For the much of the current decade, youth has ruled the ranks at the Snowball Derby. It all started back in 2011 when Chase Elliot turned the short track world upside down, winning the Derby at Age 16. Since then, Erik Jones, John Hunter Nemechek, and Christian Eckes have all joined the ranks as fresh young Derby winners at 17 or under.
Once again in 2017, another talented youth movement heads to Five Flags Speedway, looking to prove their metal against one of the most impressive group of veterans that the Derby has ever seen.
Leading the movement into the 50th Snowball Derby is the young man who won it last year. Christian Eckes comes in at a still very youthful Age 17, looking to pull off the same feat that Erik Jones pulled off when he was 16 and 17.
Eckes’ Fury Race Cars teammate Harrison Burton is fresh off his 17th birthday, and is also fresh off an incredible championship year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Since moving to the Late Model ranks at Age 13, Burton has collected a solid number of wins and looks to add the Snowball Derby to his resume this year.
Derek Kraus has become a well-known young face from the tracks of Wisconsin, getting his start in Late Models at the Age of 14. Just past his 15th birthday in 2016, he won his first major Super Late Model race on the ARCA Midwest Tour. Just one month ago, now at 16 years old, Kraus added another milestone with his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West victory at Kern County Raceway Park. He’ll look to carry that momentum into the Snowball Derby.
Raphael Lessard is another young driver who has accomplished a lot already in his young career. Right after turning 14 in July of 2015, Lessard got his first taste of Late Model racing in the Pro All Stars Series North. For 2016, he took his talents from Quebec to the Southeast and teamed up with David Gilliland racing to win the CARS Tour Super Late Model title with four wins as a rookie. After a rough start to his Derby career in 2016, Lessard comes back to Pensacola looking to be a contender.
Chandler Smith is in position to become one of the youngest winners in Snowball Derby this year, coming in at 15 years old. Smith has made strides in the past two years, making his Super Late Model touring debut in PASS South, just days shy of his 13th birthday in 2015. While he has yet to breakthrough for his first SLM win, he has achieved a good deal of consistent runs in the past year and may be in position to win the biggest of them all, just like Christian Eckes one year ago.
Be sure to watch these drivers and the rest of the young stars compete in the 50th Annual Snowball Derby this weekend on Speed51.com’s pay-per-view broadcast.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Regional Editor – @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos