The Snowball Derby is a rollercoaster ride for the race teams that compete in the race each year. With the stakes being even higher for the 50th running of the race this past weekend, the rollercoaster ride featured many twists, turns, ups and downs.
While some of the 53 drivers attempting to qualify for the prestigious race experienced highs, there were also many who experienced lows. Today, we take you through a list of the ups and downs from the 50th Annual Snowball derby.
Kyle Busch – For obvious reasons, Busch ended his race weekend on a high note. The former NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series driver kissed the Tom Dawson trophy for a second time and boosted his Snowball Derby resume. He may have not had the dominant car, but he had the car that pulled into victory lane after 300 laps.
Cassius Clark – The driver from Farmington, Maine turned heads in the final 70 laps as he made his way through the field after a pit stop. While other drivers elected to stay out with hopes of another yellow flag, Clark pitted for fresh tires and drove his way to a fifth-place finish. He also gained 24 spots throughout the race from his 29th starting position. It may have not been a victory, but it was still a strong performance that ended on a high note for the Nova Scotia-based team.
Chase Purdy – Purdy teamed up with Anthony Campi Racing to make his Snowball Derby debut, and the 18-year-old driver must be happy with his performance. Purdy qualified sixth, battled in the top 10 throughout the day and finished eighth. For a driver making his debut in the toughest pavement short track race of the year, a top 10 finish is a win.
David Rogers – The Florida racing legend may have seen his Derby end prior to the checkered flag, but the feat he accomplished during the weekend can’t be ignored. By finishing second in the Last Chance Race on Saturday, Rogers qualified for his record-tying 32nd Snowball Derby. If he returns and makes the race next year, he’ll become the all-time leader in Snowball Derby starts with 33. That’s impressive.
Five Flags Speedway – With great weather throughout the week, fans came out in style beginning Wednesday night. Not only was there a fantastic crowd on Sunday, but the stands were packed throughout the week leading into the main event. The Bryant family and the staff at Five Flags Speedway should be very proud of the event they hosted. The golden anniversary of the Snowball Derby was a victory for short track racing.
The City of Pensacola – Thousands of race fans called Pensacola, Florida their home for a week. For a city and those who do business in the city, that’s a huge win. The impact that the 50th Annual Snowball Derby had on the city’s economy can’t be ignored. City officials should be smiling after hosting tourists who were visiting from all over the United States and beyond.
Bubba Pollard – This was a tough one. For much of the weekend, Bubba Pollard was on a high. He was fastest in practice, second quickest in qualifying, won the Snowflake 100 on Saturday night and led the most laps in the Snowball Derby. We know a third-place finish is not a victory for Pollard, but his performance throughout the weekend was high. And even though he didn’t win, he did record his best finish in the event. At some point, Pollard will win the Snowball Derby. This year has him trending in the right direction.
Chandler Smith – The 15-year-old turned heads once again at the Snowball Derby with a seventh-place finish after racing near the front in the Snowball Derby. Smith now has a finish of fifth and seventh in two starts at the Derby. That shows that the youngster can handle the big moments.
Ty Majeski – The driver from Seymour, Wisconsin had high expectations and was considered a pre-race favorite by many. However, the team’s pit strategy backfired early in the race. Instead of following the leaders down pit road, Majeski elected to stay on the race track. A long green flag run eliminated Majeski’s chances at a strong run as he went two laps down to the leaders. At the end of the race, he was just as fast as the top-three finishers but wasn’t there to contend.
Preston Peliter – After winning the pole on Saturday night, Peltier seemed to be in good shape to score an underdog victory. He kept his eye on Pollard throughout the opening green flag runs, but was an innocent victim in an accident while trying to make his way through the field after pit stops. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise strong weekend for the Colorado driver.
Ben Rowe – In his Snowball Derby debut, the five-time PASS National champion was a disappointment. He struggled to find speed all week long and that continued into Friday night’s qualifying when he qualified 50th out of 53 cars. After running a handful of laps in the Last Chance Race, Rowe pulled his No. 4 down pit road and called it a weekend. But what was impressive was that the smile never left his face throughout the weekend.
Garrett Evans – The Northwest racing legend was another driver who struggled throughout the week. Evans’ 51st-place qualifying effort started him near the rear of the Last Chance Race, and he was never able to rebound.
Stephen Nasse – One year after contending near the front in the Snowball Derby, Nasse was never able to make it back there in 2017. He was the last car to qualify for the race during Friday night’s qualifying and was one of the first cars eliminated from the race after being collected in a multi-car crash on the backstretch.
Jake Crum – In his first Snowball Derby attempt, Crum qualified his way into the 50th Annual Snowball Derby through Friday night’s time trials. Crum was involved in an incident with Donnie Wilson in which Wilson pointed fingers at Crum following the incident. A few laps later, Crum hit the wall and saw his day come to an end.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos