much of a breakout season in 2015 as anyone in all of Super Late Model racing, and there’s no question he’ll be looking to carry his hot streak into the Derby.
A big win at the Governor’s Cup just weeks ago reminded us that Majeski is more than comfortable getting the job done on the road, and that his Toby Nuttleman-led squad have what it takes to keep the absolute best of the best in their rearview mirror. If Majeski takes the Tom Dawson Trophy home to Wisconsin next Sunday, there may still be a select few that consider it a surprise, but anyone that has seen him in action this season will see it as a fitting conclusion to a breakout campaign.
Tim Quievryn (Speed51.com’s The Third Turn) – Twitter: @TheThirdTurn
Zane Smith – If you’re looking for a little underdog, look no further than the New Smyrna World Series Super Late Model champion. He finished fourth in his first appearance at the Pensacola speedplant just a few short weeks ago and since then he’s watched a well-earned PASS South championship slip through his finger with what can be at best termed a controversial points penalty. Smith has had a habit of sneaking up on people through his first real season in Super Late Models and there’s no reason to think he couldn’t emerge from “under the radar” status in the final 100 circuits.
-Speed51.com Staff Story