51's LEFTOVERS: 40TH ANNUAL SNOWBALL DERBY (PART ONE) By Matthew Dillner, Steven Neely, Elgin Traylor
Legends Born, Snowflake Happenings, DQ's Cause Stir & Derby Action Galore!
leading’,” said Rogers. “He’s like ‘you have 19 more laps on your tires than the guy behind you,’ and I said ‘I’ll give up 19 laps of tire for 35 spots on the racetrack.’ The strategy was awesome.”
Once he made it to the front, he stayed there the whole race, including battling for the lead on a number of occasions. In fact, he battled for the lead with Augie Grill for a couple laps before Grill took the lead for good on lap 265.
GRILL DESCRIBES HISTORY MAKING MOMENT
Throughout the 40-year history of the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL), many of racing’s greats have tried to taste Derby victory. Only a few have been able to experience what it is like to win what is considered by some as the most prestigious Short Track race in America.
2007 winner Augie Grill knows the significance of the Derby, and was feeling that while leading the closing laps.
“With 10 to go, I was thinking to myself, ‘Am I going to win the Snowball Derby?’ admitted Grill. “Then with five to go, I thought, ‘We might win the Snowball Derby!’ Then starting off turn four on the last lap, I said, “I’m going to win the Snowball Derby.’ It’s hard to explain that emotion because this is it. This is the pinnacle. This is as big as it gets in Short Track racing.”
ROGERS GAINS TRACK POSITION THEN LOSES IT TO GRILL’S BUMPER
Clay Rogers had an uphill battle ahead of him to defend his Snowball Derby title, starting in the rear of the field with a provisional spot. Early in the event, Clay’s crew chief made the call to sacrifice tire wear for track position, which proved to be the key to a good finish in the event.
“Blake Bainbridge called a perfect race with pit strategy, and he said ‘just hold on for me, we’re
The damage on Grill's front end showed some of the contact with Clay Roger's #2. (51/Jamie Williams Photo)
Augie Grill is forever in the Snowball history books as a winner.
“I’m pretty disappointed with Augie Grill,” said Rogers. “I don’t know how his car’s going to get through tech because he hit me so hard about five times that it had to have shifted the whole body down. If that’s how they want to race, then we’ll remember that.”
Rogers slid back to fifth after that contact, but he feels that the team’s goals were met with their performance in the event.
“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to come down here and defend and show everybody that we’re capable,” said Rogers. “I think we did that. We have a solid car every time we come down, and god forbid we go test and race these cars some more and actually get a handle on them, because we’d be really good.”
Clay settled for a fifth place finish.
YOUNG FOLLOWS CRANE TO FRONT IN SNOWFLAKE
One of the drivers doing double duty in the Snowflake 100 and Snowball Derby was Houston, Texas' Jason Young. His race mirrored that of eventual Snowflake race winner Ryan Crane most of the night, but as the race wore on, he lost touch with the red number 10.
“We started like 34th or something like that, and came through the field with a really good car,” said Young after an impressive fifth place run. “We just kind of followed Ryan on through and just passed the cars that he passed, and just tried to be methodical about it. It’s 100 green-flag laps, and there was no counting caution laps, so I had to be patient. We pitted with the leaders that came in, and that last set of tires that we took just had a little too much stagger and tightened us up in the center and hurt us coming from the center off.”
CHOQUETTE COMES BACK FROM A LAP DOWN IN ANDERSON RIDE
Florida driver Jeff Choquette concluded his 2007 season with a good run in the 300-lap Snowball Derby. After starting from the 13th spot on the grid, Choquette, driving Dick Anderson’s number 92 in the Snowball Derby for the first time, patiently waited to move up to the top 10.
However, some hesitancy in an early-race pit stop cost Choquette dearly.
“Early, I went about a lap down,” said Choquette. “I forgot to catch up to the pace car and give my crew enough time. We just got a little confused on the pit stop stuff. We don’t pit a whole lot, and we’re not experts at it, so we got a little confused and got a lap down.”
It took Choquette a good portion of the race to get the lap back, and left him little time to work his way back through the traffic to get back to the top group. But he did make it to tenth, scoring his best career finish in the Derby.
ROGER LEADS TO OVER-AND-OUT FOR CASSIUS CLARK
Short Track Legend Dick Anderson looks over the pit stop on his #92.
There were a number of early race incidents in the Snowball Derby, including one on a lap 51 restart involving the cars of Cassius Clark and Roger Reuse. As the leaders sailed into turn one, Reuse and Clark made contact, sending both cars to the outside wall and substantially damaging both.
“I pulled up to try to get my lap back, and the guy leading the race (Matt Hawkins) laid back and kind of took off, and by the time I got going he was ahead of me,” Reuse said as his team rushed to repair the car in the middle of the event. “Then the next guy, the eight (Clark), got beside me and he shot down as we went into turn one. I was way up beside him and he just cut down on me.”
Clark made repairs to his #8 and got it back in the running for a while but later pulled off the track settling for a 33rd place finish
“At the beginning of the race we had a good car,” explained Clark. “We were going for the lead and a lapped car decided he wanted to turn the fastest lap of the race I guess and turned me around. It’s kind of a stupid move but people who get provisionals do stupid moves.”
Reuse, having already lost a lap, decided to pit for four tires just prior to the accident, hoping the difference in tire wear would allow him to have a shot at getting back on the lead lap.
“He (Clark) should have just stayed in line and just pulled behind me because I was going to be faster,” said Reuse. “That’s what they said earlier. Guys that have four tires are going to be a lot faster than guys with fifty laps. I don’t know what his spotter was telling him, unless he couldn’t see it. That’s racing at the Snowball Derby I guess, right?”
Reuse managed to soldier on with a heavily damaged car and collected a 23rd place run.
Reuse nearly launches over Cassius Clark's #8 while another "Mainer" Johnny Clark narrowly avoids.
A LONG DAY FOR A HOMETOWN FAVORITE LONG AS DAUGHTER MAKES SNOWFLAKE DEBUT
Donald Long’s performance during the 40th running of the Snowball Derby was one that he’d probably like to forget. The Pensacola, Florida native had a solid 20th place time trial effort that got him in the race, but it went all downhill from there, as he got hit with mechanical gremlins early, and hit by another car later.
“I was riding, and then my battery went dead,” said Long. “I lost a couple laps trying to get my battery changed. It put us behind some other lapped cars, and then we got three wide and then one of them just knocked us into the wall.”
Long collected a 35th place finish. As disappointed as Long was, he stayed positive when talking about the level of competition in the Five Flags Speedway finale.
“There’s a lot of fast cars, and everybody’s good,” said Long. “It’s not bad. Everybody’s just fighting for every spot. It’s just all part of it.”
The weekend marked the first Derby weekend that he competed with daughter Johanna, who ran her number 10 entry in the Snowflake 100. She also had a disappointing finish in her debut, finishing 27th after being damaged in a lap 30 pileup in the late model event. Donald shared some philosophy that, after the bad weekend, they could both use.
“You have to have a lot of luck, to start with,” said Long. “If you make the race, you have to feel like you’re good enough to race in it. Sometimes you have to have the race go your way, and one day you’ll be lucky, I guess.”
CRANE’S SNOWBALL WEEKEND SWEEP DENIED BY CRASH
Johanna Long is the next generation in this Florida Short Track family.
Ryan Crane had a very good chance to pull off the weekend sweep after winning Saturday night’s Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100. Crane’s luck didn’t carry over into Sunday though. He was involved in an early spin, but worked his way back up to the front in relatively short order. Then Crane fought a spirited battle for the lead near the halfway point of the race, finally gaining the top spot for nine circuits beginning on lap 157. He gave up that lead after a pit stop and that’s when it all went sour. With a little over a hundred laps-to-go Crane was part of a massive pileup on the front-stretch.
“I think we had a real good car to win today,” said Crane, who ended up 30th. “It just looked like two lapped cars got tangled together and ended our day for us. We were running like third there. It’s unfortunate that something like that happened to us.”
Crane took some time after looking over the damage from his battered car to voice his concerns about slower cars racing the leaders too hard.
“Man, these lapped cars today have got me upset all day long,” said Crane. “There’s guys up there that don’t even have a shot at the race that are up there trying to race the leaders. It’s a bad deal.”
Crane’s rollercoaster weekend was a prime example of how nobody is exempt from bad luck on the famous Five Flags Speedway oval.
“This race will give you the highest highs and the lowest lows,” said Crane. “I guess we own the lowest low right now.”
TWO FAVORITES ELIMINATED IN BIG-ONE ON THE FRONTSTRETCH
2001 Snowball Champ Wayne Anderson knows that sometimes it takes more than a fst racecar to win at the Derby. He was trying to run a patient race but couldn’t stear clear of a late race wreck.
“When I was coming off of turn-four they had a big wreck and I was already committed to the bottom,” explained Anderson, who finished 29th. “I had it cleared until last minute and then here comes the #21 (Scott Carlson) down the racetrack. I had nowhere to go. I thought I had it. I had already dodged a whole lot of bullets out there already but guess I couldn’t dodge them all.
“When these guys get new tires, and you don’t, it just makes them so much faster than you,” added Anderson. “It just causes such a disruption up front. The honest word for it is that you are just dodging bullets.”
Crane gets smashed in this multi-car wreck on the frontstretch...
...The same crash took out perrenial favorites Wayne Anderson and Scott Carlson.
Five Flags Speedway Blizzard Series champ Scott Carlson came into the Derby as a favorite. But in his quest for a Derby win, he found carnage.
“They just started stacking up in front of me and I got drilled in the rear-end,” said Carlson. “It was over from there. When you have all those cars around you and infront of you and something like that happens, I just got turned around and there is nothing to do from there. I don’t know who casused it. We came from the back to the front twice because of a tire. We had a good car but bad luck.
Carlson finished the race behind the wall in 31st.
GABEHARTS CONFUSING WEEKEND ENDS WITH GOOD RUN
Chris Gabehart’s weekend was tumultuous. After running well in most of the practice sessions, he qualified the #17 on the outside pole position. Then, Five Flags Speedway’s tech officials announced that Gabehart’s rear quarter panels were too high. That meant he would have to race his way in via one of two last chance qualifier races.
Although he was never really a threat to win the last chance race, he did at one point have a transfer spot before sliding back. After the event, a dejected Gabehart and his team began packing up to go back to Indianapolis, when word came out that Jason Hogan (In Kyle Busch’s #51) and Benny Gordon were both thrown out due to infractions on their cars, Gabehart was back in the Snowball Derby.
“It’s pretty ironic,” said Gabehart. “I’ve been here three times and made the race all three times. This year I had the best car by far that I’ve ever had. Literally, I was loading up to go home and they told me I was in. That’s the Snowball Derby.”
While other drivers might have criticized the technical inspectors at the track, Gabehart explained that he feels like he now understands the process.
“For better or worse, these tech officials are absolutely zero tolerance, and it makes for
an interesting situation,” said Gabehart after the race. “I am by no means convinced right now that the finishing order is set. I feel confident that we’ll have a throw out or two. But like I said, for better or worse, I’m not going to fault the guys. I think in some areas it’s good and some areas it’s not.”
“It’s funny, we died by that sword and we lived by that sword all in the very same weekend,” said Gabehart after a solid 12th place run in the Derby. “To get in the race is great. I wish we would have started outside pole. I think we wouldn’t have had to burn up so many tires to stay in contention. I don’t think we had a winning car, maybe a top five or top six car. That’s not bad, coming from Indianapolis with a low budget team, and we came down here to race with the best in so many great racers’ backyard and stayed competitive, so I’m happy with that.”
TAYLOR SATTERFIELD IMPRESSIVE IN SNOWFLAKE 100
Taylor Satterfield could be seen having a good time thoughout the Snowball Derby weekend at Pensacola. The likeable 19-year old driver had plenty to smile about after the Snowflake 100. He finished fourth against some of the best Short Trackers in the country.
“It’s awesome,” said Satterfield. “I’ve been down here in February with the GAS series, and this is a heck of a lot better than it was then, and the atmosphere down here with all these great racecars. It’s been a lot of fun this whole weekend running against some of these good teams. Man, it’s just great to come out of here with a top five.”
LAWLER HANGS ON, LITERALLY, FOR SOLID FINISH
Ryan Lawler has been tearing up the Super Late Model ranks in the Carolinas. The 2007 PASS South Series Champ wass looking to add a Snowball Derby win to his already impressive season, which includes a win at the Winchester 400. A loose racecar kept Lawler away from the lead but he held on for a solid 11th place finish.
“We had a good racecar, it just wasn’t a good enough piece,” said Lawler. “We tried to make some adjustments but we freed it up too much and it was just too loose. My car was crazy all weekend I would go twenty laps and then the car was way off. I had a good time it was my first time down here and I am definitely coming back.
“The Winchester 400 was a big win but to win here that would be bigger. We are going to be back next year.”
THREE GENERATIONS OF MADERS AT THE DERBY
1978 Derby winner Dave Mader III is a fixture at the Snowball Derby. He and his father, Dave Jr., have both won Snowball poles, Mader Jr, in 1970 and Mader III in 2003. This year, Mader III strapped in for another shot at Derby glory with his father and daughter standing by his side.
The Derby veteran admits that a lot has changed at the Derby over the years. One thing has remained the same, Mader’s sense of humor.
“I’m the only blue hair in the group here that is starting the Snowball Derby,” he said. “I think we need a blue-hair award. It looks like I’d have them beat although I am seeing some little edges on Donald (Long) but I have the total package. I don’t feel well though.
Kelly, his 11-year old daughter may be the next in-line. She is competing in the go-kart ranks and her proud papa doesn’t hid the smile on his face talking about her racing efforts.
Chris Gabehart overcame a lot for a good run througout the weekend, including this spin during the Derby.
Lawler was hangin' on in Pensacola.
Dave Mader III stands between his daughter Kelly and father on the starting grid for the 40th Annual Derby.
FULTZ VERY SATISFIED WITH THIRD PLACE DERBY RUN
Jeff Fultz has won a lot of races in his Short Track career but the multi-time NASCAR Southeast Series champ really wants to add the Snowball Derby trophy to his mantle. He came pretty close, finishing the 2007 Derby with a third place finish.
“We’re really excited,” said Fultz. “We’re not the biggest team compared to some of these guys. [Team owner] Curtis [Veneble] gives us everything we need, though. We’re gaining each week. To come here and just to qualify for this show is one big thing. Some of the big guys this weekend went home.
“Our car was really good all race. I could pass anyone I wanted to. We had a couple of issues in the pits that cost us some spots and we got stuck in the back twice. We took our time and got back up there though. We missed a lot of wrecks and got lucky some times. We’re really fortunate that we were able to come up as far as we were.”
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