Fresh off two straight Late Model victories, 16-year-old Christian Eckes carried a red-hot streak into Pensacola, Florida one weekend ago. Eckes turned that streak from red-hot to white-hot by taking the checkered flag in a Snowball Derby finish for the ages at Five Flags Speedway. The Greenville, New York native beat John Hunter Nemechek to the finish line by a bumper to win the 49th Annual Snowball Derby. The official margin of victory being only 0.017 seconds.
With the win, Eckes became the first driver from the state of New York to win the Tom Dawson Trophy.
Eckes kept the nose of his Fury Race Cars No. 15 clean throughout much of the 300-lap race. Well, mostly clean. Eckes found himself in the middle of an incident on the backstretch near the lap 75 mark of the race.
“That incident down the backstretch kind of stumbled me, and to be honest with you it kind of made me a little angry,” he said. “But we were able to bounce back and fix what needed to be fixed.”
Eckes entered the Snowball Derby the winner of two straight races in two different types of Late Models. He picked up a Late Model Stock Car win in the prestigious Myrtle Beach 400 at Myrtle Beach Speedway (SC) and then followed that up with a Super Late Model win in the Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park (NC).
But even with momentum on his side, Eckes said he went down to the Derby hoping to just make the race and score a top-10 finish. He said that at no point did he think he’d win the Snowball Derby, even as he was trying to close in on Nemechek over the final 10 laps.
“I mean, I was hoping to, but I wasn’t 100-percent sure that we were,” said Eckes when asked if he knew he’d be able to catch Nemechek. “I just went as fast as I could. He messed up a couple of times and I just stayed nice and smooth. I was able to cross him up off of four, and then he was able to cross me up off of two. Then I did it again off of four and then I think that was it. It was really cool to race that clean and bring home a good finish like that.”
When it was all over, Eckes still couldn’t believe it. Even as the flash bulbs popped in victory lane, Eckes laid down on the rough Five Flags Speedway pavement and closed his eyes to recollect himself.
“I can’t believe it right now,” Eckes said that Tuesday night. “This is the Snowball Derby, and this is just crazy.”
For more information on 2016 Snowball Derby winner Christian Eckes, visit www.christianeckesracing.com. Eckes’ plans for the 2017 racing season will be announced soon.
-51 Sports Press Release. Photo Credit: Speed51.com