Snowball Derby week officially started on Tuesday night at Beef O’Brady’s just down the road from Five Flags Speedway, as fans, drivers, and teams gathered for the Snowball Derby Kickoff Party. Many top drivers, both Derby veterans and rookies, were on hand, and it was a party only fit for the biggest Super Late Model race in North America.
It was a night of competition, starting with a drinking contest with two former series champions, New Englander Derek Griffith with a vodka lemonade and Wisconsin native Dalton Zehr with a Miller Lite. Griffith would edge out Zehr for the win before Zehr was given a shot from none other than two-time Snowball Derby winner Gary Balough.
Griffith will be making his second Snowball Derby attempt after making the field one year ago. Just like in the drinking contest, he hopes his qualifying time is fast enough on Friday night.
“I don’t know, we’ll see. We didn’t qualify all that well last year, we made it in but we’ve got some work to do,” Griffith said on the broadcast. “We learned a lot last year so hopefully we’ll be on the ball with the guys up front.”
Meanwhile, Zehr will be making his first Snowball Derby attempt this weekend in the Beale Racing No. 119. While the summer racing schedule was trimmed back from recent years, he has made up for it with making starts in marquee races.
“I raced ten times this summer, just enough to stay sharp behind the wheel,” Zehr said. “The highlight was getting to do these kinds of races. I’m really excited to be at the Snowball, it’s part of the deal that John (Beale) and I worked out. This race has always been on the bucket list.”
The contests continued with Speed51’s Bob Dillner taking on Michigan racer Carson Hocevar in a game of darts. Dillner would hit three bullseyes, but became the first victim of Tech Director Ricky Brooks’ wrath when he was disqualified for cheating, giving the win to Hocevar. However, Dillner would have the final laugh after hitting a bullseye – fairly, this time.
“I think you’re not going to pass post-race tech. I guess that’s part of it,” Hocevar said.
Hocevar is another driver looking to make his second Snowball Derby this weekend. Despite the ARCA Menards Series and Truck Series starts this season, he still considers the Derby the most important race of the year.
“It’s not like I’m coming back to my roots, this is the biggest race of the year for me. I’m pumped for it and I think we’re going to have a good piece, especially from what we tested here yesterday. This is the Snowball Derby, nothing gets bigger than this deal.”
Former ARCA/CRA Super Series champion Travis Braden would find redemption for his fellow ARCA Menards Series driver when he became the first driver to defeat Speed51’s Bob Dillner in a cornhole contest. To the victor went the spoils as Braden took home two jars of moonshine from Snowball Derby Kickoff Party presenting sponsor Murder Creek Distillery.
“This is pure entertainment television,” Braden joked. “We planned all of it, can you guys believe it?”
Fans who missed out on the Snowball Derby Kickoff Party can watch the show in its entirety for free on Speed51.com’s Five Star Bodies Facebook Feed. Click here to watch the replay of the Facebook Live stream.
Race fans unable to attend the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby in person will be able to watch a pay-per-view broadcast all week long on Speed51.com, including qualifying night. Four-day video tickets can be purchased now for $79.99 ($30 savings) to watch all of the action. Click here to purchase your video ticket today.
The 52nd Annual Snowball Derby will take place on Thursday, December 5 through Sunday, December 8 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL. For more information regarding the event, visit Snowball Central.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) - Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51.com